Is the cloud in your future? Across industries, businesses are moving to the cloud to improve agility, enhance availability, and access new technologies while eliminating large capital expenditures.
Healthcare organizations are increasingly joining the migration. Health tech companies are building new cloud-native apps; providers are shifting medical records to cloud storage; and payers are analyzing large volumes of data to identify key trends. Though cloud adoption might have been slow at first in healthcare, more and more organizations are making the move. According to one report, the market for cloud computing in healthcare could reach $89 billion by 2027.
Is your organization considering a move to the cloud? Or are you looking to expand your use of cloud services? In this blog post, we’ll examine the primary types of cloud computing services and deployment models available, we’ll highlight some powerful cloud benefits, and we’ll answer a few of the most frequently asked questions by healthcare organizations.
What are the types of cloud computing services available for healthcare?
There is a wide array of cloud services available for healthcare organizations and other businesses. Most fit into four broad categories.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
In the past, using different applications required you to purchase licenses and then physically install software on your company’s servers, workstations, desktops, or laptops. SaaS offerings enable your organization to use applications that are running in the cloud.
In many cases, you can subscribe to these cloud-based apps and start using them immediately, without having to install or configure any software on your own systems. The cloud service provider (CSP) or software vendor handles all updates, patching, and maintenance. Scaling usage up or down is a simple as modifying your subscription.
The breadth of SaaS offerings is growing rapidly. You can select anything from electronic health record (EHR) apps to robust, enterprise-grade databases.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
The cloud lets you reduce or completely eliminate your data center footprint. Instead of buying, managing, and maintaining hardware, you can access the resources you need from CSPs.
With IaaS offerings, you can scale up or down rapidly. You pay for only what you use. Your teams can tap into powerful compute resources to run machine learning (ML) modeling, move growing volumes of EHRs to cloud storage, or develop new applications—all without large capital expenditures.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS offerings are often used for software development. Your developers can tap into the tools and libraries they need to build and deliver new applications.
PaaS offerings can help accelerate development. Your team can access the latest tools without having to find, install, and configure them on their own. They can use the operating systems, databases, and other applications they need without having to run that software in-house.
Desktop as a Service (DaaS)
As more employees work from beyond the office, many businesses need new ways to provide simple, secure access to vital apps and other resources. DaaS offerings enable you to deliver a full portfolio of enterprise apps in a secure environment that can be accessed anywhere, from any device.
DaaS offerings enhance employee flexibility while reducing management complexity. Employees can use their preferred devices and continue to be productive whether they are working at home or on the road. Clinicians can easily and securely access patient information using mobile devices. Meanwhile, IT administrators no longer have to manage physical servers running applications or the physical devices used by employees.
What are the different cloud deployment models?
Though IT and business leaders often refer to “the cloud,” there are actually multiple types of cloud deployment models. Each has its own advantages for healthcare organizations.
AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud are examples of public clouds. They provide SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, and DaaS offerings to individuals and organizations using the public internet. By selecting a public cloud to develop software, run apps, or store data, you can minimize the need for owning and managing your own data center.
You can experience some of the benefits of cloud computing by transforming your internal data center into a private cloud. With a private cloud, you can pool resources through virtualization and establish self-service portals to give developers, business groups, or individual users fast and easy, public cloud–like access to technology. Creating a private cloud also prepares your infrastructure—and your IT group—for future ventures into hybrid or public cloud deployment models.
You might decide to keep some apps and data on premises while also using some public cloud services. Legacy apps, for example, might need to run in your own data center. Meanwhile, you could move medical records into the public cloud, or use public cloud services for backup and disaster recovery (DR). Establishing a hybrid cloud enables you to optimize your cloud usage for your particular requirements.
A community cloud provides shared IT resources designed to meet the needs of a particular community. For example, there are community cloud providers that have designed their services to meet the specific regulatory requirements of healthcare organizations. Those community clouds can implement security policies and capabilities that make it easier to comply with HIPAA rules and help simplify HITRUST certification, which proves your HIPAA compliance.
Many organizations use more than one cloud. You might choose a particular service from AWS and another one from Azure to take advantage of cost differences or capitalize on unique features. The more you can standardize on common platforms and app architectures, the more easily you can shift apps and data among clouds, continuously optimizing your cloud mix.
What are the benefits of cloud computing in healthcare?
For health tech businesses, providers, and payers, cloud computing can offer several important benefits.
Greater IT agility:
Public cloud services can help improve your IT and business agility. You can more easily scale up resources to support rising data volumes, new app development initiatives, or spikes in demand for apps—and you can scale back without losing your investments. Instead of waiting weeks or months to build new in-house environments, your teams can access new resources with just a few clicks.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership:
Adopting public cloud services enables you to avoid the large capital expenditures for building infrastructure in your own data center. You can trade a CapEx model for an OpEx model with a monthly subscription fee, paying for services as you go.
Access to cutting-edge technologies:
With public cloud services, can tap into new, next-generation technologies ranging from AI and ML services to analytics and data visualization tools. These technologies can help you augment the apps you are building or generate new insights from the data you are collecting.
Public cloud services often provide more advanced security capabilities than you could cost-effectively implement on your own. You can safeguard protected health information from a rising number of cyber threats.
Better availability and business continuity:
CSPs can offer high-availability and DR services to help ensure your apps and data remain available around the clock, even if outages or weather events affect one data center. Backup services enable you to protect data from accidental loss or malicious destruction. In many cases, these cloud services will be less expensive than implementing similar capabilities in-house.
The benefits of cloud computing are clear. But many healthcare organizations have questions about how to select the best cloud providers and how to maintain regulatory compliance.
Which cloud provider is the best for healthcare?
There is no shortage of cloud providers available for healthcare organizations. In evaluating each, first, confirm that the provider is willing to enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) with your organization. That BAA makes the CSP liable for compliance with HIPAA rules.
Second, compare the types of services that each offers. Large CSPs typically offer a large selection of services and advanced technologies. But if you have a specific initiative in mind, working with a smaller, healthcare-specific cloud provider or community cloud might be a better fit.Finally, consider the costs. In addition to comparing pricing for services, be sure to calculate differences in costs for transferring files. Also factor in the potential costs of training your internal staff to work with one provider as opposed to another.
How can you maintain HIPAA compliance in the cloud?
Regardless of the cloud provider, cloud services, and cloud deployment models you select, your organization must ensure compliance with HIPAA privacy and security rules. The good news is that many CSPs are willing to share the responsibility for regulatory compliance. Providers that serve healthcare organizations will offer a range of tools and services to help you safeguard protected health information (PHI).
Nevertheless, complying with HIPAA regulations and achieving HITRUST certification in the cloud can still be challenging and time-consuming. Working with a healthcare-focused managed service provider (MSP) can streamline compliance and certification tasks.
Move forward with your cloud journey
Cloud computing holds tremendous promise for healthcare organizations. By integrating cloud services into your IT strategy, you can increase agility, access new technologies, enhance security, and improve availability—all while shifting to a manageable OpEx cost model.
Whether you are just beginning your cloud journey or you are looking to adopt new types of services, it can help to work with an experienced, healthcare-focused partner. Learn how Cloudticity can help you achieve your cloud goals while streamlining HIPAA compliance and HITRUST certification. Contact one of our cloud specialists today.