Many healthcare organizations migrating information systems to a cloud-hosted service struggle developing an appropriate strategy for the task, says Ed King, managing director of healthcare consulting services at disaster recovery and cloud-hosting vendor Sungard Availability Services. The Wayne, Pa.-based company split from software and processing services vendor SunGard in March and became an independent entity.

Moving to the cloud is not just a new way of doing computing-on-demand; it’s also a new way for personnel in an organization to use the technology. Almost always, not every system moves to the cloud, particularly legacy systems, King notes. There are a growing number of electronic health records systems and newer ancillary products being cloud-hosted by a remote vendor, while older secondary systems--back-office, financial, pharmacy and laboratory, for instance--may tie to cloud-based systems but remain in-house.  And, some other systems may stay in-house as they need a dedicated server because of how they are coded. The result for providers is that new processes and skill sets are needed to manage a hybrid environment, and the vendor can assist in putting together the plan for cloud computing.

Chief information officers have lots of questions when considering migrating to the cloud, but the top one reflects concerns about loss of control, says Len Whitten, director of cloud services and product management at Sungard Availability Services. Worried about getting a phone call from the CEO at 3 a.m., CIOs want details on the level of systems monitoring and reporting that a hosting site does and how well the CIO is kept aware of system performance. If the CEO is calling, the CIO wants to already know what he’s calling about and have answers.

Another fear is that moving to the cloud means the CIO is no longer needed. “We tell them that they can become more efficient and not worry about the nuts and bolts,” Whitten says. “We can make customers’ data more secure at our facility than they can.” The company also signs HIPAA business associate agreements, and the client owns its data and can get it back if the relationship changes, King adds.

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