Bengfort sees rapid growth for cloud computing in healthcare. "From a medical center standpoint, I tend to be a little bit more conservative about it,” he says. "It may not sound that way, because we're using a lot of cloud today, but we're using things that either we've been personally involved in developing the criteria for, much like the Dell example, or they are quite mature, proven rock solid.
"When you are providing care to patients, the closer it is to the patient, the more rock solid it has to be,” says Bengfort. "I love innovation. I hope you can tell I'm certainly pushing the edges where I can, but when it comes to patient care, it's got to be a well-proven and very secure environment. From a medical center standpoint, I might be a little more cautious than we're going to be on the university or the research side, where we can be a little bit more assertive about what we push into the cloud. So that's kind of just the high level of it, but I certainly think leveraging capabilities like this are going to be more and more prevalent as we move forward.”
Another concern is to address service expectations with the vendor.
"The contractual arrangements that you have in your agreement are really key,” Cantrell says. "I don't think you can shortchange that process, because you do want to define pretty clearly what your service-level expectations are, not only from a performance perspective, but also from a turnaround time perspective, if you happen to have an issue.”
The cloud also represents a starting point for many future innovative healthcare technologies. "In
the home healthcare space, where you're sending patients home with monitors and telemetry data is being sent back out, I would see using a cloud-based service to gather that data, process that data, maybe analyze it, have certain thresholds, certain trends that they're analyzing for,” Bengfort says. "I would see that as a great innovative service for the cloud that doesn't exist today, specifically for the healthcare space.
"We could probably come up with lots of examples as we start to push accountable care organizations and we're trying to manage proactively the health of a community before they ever even present at the hospital or at the clinic,” Bengfort says. "There's got to be creative cloud-based solutions to help provide services to those accountable care groups.”
This article appears in the October 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.