The healthcare industry is embracing the cloud, realizing the benefits it can offer through centralized applications and services, the ability to scale resources as needed, and cost savings by paying only for infrastructure used. But moving on-site solutions to the cloud can be daunting. How do you know what to migrate first, what to move later, and what to keep in-house? And is the cloud safe?
A 2013 Imprivata study on desktop virtualization in healthcare found 30 percent of survey respondents already using the cloud, an increase of 21 percent over the previous year, indicating that the industry is finding the cloud more secure.  Research firm MarketsandMarkets expects this trend to continue, forecasting the healthcare cloud market to grow to $6.5 billion by 2018.
For your healthcare organization to join this trend and take advantage of the cloud’s many benefits, begin with an inventory of your current IT systems and applications to assess where improvements are needed. Then you can start to build a migration roadmap, taking into account the benefits of moving certain applications to the cloud, the cost savings your organization can realize, and any obstacles that might arise along the way.
When determining your roadmap, the most logical place to start is to transition web-based applications that are already virtual to the cloud — those that pose the least business risk. These can include office productivity tools, such as email and calendar software, as well as messaging programs.
Another early mover to the cloud should be storage — things like backups and digital imaging records. This can free up in-house storage space needed for business-critical applications.
Electronic medical record systems are one of the most popular applications to migrate to the cloud, with 52 percent of Imprivata survey respondents reporting having already transitioned these systems. Seventy percent of respondents expected to implement a cloud-based system in the subsequent year, and nearly 80 percent anticipated doing so within two years.
When moving electronic health records to the cloud, it’s vital to ensure that your cloud provider is HIPAA-compliant and is willing to sign business associate agreements, as required by the HIPAA Omnibus rule. Also check with your cloud provider about encrypting this information to keep it out of the wrong hands. These are security measures you can take to keep your assets and personally identifiable information safe.