Moving Healthcare to the Cloud: Defining the Project—The Who, What and Where

Anupam Sahai, Vice President, Product Management, Cavirin

Part 3 of 5 of “Moving Healthcare to the Cloud”

Written by: Anupam Sahai, Vice President, Product Management, Cavirin

In the last blog of our “Moving Healthcare to the Cloud” series, we discussed why it makes sense for healthcare organizations to move their IT infrastructures to the cloud. In this blog, we examine the process for defining cloud migration projects.

Although every step in the overall cloud migration process is critical, just how well you define the project at the start could very well set the stage to streamline success—or cause a lot of pain along the way.

At a high level, you first need to decide exactly what to move to the cloud:

  • Which business functions? This covers the entire spectrum of the healthcare organization—from patient medical services to billing, procurement, insurance claims, compliance, human resources, marketing, communications and physical security as well as the general operations of buildings and grounds. Business processes to which end users require anytime, anywhere access from multiple devices—as well as those processes through which end users collaborate frequently—will likely benefit the most from moving to a cloud environment.

  • Which systems? You may discover that while it makes sense to move a certain business function to the cloud, the function may be supported by a legacy system that makes sense to keep on-premises for the short term. Older technologies may simply not work well in a cloud environment fraught with new technologies. Perhaps it makes sense to wait until it’s time to upgrade the system before moving it to the cloud. 
  • What data? Data is now just as secure in the cloud as it is on-premises. But there may be some systems containing data that you feel more comfortable keeping under your direct control. Over time, senior management may become more comfortable with storing sensitive data in the cloud, but in the near term, it might be best to go with what makes the boss happy!

Most organizations that move to the cloud end up utilizing multiple environments. While health records, financial systems and human resource applications will generally be moved to a private cloud, you may want to isolate them in separate environments. Other systems, such as email and marketing, could be moved to a separate, yet shared, public cloud in order to reduce costs.

Determine the Necessary Resources  

Another key aspect to defining a cloud migration project is determining who will play a key role. You will likely rely heavily on your primary IT partner—or one that specializes in the cloud—for designing your cloud environments. Depending on the services your chosen partner offers, you may also need to turn to another provider (or providers) to host your cloud environments.

Also, consider the internal resources you will need to coordinate the migration and to interact with your partners who maintain the cloud environment. In addition to IT resources filling these roles, you will want to secure the buy-in of the senior management team in getting the organization as a whole to realize and accept the benefits of cloud computing. Moving to the cloud involves a bit of a culture change in the way people interact with applications, so make sure all your end users are on board.

Getting the Ball Rolling 

The best way to get the ball rolling in defining what systems to move to the cloud is to take a ‘Cloud First’ approach. This means that all heads of each business function must show conclusive evidence why certain apps and data are not cloud-ready. The burden of proof lies on these individuals to prove this; otherwise, the cloud is the final destination.

David Chou, CIO of The Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, spells this out in a three-phase approach to the Cloud First journey:

  1. Evaluate your current culture and outline what is required to transform into a cloud-first operation.
  2. Draft a vision that answers why you are moving to the cloud and what becoming a Cloud First organization will achieve—in a way executives and non-technical employees, including clinicians, can understand easily.
  3. Communicate the benefits that cloud technologies will deliver; this includes the upside to adopting cloud technologies instead of using on-premises systems that the staff is already comfortable using.

The ‘Cloud First’ mandate helps you identify which business functions are the first to move, what systems within each of these businesses to move, and why (as discussed above). This approach also facilitates the identification of critical versus non-critical data, data subject to compliance mandates, and applications that require strict availability versus more tolerant applications.

Next Up: Managing User Access

In our next ‘Moving Healthcare to the Cloud’ blog, we will discuss how to manage end-user access and reduce risk. This includes how to adequately define and enforce access control policies as well as how to monitor, identify, respond to, and mitigate risks. 

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