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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

One hospital’s journey to the cloud

One hospital’s journey to the cloud

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imageOn a May 26th HealthBlog post, The Health Industry Stampede to Cloud Computing, I shared some encouraging information from CDW (Cloud Computing Tracking Poll) on the health industry’s measured, yet growing enthusiasm for cloud computing.  As a former hospital Senior VP/CIO/CMIO I know all too well that a hospitals’ core competency isn’t IT.  Hospitals exist to provide patient care.  But increasingly, IT is also a strategic asset for hospitals and CIOs are as Gartner has pointed out, expected to be “enterprise change managers” in their organizations.  That doesn’t mean, however, that CIOs now have keys to the treasury.  Quite the opposite!  As is the case in many businesses these days, the charge is to do more with less.  Enter what may be a prime facilitator for doing more with less - cloud computing.

As defined by CDW, cloud computing is a “model for enabling convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources such as networks, servers, storage, applications and services, that can be rapidly provisioned.”   As I pointed out a few weeks ago, the greatest opportunity in the hospital environment is to first move many of the organization’s so-called “commodity” applications such as email, file storage, web and video conferencing, and online learning applications to the cloud.  And, this is exactly the approach many hospitals are taking.

imageOne example is Tampa General Hospital, a 1004 bed facility with some 7000 employees serving West Central Florida.  In a new case study published by Microsoft, Tampa General IT executives explain why they are embracing cloud computing and how moving some of their “commodity applications” to the cloud is freeing up IT staff for more strategic projects. As Balaji Ramadoss, Chief Technology Officer at Tampa General Hospital, says, We are now focusing them on new healthcare innovation instead of maintenance. We’re happy to leave the technical details of email and productivity applications to Microsoft, which allows us to focus on our core healthcare business.” The hospital is now well positioned to take advantage of some of the revolutionary changes in community care, programs, and services that a strategic IT plan enables.

But what about data security and privacy - a chief concern for health organizations in their journey to the cloud?  In the new case study, Shane Ochotny, Technology Architect in the IT Department at Tampa General Hospital says,  “As a healthcare provider, we needed to ensure that our messaging system was secure and offered single sign on access.  Before choosing Microsoft Online Services, we completed an extensive review of Microsoft security policies, certifications, and data security qualifications. Through our security audits, it became clear that Microsoft Online Services offered a highly secure environment that surpassed anything we could build in our own data center.”  Mr. Ramadoss adds, “We’ve only been on Microsoft Online Services for a short time, but Microsoft has sufficient redundancy in place to assure us.  Microsoft data centers house data for huge banks, government agencies, and large corporations whose audits are far more stringent than anything we would ever require. Not only can we meet HIPAA [Health Information Portability and Accountability Act] and other healthcare regulations, we can completely exceed them.”

Tampa General’s journey to the cloud and what this progressive health organization has gained from that journey is well documented in the case study report.  I encourage you to take a look.  And this is just one example of the evidence we are gathering from around the world on the health industry’s migration to the cloud.  We’d like to hear from you too.

Bill Crounse, MD                       Senior Director, Worldwide Health                 Microsoft

  

  • Potential breakthru IF you post the business assocatie and other HIPAA?HITECH contract solutions too!icle

  • I've been looking into the Cloud and there are a few things I don't understand. Does the Cloud exist in individual hospitals like a large EHR or other <a href="http://www.qualifacts.com">behavioral health software</a> where anyone in the hospital can access it, or is it larger than that, spanning across multiple hospitals?

  • The "public cloud" exists in secure data centers usually operated by global IT and telecommunications companies.  "Private cloud" services may be hosted by an individual hospital, health system, or other entity specifically for the purpose of hosting data for the organization and its affiliates.  To learn more about cloud services, visit www.microsoft.com/cloud

  • This is great but what is the next step to Hospital Cloud interoperability?

    www.imn.org/.../Home.html

  • Andrew,

    Thanks for writing. I actually consulted with some of my team members to provide you with information based on our latest thinking. Gareth Hall, who serves as our industry director for Windows 8 and Apps (flexible workflow) said, "As long as there is a political or commercial desire to interoperate across multiple hospital clouds (within agreed security and privacy regimes), then there are no technical reasons why you can’t connect multiple private clouds together. The case study here references Tampa’s use of a public cloud, but the Microsoft solutions give you the choice of any or all of private, public and hybrid clouds, and if interoperability is key, then that will affect your choice of cloud model."  Leslie Sistla, who manages our health industry technology strategy and standards, reminded me that "our ability to provide a management, virtualization, identity and development platform for pure, private and hybrid cloud deployments is a Microsoft differentiator." She also suggests HealthBlog readers may wish to learn more about interesting integration scenarios for hybrid cloud deployments with BizTalk.  See blogs.biztalk360.com/biztalk-server-2013-beta

    Bill Crounse, MD

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