Common multi-cloud mistakes – and how to avoid them

Photo: Ascending

Increasing telehealth practices and sophisticated data collection methods have left the healthcare industry with a surge of critical patient data. Many hospitals and health systems have begun rushing to adopt a multi-cloud strategy to help manage patient data.

However, in the industry’s desire to modernize, essential steps such as ensuring security often are overlooked, leading to data security concerns and decreased patient experience, contended Gloria Zhang, director of cloud programs at Ascending, an IT modernization, analytics and cloud computing technology and services vendor.

It’s critical that hospitals and health systems understand the challenges and their unique cloud needs before beginning a cloud modernization process. Healthcare IT News sat down with Zhang to get her expertise on common cloud mistakes in healthcare and what provider organizations can do to avoid them.

Q. Many hospitals and health systems have been moving to adopt a multi-cloud strategy to help manage patient data. What are the reasons behind this move, and what during this move is causing provider organizations to make mistakes?

A. Healthcare organizations are rapidly shifting to a cloud-first infrastructure because of the benefits it can provide, from cost and time savings to quicker innovation and increased security.

Cloud infrastructure gives healthcare providers a scalable and flexible solution for managing data, allowing them increased access to patient data. It also improves patient experiences by allowing providers to easily collaborate and share data with other providers and patients, improving care coordination and patient outcomes.

Moreover, cloud-based telehealth solutions allow providers to offer virtual consultations, remote monitoring and other telemedicine services, improving access to care for patients in rural or underserved areas.

Due to the varied nature of the data healthcare providers maintain, a multi-cloud approach often is most effective as it allows organizations to store sensitive patient data locally, while widely used applications can be made easily accessible via public cloud.

Although the potential benefits of cloud migration are tempting, many healthcare providers make the transition too hastily, without proper planning or a dedicated cloud team that understands the best solutions and strategies for each hospital and clinic.

Q. What are a few common mistakes provider organizations are making when moving to a multi-cloud strategy?

A. Healthcare providers often encounter several common errors when transitioning to a multi-cloud strategy. These can include a failure to secure qualified cloud professionals, select an appropriately tailored cloud approach and develop a comprehensive plan.

Too often, healthcare providers assume since they have talent on their team with multiple years of IT experience, they can make the cloud transition seamlessly. But cloud professionals possess a nuanced understanding of cloud-focused tools and technologies, including cloud formation and terraform replica automation.

Another common mistake is choosing the wrong cloud strategy for a provider’s specific needs. Healthcare providers deal with sensitive patient information daily, but each have unique situations and workflows.

The “lift and shift” strategy is the most prevalent cloud strategy but may also restrict cloud efficiencies and security features.

As it merely shifts on-premises data to the cloud, any vulnerabilities present on old systems will also be transferred to the cloud. Alternatively, a “move and improve” approach supports core application improvements. The right – or wrong – strategy greatly affects the transition’s success.

Lastly, many providers don’t create a plan for their cloud migration strategy. Healthcare organizations must create a comprehensive plan that identifies key implementation owners, outlines a detailed timeline, and accurately assesses costs and security challenges. Ultimately, a clear plan can decrease costs and limit vulnerabilities.

Q. What can healthcare provider organization CIOs and other health IT leaders do to make sure they do not make these common mistakes, or to fix these mistakes if made?

A. To prevent these mistakes, healthcare providers need to prioritize strategic planning in the cloud migration process.

IT leaders can start by monitoring the current state of the organization’s IT landscape. By knowing what their organization needs to make the shift successful, leaders can begin planning their cloud process, including assigning implementation owners and identifying application phase lengths.

To improve the chances of the migration succeeding, leaders can begin by moving non-critical workloads to the cloud first so that if something goes unplanned, it can be fixed without introducing significant risk to the organization.

After this, the next workload shift or business-essential shifts can be improved. Leaders should be encouraged to think about each workload they’re shifting – if it’s efficient and accessible on-premises, then the organization may benefit from not migrating to the cloud at all and utilizing a hybrid approach.

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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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