COVID-19 has dominated the headlines this year, with technology developments often taking a backseat in the news. However, that doesn’t mean it’s been quiet. There have been advances across every sector, but 2021 is shaping up to be the year that healthcare organizations head to the runway en masse to migrate their mission-critical applications to the clouds. The technological evolution of the healthcare industry has been prolific in 2020, and no more so than in the management of Electronic Health Records (EHR) in the cloud.
Now an industry requirement, EHR applications are designed to provide easy access and an efficient, structured and evidence-based approach to patient care. Like all mission-critical workloads, managing these platforms has presented healthcare providers and payers with a number of challenges – not least because many have long relied on their own on-premises datacenters. Concerns over access to records and security breaches continue to plague healthcare providers – with more than 230 million US medical records lost, exposed or stolen between 2009-2019 alone according to a study by PrivacyAffairs. Add to this the increased targeting of healthcare organizations by ransomware attacks in 2020, according to Becker’s Health IT article, and healthcare providers have realised that, to ensure security and compliance, they can no longer put off the modernization of their IT infrastructure. The time to modernize is 2021.
Struggling to Adapt at a Blazing Pace
Popular EHR applications like those provided by Epic and Cerner, when run on-premises, can require long-term commitments to ongoing optimization and potential unplanned hardware upgrades based on evolving IT requirements. Additionally, the EHR world doesn’t sit still when it comes to software innovation, leaving many healthcare organizations struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of change and enhancements in frequent software updates when running these workloads in-house and on-premises.
With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that according to a 2020 survey conducted by Black Book Research, nearly 60 percent of hospitals holding less than 150 beds doubted that their current health information technologies could deliver business value and more than a quarter of those respondents said they were actively assessing the potential of a cloud-based EHR replacement system. These small and midsize hospitals (including specialty hospitals and critical access facilities) are building momentum in the adoption of cloud-based EHR and Virtustream expects to see this continue to rise dramatically in 2021.
What’s Driving the Shift to Cloud?
In addition to ongoing management challenges and mounting costs, new legislation in the US – designed to improve interoperability between clinical systems and healthcare providers, and to provide patients with highly secure access to their health data via third-party apps – is driving healthcare providers towards cloud-based EHR solutions. The legislation was passed last March, but enforcement has been delayed until 2021 to allow the industry to remain focused on the pandemic and to provide more time for infrastructure preparation and data migration. The requirements and implications of this new legislation are now approaching quickly.
Similarly there have been calls for action in the UK for greater interoperability on EHR platforms to significantly improve access to health information. Based on what I’m hearing from customers lately, widespread migration to cloud is now at a tipping point. I expect to see this continuing to ramp-up significantly in 2021 with compliance deadlines looming and cost reduction programs kicking-in thanks to economic pressures.
The Healthcare Cloud
So, what does cloud offer EHR workloads? Put simply, the virtual nature of the environment transforms an EHR application from records management to a modernized, sophisticated care system whereby healthcare practitioners have remote access to real-time patient data across multiple locations and devices. Other benefits include advanced safety and security controls around patient information and vastly improved interoperability – so that the sharing of health records can be carried out securely. This means that organisations can be more agile in their decision-making processes, truly collaborate, and, when needed, have the flexibility and agility to quickly meet new legislative updates.
Operational efficiencies and cost-savings are also important benefits of a cloud strategy. This was something Franciscan Health, which serves Indiana and parts of Illinois, realized when it migrated its Epic EHR platform to Virtustream Healthcare Cloud earlier this year – part of its long-term plan to expand its cloud strategy in order to focus more IT staff resources on patient care initiatives.
Likewise, in the year since migrating Novant Health’s Epic EHR platform to Virtustream, the healthcare provider reduced its VM footprint by nearly half and has saved significant capital investment dollars allowing it to re-allocate those funds to support IT projects that directly focus on improving patient care.
Given the sensitive nature of healthcare data, security will always be a top concern. Virtustream offers customers an extra set of services, in addition to the core portfolio, that allows them to further extend their security posture and protect patient data. Checking the critical IT boxes – including security and compliance – is one of the reasons Advent Health appointed Virtustream in February as its standard platform for powering its new single, integrated Epic EHR platform.
I think we can all agree that after this difficult year, it is more important than ever for EHR applications to be securely accessible and in a format that enables experts to make confident healthcare decisions that provide a greater level of care.
Legislation is driving interoperability, and together with the need for more modern and agile EHR systems, moving to the cloud is the natural step forward for many healthcare providers today. To learn more about how Virtustream can help your healthcare organization, click here.
Virtustream enables healthcare providers to modernize health IT environments within a HIPAA/HITECH-compliant cloud purpose-built for mission-critical enterprise applications. Virtustream Healthcare Cloud is designed for the applications that matter most – the most capable and modern EHR solutions – and can improve quality of care by expanding usage and launching new patient engagement systems and precision health platforms whilst maintaining the security of protected health information (PHI) and reducing operational costs.