5 ways healthcare organizations must assess cloud capabilities

How NIST’s assessments of key characteristics for distributed computing can help measure maturity.

5 ways healthcare organizations must assess cloud capabilities

Many sectors in the healthcare industry are aggressively adopting cloud technology solutions. Estimates from Acumen Research and Consulting suggest that the global healthcare cloud computing market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 14 percent each year until 2026, reaching a market value of about $40 billion by that year. But while cloud computing is viewed as an effective data storage solution that offers other benefits, including reducing IT costs, the infrastructures may be falling short of the ideal. The recently released 2019 State of DevOps report shows that only 29 percent of respondents to a survey said their cloud infrastructures meet al five of the essential characteristics of cloud computing as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Achieving those characteristics is crucial if healthcare organizations are to have robust cloud technologies that can operate at peak performance while mitigating security concerns, contends Sanjay Jupidi, president of Qentelli, a DevOps solution provider leveraging both cloud integrating technologies and artificial intelligence solutions.

Jupidi outlines why it is essential for healthcare organizations to address cloud deficiencies in NIST’s five essential characteristics of cloud computing to ensure their environments meets conflicting demands.

On-demand self-service

The first NIST characteristic of on-demand self-service enables consumers to automatically provision computing resources as needed, without human interaction.

Having an on-demand self-service portals is of growing importance for healthcare organizations, Jupidi notes. It’s crucial to have portals that enable users to access the cloud’s accounts, tap into subscribed cloud services and access tools to provision and de-provision services. These capabilities can significantly improve the user experience for physicians, nurses and other members of the medical team. Still, it’s important to manage control over on-demand resources, to reduce administrative burden while avoiding risks, such as those posed by shadow IT. “Most of the enterprises that depend a lot on the cloud encourage their IT departments to have cloud inventory management and perform periodic cloud audits to prevent hiccups and ensure efficiencies,” he says.

Broad network access

In this area, NIST sees as critical that capabilities can be accessed through heterogeneous platforms, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops and workstations.

Dependence on the cloud is likely to grow as healthcare organizations look to the cloud to enable ubiquitous network access and scaling. “Public clouds are great for healthcare organizations to be globally present and be serviceable to their staff and patients,” Jupidi says. “Cloud services are meant to be accessible from any computing device supported by any network.” However, broad network access can be achieved without the cloud, particularly for healthcare organizations, for which the public cloud may not be a reliable option in dealing with sensitive patient information. These enterprises may “opt for private and hybrid cloud environments behind a secured firewall and special authentication,” he adds.

Resource pooling

It’s essential within a cloud environment for provider resources to be pooled in a multi-tenant model, with physical and virtual resources that are dynamically assigned when they’re demanded.

This is a fundamental feature that undergirds the scalability of the cloud. “Since it is not an economic option to avail a single-tenant cloud, companies that would like a sense of independence will opt for pooling resources such as storage, processing, memory and network bandwidth,” Jupidi says. The pooling of servers enables savings through reductions in the time needed to support and maintain these resources, helping to trim healthcare IT costs.

Rapid elasticity

NIST contends this quick flexibility is essential in enabling capabilities to be provisioned and released, allowing for the rapid scaling either outward or inward, with little apparent limitation.

This elastic computing is an important trait in IT supply that helps control costs and time to market. Scalability thus becomes a significant concern for healthcare IT decisionmakers—it determines the cost, efficiency and performance of the cloud. That can help deal with the costs of major parts of the IT supply chain, through rapid elasticity and faster delivery.

Measured service

NIST says it’s essential that cloud systems can automatically control, optimize and report resource use, based on the type of service, such as storage, processing, bandwidth and active user accounts.

Most cloud systems automatically control, optimize and report the pooled resource usage by using a metering capability specially designed for a service. Every component is measured in terms of their cost and performance, which helps leaders evaluate the business value that’s delivered, calculate the cost and enable transparency for both users and providers. “The measured resources can be optimized, and advanced artificial intelligence practices can fuel them, Jupidi contends. “The cloud can gauge the problems in database performance, analyze the code, improve the bandwidth of IOPS and optimize resources as user traffic increases.

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