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CIO Survey: Slow Migration to the Cloud Due to Ongoing Security, Privacy Concerns

May 30, 2018
by Heather Landi
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Hospital information executives cite cloud hosting as one of their organizations’ top priorities, yet the transition to the cloud is happening slowly as many chief information officers (CIOs) continue to have concerns about compliance as well as data security and privacy, according to a new survey from Datica, a company that provides a cloud-based digital health platform.

The 2018 CIO Cloud Perspective Survey, titled “Healthcare Cloud Take-off: Waiting for the Fog to Clear,” sought to take an in-depth look at the current state of the cloud from the seat of the CIO of leading hospital organizations. The report examines why CIOs mark cloud migration as a pressing priority and provides details on why shifts to the cloud are happening slowly.

Datica’s Hospital CIO Survey was conducted around the 2018 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in Las Vegas, and with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) CIO members. CIO leaders from 175 leading healthcare organizations participated in the survey.

Among the respondents, 17.7 percent work with healthcare organizations that have more than 50 percent of the existing software infrastructure remotely hosted or in the cloud. Nearly 15 percent of those who took the survey say 25 to 50 percent of their infrastructure is cloud-based.

About 55 percent of respondents reported that they do not host their primary electronic health record (EHR) system outside of their data center; about 35 percent said they are using the EHR vendor’s hosted offering and about 10 percent are using a third-party hosting solution.

Even though new tools and changes in the regulatory environment have made cloud a safe option for storing sensitive information, including Protected Health Information (PHI), the survey shows that the majority of survey respondents do not have a strategy for moving their data centers to the cloud.

Nearly 60 percent of those who took the survey place cloud hosting in their organizations’ Top 10 priorities and 30 percent list cloud hosting as one of their organizations’ Top 5 priorities, however, only about 30 percent have a strategy in place. Twenty percent of the survey respondents shared that cloud hosting did not hold a present priority.

What’s more, the report notes that healthcare organizations’ current efforts to migrate data to the cloud is akin to the experience of waiting at the airport. “Healthcare organizations are not 100 percent convinced that cloud storage is safe for the PHI of their patients and therefore remain grounded for takeoff,” the report states.

Almost 40 percent of respondents said they don’t see a clear business value in migrating to the cloud, and an even larger portion (50 percent) of those surveyed cited concerns about security as a primary worry when it comes to cloud migration.

A move to the cloud is slowly accelerating for a variety of reasons, and evidence shows one is simply demand. Healthcare professionals need access to simple-to-use secure messaging; applications that will improve patient safety, and the ability to analyze data for research, business, and patient care purposes.

The presence of some of tech’s heaviest hitters at HIMSS18—Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google—also signaled an indication of cloud’s importance to healthcare, if not at the current moment, in the very near future.

Healthcare systems that have taken an on-ramp to the cloud are still in the minority, but the survey respondents who have made the cloud shift a reality are learning what works and what doesn’t, according to the report.

In 2015, and prior to cloud hosting becoming a mainstream topic in the medical industry, a paper from the Journal of Healthcare Informatics Research concluded that hospitals of all sizes would use cloud-based Healthcare Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Platforms to deliver healthcare information services with low cost, high clinical value, and high usability. Now, three years later, roughly 20 percent of hospitals have adopted those cloud-based infrastructures.

Of those executives who completed the survey, roughly 34 percent of those healthcare technology professionals surveyed said their organizations presently use the cloud to develop applications or manage PHI. But, of those, the majority (nearly 64 percent), expect to have two to five internally-developed, cloud-based applications deployed in the next two years. About 70 percent of respondents are using the cloud to create applications for data analytics—other purposes included population health (46 percent), community care applications (37 percent), and applications specific to a clinical specialty (36 percent).

About 32 percent are using the cloud to build machine learning applications for healthcare, which are likely to open the door for the many possibilities that artificial intelligence (AI).

The report also found that compliance, security, and privacy are the three primary concerns for those hospital CIOs who have considered implementing digital health technology from outside vendors. More than half of the respondents (52.5 percent) have concerns, and slightly less than half say they are comfortable assessing compliance of vendors (44 percent). A mere 3.43 percent stated no concern for cloud-hosted applications because they weren’t allowed.

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