Healthcare IT managers must wrangle a crushing amount of data — often on siloed, disparate systems — to ensure that clinicians and patients have safe, secure, yet on-demand access to it.

“There’s a great need in healthcare to simplify, to consolidate the management of the infrastructure,” says Robert Forster, a solution architect at CDW specializing in servers and storage for larger healthcare organizations. “Many of my conversations are about virtualization, converged infrastructure and the cloud — forward-looking approaches that help bring about improved resource utilization, centralized management and lower overall costs.”

In converged infrastructure, compute, storage, virtualization and networking are combined into one node or appliance. “From an initial cost standpoint, you don’t have to overspend to buy something you’ll eventually grow into,” says Robert. “As you grow, you just add more appliances. It’s a ‘buy as you need’ format.” This elasticity allows companies to expand easily, quickly and with less management.

Converged infrastructure can fast-track IT’s ability to improve the patient experience without overtaxing the team. That’s because it’s:

  • More flexible. Adapts quickly to new demands and cost-effectively scales to keep up with growth.
  • More manageable. Provides greater visibility, automation and resource utilization to boost efficiencies.
  • More secure. Reduces the number of access points vulnerable to data breach, and takes advantage of better backup and recovery tools to further protect data.
  • Cloud-ready. Virtualization helps build a solid foundation for transitioning to cloud computing and SDDS.

A new CDW survey, “Cloud 401: Navigating Advanced Topics in Cloud Computing,” revealed that cloud services migration and integration was a top challenge for most IT professionals. Healthcare industry leaders have identified storage and email as the easiest services to transition to the cloud, and report their top uses of the cloud are to deliver, either partially or totally, storage (58.7%), email (46%) and productivity (42.7%) services.

According to the survey, the cloud helps healthcare organizations deliver about a third of their IT services. Interestingly, 52.8% were migrated from traditional delivery and 47.2% were newly introduced in the cloud.

“IT organizations that are ready to give up ownership and manageability of specific applications to cloud-based offerings gain additional advantages,” says Robert. “A hosted model reduces the need to buy hardware and software, and allows the application to be categorized as a recurring, month-to-month cost of business. Plus, someone else has the responsibility of storing, securing, replicating and protecting the data.”

What cloud services are healthcare leaders looking to next? “Better and improved disaster recovery,” says Robert. “Organizations want failover capability, ideally to another facility. If that doesn’t exist, a cloud-based solution makes a lot of sense.” With disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), there’s no need for capital investments in new infrastructure, no worry about annual testing and failover, and — most important — it’s an active site that allows for continuity of patient care.

By taking advantage of converged infrastructures and cloud services, healthcare IT departments are taking great leaps forward in simplifying operations to focus on the critical: ensuring clinicians have access to patient data, and that patient data is both protected and preserved.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Health Tech Report.

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