Global healthcare is finally ready to transition to a hybrid cloud model—a mix of on-premise, private cloud services and third-party, public clouds. Hybrid cloud use in healthcare is expected to nearly double by 2020, from 19% to 37%.

The global healthcare industry’s reluctance to join the cloud is understandable. Medical providers access and store a wealth of sensitive personal information, from addresses and social security numbers to payment information and patients’ health records. Concerns abound about such personal information floating around off-premise, ripe for hackers’ picking.

Cloud computing provides a major upgrade in terms of performance and access to information, but many companies already had a trusted solution and a “don’t-fix-it-if-it-isn’t-broken” mindset. Replacing those (expensive) systems wasn’t worth the headache.

But global healthcare is finally ready to transition to a hybrid cloud model—a mix of on-premise, private cloud services and third-party, public clouds. Hybrid cloud use in healthcare is expected to nearly double by 2020, from 19% to 37%.

Why the sudden push for cloud computing in healthcare? Network configurations, storage, performance and security have evolved significantly in the past five years to meet healthcare’s demanding needs. As the Internet of Things becomes increasingly essential in healthcare, those cloud-based needs will only grow. This year, 87% of healthcare organizations will have adopted IoT, and by 2022, IoT spend in healthcare is expected to exceed $158 billion.

But while the industry shifts toward cloud computing, healthcare professionals still may be wary about the cloud. The answers to these five common questions about migrating to the cloud will help inform and facilitate a seamless transition.

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Why is this the right time to consider moving to a hybrid cloud model?

There has never been more computing cloud power—or options—available to a healthcare organization. While moving to the hybrid cloud felt like uncharted waters just a few years ago, today 84% of organizations use multiple clouds, and 58% of those use a hybrid cloud model. Healthcare organizations that make the switch now have a wealth of external experience to draw from.

How can IT departments persuade leadership to move to a hybrid cloud model?

IT departments love hybrid cloud models because of their flexibility, ease of management and security. But healthcare organization leadership are impressed by the cloud’s effect on efficiency and costs. For example, organizations operating outside of a cloud model can take three to six months to add a new server. In a hybrid cloud model, that window shrinks to a matter of days.

Your organization’s leadership may also worry about disorganized data and uneven costs. Though approximately five individual clouds make up the average hybrid cloud, cloud brokerage services make it easy to track, analyze and provision data and usage for every single aspect of a workload. By tracking budgets, pinpointing spending inefficiencies and predicting future costs, a hybrid cloud will actually make your organization thriftier than a single-cloud model.

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How can my organization protect health records while ensuring data availability?

Today’s cloud models are very secure and utilize the same kind of security mechanisms that an information technology department typically uses in its data center. IT leaders in this space need to ensure the essential security layers and checks are in place, understand where those functions come from and that they all operate coherently. This includes:

  • Double-check configurations. Opening any server to public internet immediately increases your security risks. If you decide to open a server, make sure the appropriate intrusion detection technology is in place.
  • Monitor credentials. IT managers must identify and track the access credentials of every person in a healthcare organization. Obviously, this is a huge task in large organizations, so working in tandem with a cloud vendor or other security partner creates a system of checks and balances.
  • Develop usage standards across apps and platforms. While cloud users may have their own preferences around workplace tech tools, maintaining a secure cloud means setting rigid standards around apps and platforms. Currently, 62% of IT departments advise their organizations on the appropriate applications for their clouds, and 59% are setting cloud policies. Expect to see those numbers grow as hybrid cloud adoption increases.

How will hybrid clouds change the work of nurses and medical professionals?

In general, the medical profession employs relatively static applications. Once a qualified solution is in place, users are often reluctant to make a change, even if that tool feels clunky or outdated.

The hybrid cloud has the potential to turn all that on its head. It provides the opportunity to work more quickly, access information immediately and maintain far more accurate records. Medical professionals will see much better responsiveness in terms of bug fixes and new releases, which are crucial to the success of IoT services like predictive analytics and remote-monitoring tools.

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What best practices and common pitfalls should healthcare organizations keep in mind when moving to a hybrid cloud?

As with any big internal shift, it’s crucial for both management and IT departments to remain transparent about the changes. 70% of healthcare professionals say the biggest hurdle to new technology is resistance to change from physicians and staff. Gaining buy-in via small-scale pilot testing, internal champions and thought-leadership interviews will help ensure a successful transition.

From a security standpoint, your IT department’s governance around cloud computing should mirror its policies for the data center. Don’t assume that a third-party cloud partner will be responsible for your security—verify your coverages, and create an internal back-up plan.

A hybrid cloud is essential to your organization’s reputation as a future-forward healthcare provider. Do your research about the cloud mix that’s right for you, and find a partner who understands your organization’s unique challenges and needs.

Todd Matters is chief architect and co-founder of RackWare.

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