Future Healthcare Today recently spoke with Chris Logan, Senior Healthcare Strategist for VMware, about digital transformation in the healthcare industry, how healthcare CIOs are embracing the cloud, and how technology is helping deliver better patient outcomes. Here’s what Chris had to say…
Future Healthcare Today (FHT): What factors are driving digital transformation in healthcare?
Chris Logan (CL): Modernization efforts in the public and private sector stem from the fact that, across the board, organizations have been spending a lot of money on IT infrastructure and still aren’t able to deliver on the solutions that are needed to support either physicians or patients in the digital age.
Healthcare organizations have been struggling with digital transformation for a while now, before even the HITECH Act (2009) became a huge impetus to modernize IT. For example, the institution I was at at the time had implemented electronic health records (EHRs) more than 10 years before. So, we had some insight into the problems that could come with digital transformation. In this case, the problem was that the EHR system was running on old mainframe technology.
So, even though we had technically begun a digital transformation project that was supposed to save the healthcare system money and deliver better care to patients by streamlining and optimizing the continuum of care, it was costing us an arm and a leg. The costs were primarily from attempting to run the new EHR platform on the legacy mainframe and largely because we weren’t able to achieve the savings, or our interoperability goals either inside or outside the walls of the health system.
It turns out, to achieve these types of goals, hospitals and healthcare systems need to invest in a broad vision of digital transformation, one which addresses both the infrastructure and application layer. If we had removed the mainframe and moved to the cloud at the same time as installing the new EHR system, we could have facilitated the best quality outcome for the patient in the continuum of care, whether they were going from one hospital to another or a hospital to a private practice or a specialist or a rehab.
FHT: Do you think healthcare leaders are comfortable enough with cloud solutions?
CL: I think there’s a misconception when we talk about cloud solutions in healthcare, because the way the healthcare industry defined cloud in the past – housing email or electronic medical records – is different from how we define it today.
The reality is that in the pure definition of cloud, whether it is Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or Platform-as-a-Service, you’re relying on someone else to deliver that service. So, folks have already adopted cloud models and a cloud mentality and a cloud-first posture in their business – they just didn’t realize they did it. I use Office365 as an example, because most healthcare organizations jumped at the opportunity to put their email out in Microsoft’s cloud to save money and time. They were adopting cloud solutions back then and didn’t even realize they were.
FHT: What do your customers ask about first when they are considering moving data to the cloud?
CL: Most of the questions I hear from customers when they are moving any type of data to the cloud is, “How do we operationalize it?” A notable example is from my previous position with a healthcare provider, where we did a lot of research. It was easy for our researchers to spin up a cloud platform environment that suited their immediate needs and they just paid for it with a credit card. The problem was they got locked into that vendor and couldn’t move the data as needed, or operationalize it by making it make it accessible to other stakeholders within the organization.
Today, customers are asking questions concerning the efficacy of the cloud environment they are moving to and how to operationalize it. They’re not just worried about costs they’re also concerned with being able to leverage the cloud’s ability to make data accessible within and between organizations to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes.
Another question I hear frequently is “do we have the right skillsets on staff to manage the new solution?” This is where finding a trusted partner is invaluable to help plan out the transition, or augment skillsets. For example we provide our customers the ability to move the environment they’re familiar with to the cloud and continue to manage it with the exact same tooling. This makes for a seamless transition.
Future Healthcare Today: How does VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services help healthcare organizations?
Chris Logan: Ninety percent of U.S.-based organizations run some form of VMware in their data centers today, using toolsets to manage the compute and the virtual infrastructure with which they deliver.
We partnered with Amazon Web Services to create VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services (AWS), to enable healthcare organizations to take advantage of the economies of scale and the back-end service layers that are built into it. This combined offering takes the pressure off teams so that they are no longer trying to manage managing multiple instances and are, instead, able to use the existing operational portfolio that your team is already familiar with. The beauty of having this as a core tenet is that it looks and feels the same, but you can add additional layers to it.
Another benefit is that VMware Cloud on AWS offers agile development and can deliver exactly what that user wants and needs – from an operational perspective, a cost perspective, and a security perspective at the same time. We’re consolidating all those worlds into one simple decision-making process and delivering exactly what that user needs, regardless of where they are.
To be on the leading edge of digital transformation is a bit overwhelming for many healthcare providers, because of the implications of failure. As a result, many healthcare systems have been slow to adopt new technologies. However, when you develop a relationship with a trusted partner, everything changes. In this way VMware removes the barriers to entry and instills confidence in healthcare CIOs that they can pursue a wholesale digital transformation while minimizing the risk because there’s continuity on the front end for the team while the transformation happens behind the scenes. It’s really a game changer for our healthcare customers, and it’s going to enable better outcomes for the patient at the end of the day. And that’s what matters most in healthcare.
Learn more about digital transformation in healthcare to improve the cost, quality, and delivery of patient care.