Cloud Strategy Best Practices For Healthcare Provider CIOs

Lauren Farah Manager, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 10 Jun 2021

The Path To Successful Digitalization In Healthcare Is Cloud

“To keep pace in digital care delivery, every healthcare provider organization must have a cloud strategy in place by the end of 2020.” – Gartner, Inc. in Healthcare Provider CIOs: Create Your Cloud Strategy in 2020

The healthcare vertical is fast approaching a new age of digitally-driven care that runs on a real-time health system, which relies heavily on the cloud. Therefore, healthcare CIOs must step forward into complete, cloud-enabled digitalization. The way onward is a well-thought-out cloud strategy.

In comparison with other industries, cloud hesitation is common among healthcare CIOs due largely to security and compliance concerns. Commonly, cloud implementations in healthcare are focused on point solutions – not enterprise solutions. Subsequently, independent solutions have generated a something of a cloud patchwork consisting of solutions ranging from IaaS and PaaS to SaaS solutions. The reason for this approach is often due to the lack of cloud strategy, thought to be worsened because of vendors who sell cloud services as part of their solutions. Buyers tend to purchase comprehensive solutions and an increasingly complex ad hoc cloud environment ensues. For these reasons, a complete cloud strategy positioned to produce a better result and operating model is necessary. 

Healthcare CIOs who continue to amalgamate cloud services in an ad hoc fashion will cause greater operational costs and work for the IT department; systems management, plus vendor and contract management, become burdens. IT complexity increases, especially in the areas of problem resolution and root cause analysis. When IT service management is compromised, particularly when it comes to end-user problems, there’s a direct impact to patient care and revenue.

CIOs must begin to implement a formalized cloud strategy for the organization using proven best practices that support business goals and address technology implementations, which will enable healthcare orgs to make use of the cloud in the most advantageous fashion possible.

4 Best Practices for Healthcare CIOs Creating a Cloud Strategy in 2020

By 2022, 75% of all healthcare provider organizations will have a formal cloud strategy in place. – Gartner, Inc. in Healthcare Provider CIOs: Create Your Cloud Strategy in 2020

  1. Create the Connection Between Your Organization’s Business Strategy and Cloud Technologies

It’s very common in healthcare for CIOs and IT decision makers to prioritize operational planning before strategic planning. There’s a great deal of pressure to be quick and nimble in delivering cloud-based services, bringing CIOs to go straight to implementation plans. Rather, CIOs should step back and take the time to build a cloud strategy that aligns with the long term.

Understanding the connections between operating planning, strategic planning and business strategy is key – cloud plans included

CEOs and executive boards create a long-term business strategy, including:

  • Business goals
  • Transformation
  • Planned outcomes for the next five years

Executives base the corporate strategy upon the business strategy for mid-term strategic planning. Strategic planning should connect IT’s action items with their purposes and covers:

  • Electronic health records
  • Internet of Medical Things
  • Clinical and cloud

Resulting operating plans are shorter term (1-2 years) and guide the people who are doing the actual work, which cover:

  • Adoption
  • Migration
  • Implementation
  1. Provide Clarity and Guidance for All Cloud Projects by Linking Your Executives’ Vision to All Tactical Cloud Implementation

Remember: a cloud strategy isn’t just an IT project. Rather, it’s an organization wide initiative that requires participation from everyone. Balance IT needs with business requirements. The cloud strategy must be an evolving document that works with your other strategies, from data center to EHR.

  • Design the effort within the limits of the midterm strategic plan.
  • Make sure implementation remains at the forefront throughout the development of the strategies. Don’t forget implementation comes next.
  • Create the cloud strategy to complement other strategies by identifying dependencies.
  1. Create a Risk Mitigation Plan by Inventorying Potential Barriers

Barriers that often slow the progress of cloud strategy adoption are focused on misguided perceptions that the cloud is not secure. Aggressive risk management is an effective way to mitigate these barriers.

Technical risks:

  • Rely on the CISO or information security department capabilities to provide a risk analysis, including compliance risks for regulated data.
  • Create an alliance of application owners to create a list of technical barriers that could potentially prevent migration to the cloud.
  • Perform a review of infrastructure that will be affected by shifting workloads to the cloud including network, storage and compute loads.

Operational risks:

  • Combat cloud hesitation by sharing data that demonstrates cloud security in comparison to the typical healthcare data center.
  • Discover the root causes of concerns and encourage influential individuals who may be resistant initially to support the cloud strategy effort.
  • Address clinical procedures and workflows that demand reliable systems response time for patient care.
  1. Identify the IT Organizational Structures Required to Support Cloud Adoption

IT department structures usually align with infrastructure architecture, which doesn’t allow for the agility required to operate a cloud forward healthcare organization. People and their skillets must transform to align with cloud adoption.

  • Review organizational structure with HR representative and ensure the current structure can provide the necessary flexibility and speed.
  • Compare job descriptions with the needs for the future cloud first strategy. Create new training programs to fill skills gaps as needed.
  • Work with the CFO, auditors and external financial advisors to identify options and plan for enterprise cloud costs.

Remember, the cloud strategy must exist in harmony with other strategies that enable smart healthcare.

The cloud strategy doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It must be aligned with other strategies, including storage, compute, network and data center. Further, the information system strategy must also align with other strategies to establish a truly unified digital care delivery strategy.

To get the complete details on creating a healthcare cloud strategy in 2020, get access to the full Gartner report and learn:

  • Key cloud challenges for healthcare CIOs
  • Recommendations for CIOs advancing healthcare and life science digital optimization and modernization
  • The role of the CIO in driving the cloud strategy
  • Best practices for creating or refreshing the cloud strategy to achieve digital transformation goals

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