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Moving Health IT Infrastructure to the Cloud? Top 5 Strategies for Success

March 4, 2020

In its coverage of a 2019 research report, HIT Infrastructure noted “a majority of healthcare organizations are ready to adopt a cloud-first approach for their health IT infrastructure, compared with only 23% of healthcare organizations last year.” Survey data and media coverage seem to be supported by our first-hand experience—we are hearing from many provider organizations who are actively evaluating the cloud. But migrating to the cloud doesn’t come without complexity, so we interviewed customers and experts to gather their perspective and assemble several practical considerations for those providers contemplating a move. Here are their top 5 strategies for success.

  1. Establish Clear & Measurable Objectives, Or Else!Providers remind us that any project should incorporate a finish line with delineated mileposts along the way. Many organizations are choosing to adopt “OKRs,” or Objectives and Key Results, to guide their project and establish success criteria. First used by Intel and now popular within the tech industry, OKRs demand that your end-result be measurable. Results can be binary (yes or no), numeric (1-5 scale), or based upon a percentage (85%). Without establishing objectives at the start and tracking milestones, you risk a migration that never fully completes, and you may miss an opportunity to collect valuable data that could help to inform any downstream effort to improve your process or product.

    Putting it into Practice: One practical example of an OKR comes by way of a community health center that first moved its practice management system to the cloud. Among other objectives, the organization was focused on improving the patient experience by cutting the time to process and onboard patients by 50%.

  2. Make Sure You’ve Assembled the TeamProvider organizations’ cloud-based initiatives are often focused on electronic health records, practice management software, accounting programs, and scheduling software. However, migration to the cloud also involves the transfer of data, movement of shared files, the mapping of workflows, as well as the development of service standards and protocols. There’s a lot to consider and many moving parts. Providers must identify either a single vendor partner or assemble a network of service providers and implementation agents to ensure that they have a holistic strategy and a comprehensive execution plan in place when migrating their most critical systems and infrastructure.

    Putting it into Practice: Security is a big deal. Healthcare tops the list of the most-targeted industries for cyber-attacks according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, with 15% of all breaches in healthcare organizations. Select partners that can check the security and compliance boxes.

  3. Manage to Your PlanSeveral professional associations and industry analysts offer resources, including customizable templates and tools that break-down the five key phases of project management:
    • Project initiation – This is typically “kicked-off” by way of a formal meeting involving executive sponsors, subject matter experts, the working team, and external agencies and vendors with a focus on project objectives, key results, timeline, and budget.
    • Project planning – Overall responsibility is most often consolidated with an assigned manager who coordinates and organizes stakeholder input in the form of personas or specifications to guide the implementation team.
    • Project execution – By definition, this phase is the most complex (involving multiple workstreams and stakeholders) and longest. The best-run projects are those that identify risks in advance and tightly control for those during execution.
    • Go live – The moment of truth! Go live means that any issues raised during user testing have been resolved and that deployment can begin. During this phase, it’s important, during this phase, to have an escalation plan in place in the event that problems are encountered.
    • Project close – All projects must have an endpoint. In addition to confirming that the project has met its objectives and that the work has been successfully transitioned and operationalized, it’s important for project teams to conduct a post-mortem, as well as celebrate their success.

    Putting it into Practice: While projects inevitably take on their own life and there’s much to consider within each of the individual phases, organizing and managing your migration according to a phase-based plan or framework should help to better allocate and coordinate the work.

  4. Identify & Use Best PracticesEven if not formally adopted by an organization, there are many best practices that project managers and internal leaders can use to steward a migration. From Lean management, which focuses on workflow optimization to Agile development, which incorporates short “sprints” to rapidly build and refine a product—pieces of each can be interwoven into your implementation plan. Incorporating each of your vendor partners within this implementation plan, collaboratively sharing it and regularly communicating, and then managing to it will help drive adherence to timeline and budget.

    Putting it into Practice: For those interested to dive deep into project management, the Project Management Institute (PMI), offers a variety of certification courses that incorporate best practices grounded in practical application.

  5. Keep Your Eyes Focused on Clinical Quality It’s easy to focus on the intermittent end-points. Has the move to the cloud reduced operational overhead? Are the systems performing to standard and available to clinicians at least 99% of the time? But the truest OKR involves IT’s ability to support clinical care improvement. If the leading indicator is cost reduction or availability, that’s fine. More often, however, the end-end benefit involves using the project as an opportunity to optimize workflows so that providers are maximizing their time with patients, for instance. Whatever the measure, make sure there’s a line directly connecting it to quality and health outcomes.Moving to the cloud can reduce the cost and complexity of managing hardware and software. It can help you establish a more secure environment and a more scalable IT foundation. And it can help you deploy practice resources where they more directly benefit patient care. At the same time, it’s a decision to make based upon studied due diligence and thorough project planning.

    Putting it Into Practice: Cloud deployment strategies come with varying costs and levels of performance, quality, flexibility, and security. If you’re interested to schedule a free assessment, our experts are available to help you begin evaluating a move to the cloud.

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