Cloud Computing – A Necessity for the Future of Healthcare IT

Pressure on healthcare organizations to transform their IT infrastructures to keep up with regulations and the rapid pace of data growth is forcing CIOs to seek alternative solutions. NetApp’s Monty Zarrouk, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Healthcare for NetApp discusses how healthcare organizations are turning to cloud computing to address these challenges.

doctorcomp.pngWhat new opportunities does the cloud offer for healthcare organizations? Why is it top of mind today?

Monty Zarrouk: The healthcare industry historically has operated with traditional IT systems and has been slow to adopt new forms of technology that could streamline operations --and perhaps more importantly -- centralize data in one organized and accessible place.

By moving to the cloud, the healthcare industry will find new opportunities for data consolidation or aggregation of patient data to help physicians and clinicians make better decisions about health. Their organizations will also save money through reduced redundancy and cheaper operational costs. Unlike other industries where the outcome is primarily business efficiency, the cloud for healthcare has the potential to revolutionize patient care.

Why are healthcare organizations implementing the cloud and what is the rate of adoption?

MZ: Although regulatory and security concerns have held back the healthcare industry from widespread adoption of public clouds, the overall cloud computing market in healthcare will grow to $5.4 billion by 2017, according to a report by research firm MarketsandMarkets.

As payers and providers continue the transition from legacy paper-based processes to automated tasks with healthcare applications, more patient information is created and stored online. Cloud computing offers a cost-effective approach for rearchitecting storage infrastructures. By evolving from a traditional physical-server infrastructure with direct-attached storage to a more reliable and efficient shared environment, healthcare IT is positioned to benefit from the operational and cost efficiencies that can help optimize staff productivity; meet regulations for retention; and reduce error, fraud, and duplication.

With cloud computing, healthcare organizations can:

  • Improve patient outcomes. Clinicians can securely access pools of shared resources to make immediate informed decisions without compromising confidentiality of patient data.
  • Improve operational efficiencies. By using a shared infrastructure, cloud services save time and money while delivering increased IT efficiencies and service levels. As business demands change, shared resources can be reallocated, eliminating overprovisioning.
  • Support exponential data growth. Cloud computing easily accommodates rapidly growing terabytes of patient data and saves on the costs of storing hardware locally to store big datasets for EHRs, radiology images, research, and claims data.

Which cloud model is ideal for healthcare organizations?

MZ: Deciding on which cloud model offers the best fit depends on the critical nature of the workload and how security and compliance requirements will be handled.

A private cloud infrastructure is a practical option for the healthcare industry in which data protection, security, and regulatory compliance requirements can be shared across many departments. Private clouds, available for use behind the organization’s firewall, provide an excellent cloud computing model in which maintaining applications and data internally is the driving business factor.

With a hybrid cloud platform, healthcare organizations can benefit from a considerably more flexible, powerful, and cost-effective IT infrastructure. Delivering IT services from an integrated storage platform that spans its on-site private cloud as well as public cloud capabilities provides a new level of IT service agility, application portability, and data protection.

Transforming healthcare from reactive to predictive medicine is another example of the benefits of hybrid cloud. Genomics studies: Collecting data from thousands of patients and utilizing sophisticated laboratories to store and analyze these data to look for the causes of diseases and rare disorders, how they develop and what the best treatments are (while keeping patient identity anonymous).

How do NetApp solutions help healthcare organizations transition to the cloud?

MZ: NetApp cloud solutions can help healthcare organizations seamlessly manage data across cloud deployments, simplify operations, efficiently store data, protect data at scale, and reduce time-to-market for new medical services.

NetApp’s clustered Data ONTAP® enables unrestricted, secure movement of data across public and private clouds—allowing healthcare organizations to move to hybrid cloud architectures.

Working with NetApp, IT can deploy a unified infrastructure that offers a cost-effective approach for rearchitecting storage infrastructures for cloud computing. Scale-out storage solutions easily accommodate data growth, supporting a few terabytes up to 20 petabytes using a single unified architecture. Healthcare organizations can start small and grow incrementally with infinite scaling to meet increasing data requirements and keep pace with changing data requirements.

In addition, to meet the growing need for data analytics, NetApp storage solutions provide healthcare organizations with greater control by taking advantage of the entire digital data repository and turning clinical data into valuable intelligence. Healthcare organizations with analytical insight to evolving healthcare issues can expedite treatment plans and implement effective disease management programs.

What are some examples of organizations that have benefited from the cloud?

MZ: By using a private cloud, Xerox, a leading provider of services to healthcare providers and employers, was able to better manage and predict costs and workflow requirements. It also allowed the company to simplify and enhance the solutions it provides to customers.

Mercy, the 5th largest Catholic Health System in US that includes 33 hospitals in four states (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma), also implemented the private cloud for its hospitals. In doing so, Mercy Technology Services (MTS) was able to deliver a unified platform for Epic services across its 33 hospitals, achieve its goal of 99.9% availability, and provide a secure multi-tenancy environment that isolates and provides a firewall for each hospital’s data to meet auditing and compliance requirements.


Great overview of healthcare industry's "cloud" options and trends!    While some healthcare orgs are reluctant to utilize cloud services due to data security and management concerns,  a number of providers are investing in private, hybrid, and public cloud options. 


To reduce costs, a few healthcare orgs are building DIY "hub-spoke" cloud  models where one facility serves as the Hub (with a private cloud onsite) --- and smaller hospitals across the region purchase cloud servcies from the HUB --- like DR-as-a-Services.   Prairie Venture Health in Lincoln, NE has implemented a successful hub-spoke model.  



David LaBrosse

NetApp Inc.

Healthcare Cloud

508 813 8698m