Off-site systems providing answers to industry’s operational questions
Healthcare organizations stand to gain significant benefits from migrating to the cloud. When making the transition there from on-premise systems, however, they can confront unique challenges, including the urgent need to ensure data security and the compatibility of their electronic health records (EHR) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The good news is that many viable solutions are available.
Gone are the days when decision-makers spent months gathering hundreds of requirements for vendors and customizing the software to meet the specific needs of the healthcare organization. Cloud technology has changed the paradigm. Now, users must adapt their processes to those of the cloud provider’s software (since customization in the cloud is typically much more complex and expensive to maintain) so that they can realize the interoperability benefits of standardization across business processes. This also makes integration of new acquisitions much easier.
Since around 2016, enterprises in every industry have been migrating to the cloud. Cost reduction has often been the major driver, because the move to the cloud makes it possible for companies to offload their big data centers rather than retaining them in-house at a greater cost. Using the cloud also facilitates streamlined and standardized business processes that enable cost reductions and improved productivity.
Although the healthcare industry was initially slow to move from on-premise to cloud computing, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its migration because of the urgent need to provide patients with remote access to healthcare facilities. Yet, even with this critical driver, healthcare organizations continue to be in the early stages of cloud adoption. According to one study, the situation is expected to trend upward, with adoption levels projected as high as 51% in the next three years.
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Keeping sensitive patient data secure
One factor that has slowed the movement to the cloud is the need to protect the integrity of sensitive patient data. However, today there are many purpose-built solutions that can help healthcare organizations manage regulatory compliance while also ensuring the security of their digital patient health information. With their robust resources, ERP cloud computing companies are simply better able to protect patient data than the healthcare organization itself. Just as important, in order to store HIPAA data in the cloud, cloud platforms must negotiate significant liability terms with the healthcare organizations they serve. Cloud technology also ensures more reliable disaster recovery protocols, which is critical for HIPAA.
In reality, security concerns have yet to really manifest. Moving healthcare management to cloud platforms has proven to be a very secure environment, with many healthcare organizations operating there safely without incident.
Healthcare’s unique challenge: EHR-ERP compatibility
For any healthcare organization to operate efficiently and effectively, its EHR and ERP systems must be interoperable and compatible. Interoperability enables sharing of data across patient and clinical systems, as well as administrative and financial systems. The cloud enables the use of the same technology across the organization, ensuring predictability and confidence in the data.
Today, while nearly all hospitals have adopted EHR systems to collect and store their patients’ medical information, they also have recognized the need to implement ERP systems to centralize data. Because many of the activities on the clinical side affect the financial and operations side, the EHR and ERP systems must work together.
Just as there are multiple cloud-based EHR options, the marketplace of cloud-based healthcare ERP solutions has seen significant growth and, today, there are many ERP vendors—including Oracle, Infor and Workday. These systems provide fully integrated, end-to-end financial and accounting, supply chain, and HR capabilities delivered in the cloud.
Unlike the process of selecting a vendor for an on-premise ERP system, today, healthcare organizations employ a scenario-based evaluation process, in which the healthcare organization presents its key process challenges and seeks a vendor that provides a holistic solution to address those. This is important in the world of the cloud, because—unlike the search for an on-premise solution where changing the system software to meet the healthcare facility’s new needs was common—a cloud solution must meet the healthcare organization’s critical needs from the get-go, preferably with minimal customizations.
Reaping the benefits of the cloud
Working together, a seamless link between cloud-based EHR and ERP systems can provide an end-to-end solution for healthcare companies. For example, the EHR maintains patient data at the individual level, while the ERP system gathers aggregated data to inform decision-making. The goal is that mundane and duplicative tasks are reduced or eliminated, and staff are freed to pursue more high-value tasks.
The cloud has already revolutionized the healthcare industry by offering easy, secure access to critical patient data for all stakeholders—including patients, nurses, doctors, medical staff, insurers—from anywhere. Think of any cloud-based EHR or ERP system as a concentric circle with four layers:
Data. This is the core layer and has to be done right. Consistent, rich and contextual data in a unified platform enables healthcare organizations to have a 360-degree view of its patients and operations, reduces manual efforts and promotes scalability. This also sets the platform for “big data” applications to improve outcomes.
Transactions. The system must make it possible to automate and integrate business processes and transactions, so that they are simpler, secure and more streamlined, thus reducing manual effort and increasing traceability, compliance and auditability. This also allows healthcare organizations to adopt new operating models to support the new way of working.
Reports. Today’s healthcare organizations need better ways to ensure that patient data and financial information is current and reportable. Standardization across multiple data enabled by cloud-based ERP and EHR systems makes accurate and timely reporting and dashboarding possible, making it easy to unlock critical insights in a timely, simple and visual manner.
User interface. This is the most crucial layer, because it affects the way users interact with and adopt the system. Today’s user-friendly cloud interfaces are sleek, simple and intuitive, which not only promotes user ownership and adoption, but also motivates fresh new talent, who like the “cool” user experience they are used to with modern technology. This also promotes a patient-centric approach where patients are involved more in their care journey through a simple and easy to navigate self-service portal.
When all layers work well together, the organization has a well-designed and effective cloud solution which is robust and scalable.
Moving forward with cloud-based systems
Healthcare organizations need to manage an inordinate amount of data, approximately 30% of the world’s data volume, according to some estimates. And the compound annual growth rate of healthcare data is projected to reach 36% by 2025—considerably faster than other leading industries.
With all the data that healthcare organizations must manage, they are in a unique position to reap a host of benefits from moving to the cloud that would ultimately improve staff efficiency and the quality of patient care.
In its report, “Best Practices For Healthcare In Cloud,” Forrester explores the new capabilities that moving to the public cloud promises to give healthcare organizations and presents a compelling case for adopting cloud technologies. It also provides guidance and best practices for making a successful move to the cloud.
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