For a decade, the cloud has beckoned to providers with promises of unlocking the value of their data. Deploying digital tools at a speed and scale yields substantial benefits to patients, clinicians, communities and enterprises. Yet providers have resisted the data siren call for many reasons. A lack of resources, in-house expertise and anxiety about data security are common barriers.
In recent years, however, the digital demand on health systems’ leadership has been escalating. Early adopters of advanced analytics and digital tools powered by patient data are outpacing their competitors. These market leaders have lowered cost of care, improved outcomes, made customer/patient satisfaction and loyalty gains — all while yielding superior growth and profitability. Consider a recent Pew Research poll of nearly a thousand innovators, developers, business, policy leaders, researchers and activists. Some 86 percent believe post-pandemic digital technology changes will be permanent by 2025. The “Internet of Medical Things (IoT)” is one of the more prevalent evolutions these experts predict. The direct implication is that health system leaders will need to invest in the cloud to compete.
Shifting to the Cloud Solves Many CDO and CIO Problems
The path to adoption is challenging; CDOs and CIOs have long lists of wants and needs competing for funding. These competing demands are driven by emerging regulatory requirements, expanding application requests from medical and administrative staff and incorporating IoT-enabled technologies and digital platforms. And the need to maintain, expand and evolve core EMR and ERP never ends. The good news is that cloud-based data makes life easier for CDOs and CIOs on several levels.
Migrating to the cloud addresses this logjam and unlocks the potential for health systems to adopt, incorporate and evolve at speed and scale. Cloud data is like crude oil that first needs extraction before it is refined into potential fuel for use. Health systems benefit from full enterprise data interoperability with allocation and rights sharing when cloud data is refined into operational fuel. Moving from on-prem legacy systems to the cloud further frees the enterprise to evolve its platforms at scale. Providers can then rapidly engage back-office and patient-facing apps with speed and flexibility.
Five Reasons Hospitals Need the Cloud
Competitiveness: Prior waves of digital/process automation investments didn’t deliver as consistently as advertised. Whether offered as disease management solutions or remote patient management (RPM), early digital healthcare solutions fell short of enhancing outcomes, experience or cost to serve. And medical staffs often pushed back on these earlier efforts because they didn’t compute as promised. However, new cloud data applications such as Sutherland’s proprietary platforms offer seamless and continuous remote patient engagement and intelligent analytics-driven care welcomed by medical staffs. Also, improved back-office processes, such as coding and collections, provide competitive differentiation, growth and profitability.
Cost to Serve and profitability: According to Health Affairs, in addition to better enabling the installation of highly efficient back-office tech-enabled processes, cloud-based EHRs help to drive lower costs for hardware, software, networking and IT personnel. TechnologyAdvice further projects that health systems will reduce their IT budgets by 15 percent and increase productivity by switching to cloud computing. And according to the University of Illinois Chicago, cloud technology significantly improves integrated and efficient patient care — factors that support reductions in costly repeat admissions and medical errors.
Consumer engagement/experience: The patient revolution is here now, creating a gravitational pull to the cloud. The rapid adoption of telehealth and other forms of remote patient engagement during the pandemic rewrote the patient experience book. Patients are weary of decades-old healthcare business office operations that rely on postal mail, unreliable scheduling and phone calls. Patients now demand real-time connections and communications through their phones and tablets. The pandemic jumped the market a decade down the digital cloud adoption curve. And that’s just the beginning: patients now expect a similar revolution in online scheduling, medical record access, real-time, digital cost estimates and payment solutions, as well as a host of other services delivered in a flexible, omnichannel environment.
ICT infrastructure modernization and evolution:Legacy on-prem systems and platforms are expensive and complex to deploy. These solutions are also often impossible to upgrade, expand and evolve. Platforms in the cloud, however, are rapidly deployed and relatively inexpensive. Cloud core flexibility allows systems to evolve and adapt at a pace made possible by people and behaviors rather than one dictated by the glacial pace of on-prem system modifications.
Compliance: Cloud data enables better compliance with various agencies and contracts’ many metric-driven reporting requirements (e.g., ACO reporting requirements). New regulations are forcing a level of operations well supported with a push to the cloud. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued several data reporting centric final rules; more will surely follow. For example, as of July 1, 2021, two of the policies from the May 2020 Interoperability and Patient Access final rule came into effect. Hospitals with certain EHR capabilities must now send admission, discharge and transfer notification to other providers and afford new interface requirements for payers.
Cloud Data Hesitancy Wanes as More Health Systems Make the Move
Much of the cloud value skepticism and data privacy concerns have been dispelled with recent experience. According to the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) research, health workloads deployed to the cloud nearly doubled in 2019 and are projected to reach 50 percent in 2021.
The HIMSS survey additionally found dissonance in perceived cybersecurity fears and the actual real-world threat. When asked whether cybersecurity concerns limited the use of cloud services, 56 percent somewhat agreed. However, when asked if health system administrators experienced security incidents in the past 12 months, only 10 percent of respondents replied yes.
But high-profile health system ransomware attacks have ushered in a new, more secure health system awareness. Becker’s Health IT noted in a recent review that:
“IT teams will need to effectively communicate good cyber hygiene to staff members to prevent attacks and troubleshoot vulnerabilities as more work goes permanently remote. In 2021, it won’t be surprising to see more health systems investing in cybersecurity technology and talent as a top priority and planning for cyberattacks as a ‘when’ and not ‘if’ scenario.”
The survey also revealed that two-thirds of the respondents trusted public cloud solutions would keep data secure. A 2018 study of cloud computing taxonomy published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research concluded that contrary to the widely held perception that healthcare cloud computing was characterized by low data security, the study found that “cloud computing increases data security and interoperability.”
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Sutherland Global Services solves digital and transformation problems for its health system, health plan, medical technology and life sciences clients. As digital operators, we don’t just drive to the cloud as an end in itself but rather focus on the delivery of business changing insights and operational efficiencies. Recognizing that each organization starts out from their own unique place along the journey to reach their digital full potential, Sutherland is committed to meeting health systems where they are in their cloud journey.