All the talk about whether or not healthcare organizations will adopt cloud solutions is much ado about nothing – the simple fact is that they already have adopted cloud solutions and the trend will only accelerate.
The typical hospital IT department is buried under the burden of supporting hundreds of legacy and departmental systems, the multi-year implementation of at least one if not more enterprise electronic health record applications to meet the requirements of meaningful use, all the while contending with a conversion to ICD10 and a litany of other never-ending regulatory and compliance mandates. And this is happening in an economic climate of decreasing reimbursements and flat or declining IT budgets.
But none of these IT activities are driving innovation for healthcare organizations, and innovation is absolutely required for survival as we stand on the precipice of the most disruptive period in the history of healthcare in the United States.
Healthcare reform sets the stage for unprecedented innovation in how healthcare is delivered in the United States. Everything is on the table, including entirely new reimbursement models that pay for results rather than activity; new organizational structures such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) that will succeed-or-fail on their ability to deliver high-value care; to an explosion in mergers and acquisitions as organizations seek to acquire, or be acquired, to achieve the critical mass and diversity of service lines needed to survive.
Cloud-based solutions offer healthcare organizations, and their besieged IT staffs, a way out. For all the reasons cloud solutions are of value, healthcare organizations need the benefits. Fast-time-to-value for new business functionality? Check. Minimal need for in-house IT support? Check. More cost-effective to implement and support? Check. New and innovative solutions for emerging business needs? Check. And the list goes on.
The simple fact is that healthcare organizations don’t have the resources or time to keep up with the pace of change in healthcare following the same old on-premise enterprise application approach. And even if they wanted to do so, the applications will not be there to support them. For example, I cannot name a single venture-funded healthcare startup that is building a traditional on-premise enterprise software application today – but I can name literally dozens of companies building very exciting, innovative and sophisticated healthcare solutions in the cloud. If healthcare organizations want to innovate, the only path will likely lead to a cloud solution of some type.
This is not to say that on-premise applications have no future; rather, the future is one where a core competency of successful IT departments will be to integrate and orchestrate both on-premise applications with cloud solutions in a seamless manner to support the business.