We recently had the opportunity to speak with Blane Clark, Manager of Industry Innovations and Healthcare Strategist for VMware, about developments in healthcare IT. From his perspective working with hospital systems and technologists, he’s observed how the conversation has shifted from: “I don’t know about public hybrid cloud” to “We really need to understand this, we need to start getting the frameworks in place, and we really need to have a plan,” in the past six months. Today, they want to focus on how to operationalize a move to the cloud and take full advantage of the modern cloud native applications combined with their legacy healthcare IT infrastructure.
Future Healthcare Today (FHT): What pain points are healthcare IT leaders facing when it comes to driving digital transformation?
Blane Clark (BC): What I’ve heard recently from customers is that ensuring that digital transformation meets mandates and regulations is a big pain point for them. We’re not even talking about meeting governmental regulations, but simply meeting business-driven mandates.
I see my role as enabling our customers to move away from a place where they’re “just meeting” requirements to one where IT is helpig improve not only the business functions of the healthcare provider to being a partner in delivering better patient care. The business-driven mandates pushing IT teams to the limits and, when combined with the intense operational pace, it makes it very difficult for the teams to execute on emerging strategies such as cloud. A key step in overcoming this challenge is to work with a trusted partner that has access to leading cloud providers to ensure that the right solution can be found to make their move to the cloud not just easy, but to optimize their investment. Moving to the cloud, especially a hybrid cloud posture, will enable the healthcare provider to extend their tools and knowledge into the public cloud without creating new technology silos.
FHT: Do you think healthcare IT leaders are comfortable enough with cloud solutions?
BC: That’s a constant topic of conversation and while some may have doubts, my answer is an emphatic yes, they’re comfortable with it. Healthcare IT leaders have been consuming cloud services for years. The big shift now is getting comfortable with moving the infrastructure and applications that we would traditionally run on-premise and move it to the cloud.
If there’s one thing that still makes healthcare IT leaders a little uneasy about moving to the cloud, it’s security. Security is always the first thing mentioned as an objection. The good news for healthcare IT leaders is that CTOs of cloud providers prioritize security and have invested in all aspects of security – people, process, and technology – at levels that individual healthcare organizations simply couldn’t afford.
Another concern that healthcare IT leaders have about the cloud is the changes that will happen with the transition won’t actually alleviate the problems they’re trying to solve – like eliminating silos – and they’ll have spent a lot of money to just kick the proverbial can down the road. However, by working with a partner whose primary responsibility is to coordinate all the different elements and provide a vision, a plan, and a bird’s eye view of the transformation as it progresses, those concerns can be minimized. Anyone can write a check and buy technology but changing an organization to operate and work in a hybrid cloud model is best done with a trusted partner that can provide best practices based on multiple projects and that can carry the load so that the CIO and their team can focus on their core jobs.
FHT: What are some of the questions you hear when a client is first considering moving some or all data to the cloud?
BC: Oftentimes what we hear first is more of a statement: “I’ve heard horror stories of the cloud sticker price shock.” The follow up question is “How do I avoid this?” This is a hard question to answer because sometimes comparing cloud services out there is like comparing apples to oranges to elephants.
The best place to start is to analyze their on-premise cost, their negotiated cloud prices, their capacity requirements, capacity utilization, and the required service levels to help them fully understand the cost they will incur for services from different hosting platforms. With this, the customer can decide where it makes the most financial and operational sense to run these services. Most importantly, we’re providing the secure portability of the workloads without changing the virtual machine or how its protected or operated. As things change dynamically customers can model and decide where to move in the future without being locked in.
FHT: What are the top considerations for healthcare customers? Is there anything they “must have” in their solution?
BC: First, they must have state of the art security and data protection, regardless of whether it is on premises or hosted in the cloud. Second, they must have consistent processes around how they run both their on-premise and cloud environments. Third, they must have workload portability to allow the healthcare organization to take advantage of the financial benefits and the emerging technology as the clouds and on premises evolve and change in their cost model and their benefits and technology. Finally, they must do all of this without creating new tech silos. After all, the goal of moving to the cloud is to simplify IT operations because today’s CIOs need to eliminate operational complexity so that they can help clinicians and hospital administrators deliver better patient care while keeping costs down.
FHT: You’ve recently partnered with AWS to help healthcare organizations can you share some insight on this?
BC: This is one of the best things we’ve ever done at VMware. Our close partnership with AWS is clear evidence of our commitment to delivering an innovative, jointly engineered software solution for healthcare organizations. The biggest benefit of VMware on AWS is that it gives back time. VMware on AWS is fully managed solution. So, VMware installs, operates, and maintains the software layer, so customers aren’t worrying about if they’re up to date with the latest patches and then finding the time to install them and ensure they don’t bring down the network. Meanwhile, AWS is operating the hardware, so customers don’t have to spend time making sure the data center “plumbing” is working correctly.
We often hear our customers say “imagine what we could do if we didn’t have to…” and you can fill in the blank with any one of the hundreds of routine IT maintenance jobs that need to be completed on a daily basis. When we can bring them solutions that do that and free them from “maintaining the plumbing” these talented teams can get focused on solving some big picture problems. Instead of patching, configuring the network, or responding to false alarms, the in-house IT team can put their organization-specific knowledge to work to help deliver better patient outcomes.
Ready to learn more about the state of the cloud in healthcare? Here’s a handy infographic to share with your team.