In last week’s post I shared information on why I believe the future of Health IT is in the cloud. Today, I want to elaborate a bit more on that theme and give some examples of the opportunities for your healthcare organization to benefit from the migration to cloud-based computing.
Healthcare organizations exist to care for patients (OK, they also exist to care for the community-based physicians who drive their revenues). Although IT is critical to your hospital’s success and to the safety of the patients under your care, it is not a core competency. Almost everyone in the C-suite would rather not think too much about IT. For most folks in your hospital, information technology is really just a utility, and like a utility, when they need it they just want it to work. The problem is, it isn’t easy to implement and maintain this very important asset to your organization, especially if you are a small to medium-sized hospital or clinic. You just don’t have the IT staff required to keep everything humming along as it should. The old adage about IT remains true; purchasing the hardware and software is the least expensive aspect of running an IT shop. It’s the people-power you need to manage IT that contributes most to your total cost of ownership. What if you could reduce that cost of ownership by a factor of 2? How about a factor of 5? What if the savings amounted to a factor of 10 or even more? Well, that’s the promise of the cloud and everybody is in a race to get there.
You may not be aware of this, but Microsoft has been delivering cloud services for more than a decade. Microsoft also invests more than $9.5 billion each year in research. Today, sixty percent of our engineers worldwide are working on moving our applications and services to the cloud. And soon, I’ve been told that ninety percent of our engineering horsepower will be dedicated to that endeavor.
So what does this mean to you today? How about an opportunity to have access from virtually anywhere to rich communication, collaboration, and productivity services via subscription-based, Microsoft-hosted, online applications that include: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. What we call Business Productivity On-Line Services or BPOS would give your administrative and clinical staff access to information at home, in the office, or on the road including messaging and calendar functions, collaboration, web conferencing, and instant messaging. Furthermore, unlike software you install on each desktop that is upgraded every few years, cloud based services are always up to date. You get the very latest capabilities without having to worry about costly deployment and time-consuming maintenance so your IT staff can focus most of their time on your core clinical systems.
There are even more opportunities to move your IT into the cloud. Whether you want some or all of your employees using the Microsoft Office suite delivered via the cloud, customer relationship management solutions in the cloud, or the ability to create custom applications on a platform that resides in the cloud (Windows Azure Platform), you now have or will soon have those choices. Depending on the size of your organization and your needs around privacy, security or regulatory compliance, you will also have a choice in whether these services will be hosted by Microsoft, or in a private cloud hosted by you or by a partner organization. And least you think the cloud isn’t ready to handle your most sensitive health services, take note of the fact that early adopters of these cloud services include several large, well known pharmaceutical industry giants—an industry that, like yours, operates in a highly regulated environment.
There’s even more to share, but that will have to wait. The next time you meet with your Microsoft account executive be sure to ask about the cloud. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll be amazed at just how much flexibility, scalability and savings cloud-based services can deliver to your healthcare organization.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft
Dr. Crounse, While I realize your comments most likely centered around office and hospital on-site practices, what do you see as the role of the "cloud" for telemedicine?
Dr. H. Thanks for your comment. There are many ways that the "cloud" will play out in telemedicine. Access to, and storage of, medical images, physiological information from remote or home monitoring equipment, and electronic documentation of telemedicine visits comes to mind.
Bill Crounse, MD