Leveraging the Cloud Computing Paradigm to Modernize Healthcare
This is part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series, a collection of reviews written by industry experts in maturing software categories.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for healthcare organizations to aggressively adapt to a more patient-centric model of care, especially in a context where people are often the most vulnerable. It didn’t take long for healthcare leaders to realize the need to accelerate existing but slow-moving upgrade initiatives around modernizing and personalizing the traditional healthcare experience.
Frankly, the change was long overdue. Less than a third of patients highly rate their healthcare experiences. Factors such as cost transparency and effective communication have a direct impact on patient satisfaction, and 84% of patients indicate that wait times are an important factor when considering the overall office experience of the doctor. It may have taken a global pandemic, but health officials now recognize that cloud platforms hold the most promise for overcoming technical implementation hurdles and improving patient experiences.
Until now, healthcare has been among several industries that have lagged in adopting the cloud to modernize practices and provide excellent patient care. So how does a traditionally risk-averse industry manage to migrate complex workloads such as databases and electronic health records (EHRs) to the cloud when the stakes are so high?
Solving Sentara’s Cloud Challenges
Sentara Healthcare, a nonprofit healthcare organization, operates 12 acute care hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina. It offers a managed home care plan that represents one million patients in the region with cancer and heart facilities and employs more than 30,000 people, including 3,500 providers and medical staff in more than 400 care facilities.
Sentara’s internal IT team is responsible for overseeing the management of its large EHR databases. An industry leader in systems modernization, Sentara strives for excellence in customer experience. To take the patient experience to the next level, Sentara launched an internal campaign to establish a new digital gateway to its EHR by migrating the platform to Microsoft Azure. Migrating a massive workload like an EHR to the cloud is huge, and early attempts haven’t achieved the vertical scale or data performance needed to drive a transformational user experience.
Beyond modernization, Sentara sought to improve the availability of its SQL-based EHR reporting engine during the overnight database extract, transform, and load (ETL) process. On average, this took about seven to ten hours, during which time the database was inaccessible, leaving providers and patients in the dark. External consultants also predicted that the company’s current cloud spend would increase by 10% year-over-year after the migration, which would inflate the company’s operating expenses (OPEX). Sentara needed a solution to deliver lightning-fast performance, increase uptime, and contain their OPEX budget.
Sentara explored a cloud data platform known to accelerate cloud migration and support complex mission-critical workloads. Using a lift-and-shift approach, the platform immediately activated the power of Microsoft Azure while Sentara worked behind the scenes on a possible complete refactoring to cloud native. The integration of enterprise data services such as deduplication and clutter-free instant snapshots enabled the IT team to quickly and instantly copy and move large data sets while reducing their cloud footprint, enabling control cloud spending.
Sentara’s selected platform sits invisibly between the public cloud infrastructure and its workloads, delivering far greater agility, reliability, resiliency, and performance to support large, complex workloads and reviews. Results include 3x faster performance compared to cloud-native elements. With its new data reduction capabilities, Sentara’s cloud data footprint has been reduced by 50%, resulting in a 20% lower cost. By leveraging the platform’s rich data snapshot capabilities, Sentara has reduced downtime from more than seven hours per night to less than 15 minutes, giving providers consistent access to patient data, even during the overnight ETL process.
Sentara is one of the first large-scale healthcare organizations to embrace a complete cloud transformation, implementing a fully cloud-based program and practice workflow. The promise of real-time patient responsiveness and improved provider collaboration has the potential to completely alter the current patient care paradigm. Universal data availability gives providers and frontline workers the real-time data needed to deliver a truly compelling patient-centric experience, underscoring the value of migrating “previously untouchable workloads” to the cloud.
Challenges and Best Practices
New forecasts predict that digital transformation projects will exceed $79 billion over the next five years. The CDC has launched a new multi-year collaboration with the US Digital Service (USDS) to strengthen data quality and information technology systems in state and local health departments to ensure pandemic-ready IT systems if needed. Not all data is created equal and IT managers are realizing that migrating to the cloud is easier for some workloads than others because a single solution often causes more problems than it promises to solve. solve.
The effort is worth it: a successful migration results in improved operational performance and agility, reduced risk, increasingly robust post-migration monitoring and maintenance, and minimal downtime. The risk, especially in an industry that leaves little room for error, is enough to put the idea of fundamentally changing its legacy data infrastructure on hold. The real risk, however, lies in the consequences of inaction. It’s time to capitalize on the momentum generated by the pandemic and accelerate the implementation of valuable technologies and operational upgrades. From patients to providers, everyone in the organization enjoys peace of mind knowing that mission-critical workloads are running on the best platforms and achieving peak performance.