By Kevin Tobey, Technical Sales Engineer
Several months into the COVID-19 crisis, even the best-prepared healthcare IT organizations have discovered their systems’ strengths—and weaknesses. Of course, few of us had on our disaster-planning radar a pandemic that would sweep across the globe in weeks, overwhelming hospitals, closing businesses, and kickstarting the largest remote-worker initiative the world has ever seen.
But the responses by IT professionals have been nothing short of amazing.
While providers are doing everything they can to meet patients’ needs during this time, their IT groups have been working day and night to support those efforts. We’ve seen MacGyvered telemedicine initiatives up and running in timeframes we would have said were impossible a few months ago. And despite many systems being pushed to the breaking point to meet the constantly changing requirements of the crisis, employees are successfully working from home. They’re maintaining patient contact, managing billing, processing claims, and doing all the other activities that keep healthcare businesses viable.
Now we’re looking at how to make the eventual transition back to whatever the “new normal” becomes. A big part of that will be to review what we did, what worked (and what didn’t), and how we can take this experience and use it to plan for the future. The foundation for those plans must be building in resiliency so that we can be sure that during the next emergency—no matter what it is—we can respond more quickly and confidently.
What’s become clear is that some systems were more flexible and adaptable during this crisis than others. Those providers who had already transitioned some or all of their systems to the cloud found that its capabilities were critical to keeping their practices running with minimal disruption. In many ways, in fact, the cloud was meant for disruption:
- The cloud is flexible. Cloud-based systems can easily stretch or contract to meet changing computing requirements. That could be to adapt to a global pandemic with every employee suddenly logging in remotely, but it also supports business-as-usual fluctuations. For instance, provisioning staff to work from home rather than the office—or adding a new application such as population health tracking—no longer requires the time and money to define, purchase, provision, and maintain new servers and software. Simply specify the requirements for the new application or service and within hours your cloud-based infrastructure can be ready to service that workload.
- The cloud is scalable. By putting your systems in the cloud, you pay for only for what you use. Cloud-based computing and data resources easily scale almost immediately to support expanding or contracting staff, new locations, and adding or changing practice specialties or applications. In contrast, scaling with on-premise equipment means buying and deploying new systems, which is expensive and time-consuming under the best of circumstances. During a crisis, it’s almost impossible.
- The cloud offers enterprise-level hardware and redundancy. Cloud providers offer enterprise-level hardware and redundancy that are often cost-prohibitive for smaller providers to duplicate and maintain with on-premise systems. With cloud costs spread across thousands of customers based on their usage, even small organizations gain access to constantly up-to-date, leading-edge hardware and software, including redundant systems to protect critical data and keep workers connected no matter what.
- The cloud offers fixed costs. At Med Tech Solutions, we offer our cloud services as a fixed monthly fee, which also includes our management services. With on-premise systems, IT costs can be unpredictable, and unforeseen data center costs can quickly tank other important IT initiatives. With cloud-based fixed costs and guaranteed service level agreements, IT teams can confidently plan new value-added programs to support practice growth and efficiency.
- The cloud requires minimal upfront cost. By moving from capital expenditures (upfront costs) to operating expenses (monthly payments for consumed services), organizations can save their capital for other important equipment or growth initiatives. And there’s no need to compromise due to budget. Organizations can deploy a best-of-breed solution that is ideally suited to their situation rather than just what they can afford at the time.
- The cloud lowers direct support costs. By shifting on-premise server loads to the cloud, the direct support costs of these systems also shift to the cloud provider. We handle all the server hardware, replacements, upgrades, patches, and backups. With less time spent maintaining servers, provider organizations can shift finite IT resources to work that improves business processes and workflows as well as patient experiences, making IT more productive as they improve efficiencies within the organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown many of us what we’re capable of during a crisis, and it will leave us permanently changed. Now that providers have seen firsthand what digital transformation can do for them, there’s no turning back. The advantages of fast, flexible, dependable, and resilient IT support have never been clearer. Moving to the cloud is the way to guarantee those benefits during a crisis or business as usual. And importantly, this is something that almost any practice can afford.
We’ve developed a financial modeling tool to help you build the business case for moving essential infrastructure to the cloud. If you’re focused on improving your practice’s resiliency while still keeping an eye on the budget, contact us and we’ll help you run the numbers.
We’ll all sleep better at night knowing that critical IT systems are prepared for whatever comes next.