Right now, EMR is the most adopted software in senior care. But senior care operators are not truly considering the full scope of that adoption — things like data ramifications, proper disaster recovery, and how cloud technology can be an important piece of that EMR migration. Even as some concerns about access and security linger, cloud adoption continues to grow at an accelerated rate in the healthcare space, and I’m eager for senior care to realize some of these benefits as well.

So how do you get started? What is your cloud strategy? How do you select the right technology? I chatted with my colleague, Sandra Yu, about some of the top cloud questions I hear from our customers across the senior living, long-term care and home health industry to pull back the mystery on cloud and address some of the misconceptions.

Defining Cloud

GINNA: At the very basic level, can you define for us what “cloud” is?

SANDRA: We certainly know that cloud means something different to each and every one of the customers that we serve. So, we generally try not to label it — but simply put, it means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet or a network instead of your computer’s hard drive. As a result, it can be scaled up and scaled down, you can turn it off and on, and you can pay as you go.

Benefits of Cloud for Senior Care

GINNA: Why is cloud such an important consideration for senior care communities and providers?

SANDRA: From a safety and security perspective, cloud isn’t just a “nice to have” ancillary addition. From Wi-Fi infrastructure down to some of the workflow, it impacts safety, security and quality of life. Reconsider simple access points on the wall; you can actually go one step further and track your residents with cloud technology. That’s a really big deal.

GINNA: What is the advantage of considering cloud over non-permanent solutions or a software-based device solution?

SANDRA: We hear constantly that IT is stretched thin. They don’t have the staff to do and concentrate on core competencies or focus on being in the data center business. Cloud ultimately provides organizations the capability to develop products and services, whether they are internal applications to support clinicians and caregivers or an application to support residents and seniors. Cloud allows for a quicker time to market to develop and release those applications, and then secondarily it allows the staff more time to concentrate on their core competencies, ultimately improving patient safety and care.

GINNA: Why do I need to have a cloud strategy when I have a software provider that uses the cloud?

SANDRA: That’s only one application. What about all the other ancillary applications like backup collaboration? Not one organization is going to be 100% in the cloud for its infrastructure and applications. As such, a cloud strategy is critical to ensure the security and success of cloud adoption within the organization. Having a proper cloud strategy helps align organization goals with IT strategy and investments.

Security Implications

GINNA: Security is a really big deal for senior care because the volume and content of personal information is much more robust than the average healthcare record. Is the cloud HIPAA-compliant? Is it secure?

SANDRA: Many of our cloud providers, especially the ones that CDW Healthcare would recommend to our customers, are HIPAA-compliant, meaning that they actually undergo a third-party audit to ensure that their standards and procedures are in compliance with the Office of Civil Rights and the HIPAA framework. The other thing we look at is whether there’s a business associate agreement, which ultimately states that a cloud provider is going to protect patient health information (PHI) in conjunction with those standards put forth by the OCR. It’s also really important to us that, whenever we recommend a certain cloud partner for our customers, we know it has an established healthcare or senior care customer base.

Security is a cloud provider’s number one concern, and ultimately it will have more staff dedicated to handling security and making sure the data and infrastructure are protected to the highest standard. If you take a look at breaches that are affecting the healthcare industry in general, you see it’s all on-premise. It was in the firewall, people walking out with unencrypted laptops, the drives, people stealing paper records. There’s been no public-wide breach of any larger healthcare cloud-based provider. So there needs to be a bit of a shift in mentality toward accepting that with cloud, you can’t see it, touch it or hug it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our cloud discussion coming next week! In the meantime, what questions do you have about the cloud and how it could benefit your senior care community? We’d love to hear from you! Tweet us @CDW_Healthcare or connect with us on our LinkedIn Showcase Page.

And to learn more about cloud technology solutions that can help your staff and improve your community operations, check out our Senior Care Capabilities Brochure. If you’re looking for more personalized direction, click here to learn about how we partner with senior living and long-term care organizations like yours.

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