Healthcare News & Insights

Overcoming the 4 biggest cloud computing challenges in health care

cloud_computing Cloud computing has a lot of potential to help hospitals cut costs, a new report says. Here’s some help overcoming some of the challenges hiding in the cloud.

While cloud computing has become a big IT trend in all industries, healthcare providers have been slower to adopt cloud services than companies in other sectors.

In a survey conducted earlier this year by technology vendor CDW, 35% of healthcare IT pros said their organizations were currently using a cloud computing service.

That was up from 30% who said the same in last year’s poll, but still below the average of 44% among survey respondents in all industries combined. In fact, among the eight industries the respondents worked in, healthcare was ranked next to last in terms of cloud computing adoption, ahead of only state and local governments.

However, some experts say it’s time for hospitals to look more closely at cloud computing if they want to successfully lower costs while adopting new health IT tools.

One recent report says that cloud computing can help the healthcare industry cut IT spending by 9%. That equates to $11 billion for all organizations over the next three years.

Those findings are based on a survey of 109 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) conducted by MeriTalk and EMC Corp.

Hospitals are under a lot of pressure to control their spending, and IT is often targeted as an area where costs can be cut. In fact, 99% of the organizations surveyed said lowering IT spending was a key goal for the near future.

To respond that pressure, the report says, many hospitals and other providers are turning to the cloud. Right now, 15% of the IT infrastructure is being purchased as a cloud computing service. The authors predict that number will rise to 32% within the next three years.

Beyond cost savings

Cutting spending isn’t the only potential benefit of cloud computing. Organizations also believe turning to more cloud-based services will help them adopt new and innovative health IT systems quickly and more easily than they could if all the infrastructure had to be hosted in house.

According to the organizations surveyed by CDW, cloud computing helped boost efficiency, as well as increase innovation and help the IT department do more with a smaller staff. Firms also said the cloud has increased employee mobility and allowed the organization to offer new products and services.

Challenges remain

However, before hospitals reap those benefits of cloud computing, there are several obstacles that must be overcome:

1. Security

When asked to list the top challenges of cloud computing, data security was the most common answer, cited by 53% of CHIME members.

Cloud computing security concerns are real, especially considering all of the sensitive data held by healthcare organizations. That’s why it’s important to choose vendors wisely and perform a thorough examination of service providers’ security practices. In addition, cloud computing contracts should allow the organization to conduct security audits to find vulnerabilities.

2. Vendor stability

Another big concern is how long cloud computing providers will stay in business. If a vendor goes under or stops offering a particular service, customers could be at risk of losing their data. Close to half (47%) of CHIME members said they were concerned about whether particular technologies and vendors would be around down the road.

This is another reason it’s critical to thoroughly research cloud computing vendors before signing up for a service. Organizations should get information such as how long the vendor has been in business, how many users the service has, and how profitable the company is.

3. Incompatibility

Many hospitals (43%) also find it challenging to make sure cloud services are compatible with existing parts of the IT infrastructure.

It’s important to test that everything works before a service is implemented –otherwise, the implementation can have a severe negative impact on operations. If things don’t go smoothly during the testing, the organization will have to figure out what needs to be upgraded and decide if that’s worth it.

4. IT skills

As more organizations are adopting cloud services, IT pros with cloud computing skills are in high demand and could be tough for healthcare providers to bring on board. More than a quarter (28%) of CHIME members said a lack of skilled IT staff members was a barrier to greater cloud adoption.

One solution some experts recommend: Offer training to IT employees already on staff. Many organizations will find that’s more cost-effective than looking for outside help.

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