The cloud is now a proven, viable solution for EHR and large healthcare systems and critical to infrastructure modernization and delivering a better experience for patients and providers.

Silk CTO, Derek Swanson, and Raj Gorla, CEO of UST Contineo Health, recently had a conversation on this subject – technology trends in the healthcare industry and why the industry needs to move to the cloud.

Here are four takeaways from the conversation:

#1. The Cloud Has Proven Itself for the Healthcare Industry

Compared to other industries like retail and finance, the healthcare industry has been lagging in cloud adoption. The primary reasons revolve around risk, regulation, and economics.

“Healthcare is the ultimate social contract,” explained Raj. Indeed, healthcare and health care providers are vital and indispensable. Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries. Providers are responsible for delivering timely, safe, and high-quality care while ensuring patient privacy and data security. The IT and technology supporting healthcare delivery needs to be secure and reliable, as even a minor interruption can lead to irreversible consequences.

In addition to this, the large healthcare organizations are usually non-profits running on lean operating margins and with high operational risk. There is not a lot of capital to invest in full-scale cloud migration projects.

“Even with the advent of electronic health records and the explosion of data and technology becoming a key differentiator, the reluctance in adopting some of these technologies is understandable,” said Raj.

Despite these barriers to entry, industry leaders are starting to adopt the cloud with success to improve their capabilities and outcomes. First with small, satellite systems, now with larger systems and applications like EHR.

#2. The Cloud Improves Patient Engagement

Patients are consumers and the healthcare industry has been evolving to deliver a more patient-centric experience. Providers have realized that healthcare today is about meeting the patient where he or she is most comfortable – whether it’s home health, virtual health, or any other care modality, it’s more patient-centric than ever. Patients want to be partners in their care plans and accountable for their health. “Patient consumerism,” as Raj put it, demands tools whether it be for price transparency, flexible scheduling and transportation, or enabling secure, seamless access to provider and patient information.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these new care delivery models, including virtual health, telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other asynchronous care delivery models. Technologies like wearables, visual therapeutics, and connected homes are generating a tremendous amount of data that needs to be integrated and analyzed in real-time to deliver value. Data interoperability is key, along with computing power to handle these large datasets.

It is critical for hospital and healthcare systems to embrace digital transformation, and it starts with infrastructure modernization on the cloud.

#3. The Cloud Increases Speed to Innovation

“Speed to innovation is what’s really pushing a lot of these providers to think about cloud and specifically public cloud,” said Raj.

The cloud enables an agile, scalable, and connected digital ecosystem that combines the massive EHR environment with hundreds of other applications. And it allows for easier data harmonization. Big data analytics and interoperability are far superior on the cloud compared to on-prem environments.

The public cloud providers push out frequent updates and enhanced toolsets with security being a major factor. The cloud providers are spending a lot of money to make sure that physical data is secured and up to industry standard. Identity and access management controls are robust with the opportunity to leverage cloud native cybersecurity solutions to get high levels of data protection. There are options for better availability and disaster recovery.

The public cloud also offers flexibility to scale up and down for demanding workflows, which traditionally requires a lot of planning and capital expense. The operational costs of cloud technologies are comparable to on-prem but will go down as cloud adoption increases.

For all of these reasons, healthcare providers are turning to the public cloud to innovate and increase organizational agility.

#4. The Cloud Can Now Handle EHR and Large Healthcare Systems

While the cloud has many operational advantages, there are challenges to getting large on-prem systems into the cloud, including EHR and other mission-critical applications. These big systems exist across all industries and the cloud providers and their partners, like Silk, are working to support them.

The healthcare industry has large, heavy, vertical stacks to move to the cloud. These systems need the same high levels of resiliency, security, performance, availability, reliability, and governance they’ve been getting on-prem.

The biggest challenge to successful cloud migration has been performance. But times have changed.

Raj referenced the story of Sentara Healthcare. Sentara Healthcare is successfully moving their Epic EHR environment to the cloud and achieving three times the performance of what’s possible on cloud native infrastructure by using the Silk Platform on top of their cloud provider (Microsoft Azure). By using Silk on Azure, Sentara is able to achieve the fast performance of on-prem on the cloud. They’re also saving 20% on infrastructure costs with Silk’s data services, including data compression and instantaneous zero-footprint clones.

“I would say for the first time, large healthcare organizations can move their entire Epic ecosystem, including disaster recovery, production and reporting to the public cloud at a fraction of the cost of their current data center, while not sacrificing any of the performance or reliability metrics that they used to have,” said Raj.

The key takeaway is that now it’s possible to move EHR and large healthcare systems successfully to the cloud with very low risk while keeping all of the feature-functionality that you’re used to getting before.

And moving to the cloud not only enables a better patient and provider experience, it’s also critical to transition healthcare staff working on traditional IT operations to work on more strategic, patient-centric priorities.

You can watch the full video recording of Derek and Raj’s conversation here.