Three steps to cloud confidence

15 August 2013 | Neil Jordan, General Manager of Health Worldwide for Microsoft

A number of health organizations are still waiting in the wings to see how the cloud plays out. Can they trust the cloud to keep them compliant? What if they don’t want to move everything to the cloud at once? Does cloud computing really make economic sense? I think it’s safe to say that many of these questions have been answered and the productivity, care coordination and cost-savings benefits of the cloud proven. And between austerity measures around the world, meaningful use incentives in the United States, and the ongoing, ever-increasing challenge of providing care to more people at lower cost, now is the time to take advantage of those benefits.

That being said, there are still key considerations for health organizations as they either begin or extend their use of the cloud. Based on what we see in our work with customers globally, here are three of the most important areas for health organizations to address in order to boost what I like to call “cloud confidence”:

  • Flexibility. Health organizations need to be able to move to the cloud at their own pace. For example, a hospital may be ready to put its email and data backup in the cloud, but isn’t ready to move its clinical system over yet. At Microsoft we offer an adaptable infrastructure and complete range of public, private and hybrid cloud solutions to provide health organizations choice and flexibility. We also offer a common set of management, identity, virtualization and developer tools that can be used across cloud and on-premises solutions to streamline maintenance and provide connected, consistent experiences. These tools can be especially helpful while organizations are in the hotbed of mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures.
  • Compliance. An important question every health organization needs to ask itself is: Do they trust the cloud vendors they’re working with to take some of the compliance burden off of them? Speaking from experience, it’s no easy task for a vendor to make sure its technology is compliant with health industry standards. It’s something we at Microsoft spend a lot of time and money on because we take our role as a trusted data steward very seriously. We’re involved with health industry standards groups around the world to help our customers maintain compliance with privacy and security regulation. For example, Microsoft offers a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for our cloud services that covers Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Windows Azure Core Services. Our goal with the single BAA being to make life easier for our customers by allowing them to have multiple cloud solutions under one governance, risk and compliance framework.
  • Economics. Taking a comprehensive view of the economics of cloud computing is a critical part of gaining cloud confidence. Health organizations are seeing economic benefits not just from the hardware, software and maintenance cost savings of cloud computing, but also from the time savings for their people. The automatic maintenance that cloud services provide means IT staff can focus more on strategic projects. And the productivity time savings of communication and collaboration cloud services means caregivers can focus more on increasing the quality and access of patient care.

For those health organizations still waiting in the wings, addressing the above three areas will help them gain cloud confidence and reap the many benefits this now-proven technology offers for improving efficiency and care quality, while reducing costs.

Neil Jordan
General Manager of Health Worldwide for Microsoft