A Framework for Evaluating Cloud Deployment Within Healthcare Organizations - Part 1

Can the primary drivers for moving to a cloud model be realized in the Canadian healthcare space? In this series of blogs, I will detail the costs and considerations associated with cloud deployments and distill these factors into a decision making framework to help you answer that question for your organization.

I have been working in healthcare IT for 23 years, and for the majority of that time, I have been focused on the use of IT to help achieve the “triple aim of care":

  • Improving the patient experience of care
  • Improving the health of patients
  • Reducing the per capita cost of care

Cloud-based solutions are often touted as a means of helping achieve all three aspects of the triple aim of care; however, the primary driver for a healthcare organization to move to a cloud service delivery model is cost savings, or more correctly cost avoidance, and the desire to focus more financial resources on delivering care to their patients. Additionally, through economies of scale and by leveraging distributed health IT resources, cloud computing offers opportunities for innovation based solutions such as regional eReferral solutions, federated identity and access management services, and EMR adoption.

Moving from internal IT service delivery to a cloud model requires a fundamental shift in organizational planning. The table below details the high priority planning activities for both delivery models.

Current studies, such as the 2010 Booz Allen Hamilton Economics of Cloud Computing study indicate significant savings in data centre management costs, but points out that the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a cloud deployment, in any delivery model, needs to consider the cost of any changes to the structure of the organization and the associated reconfiguration of its operational needs. Structurally a healthcare organization will need to increase its capacity for operational activities such as auditing (access, security and financial), contract and service level management, business analysis, risk management and change management. The capabilities of privacy and IT security will also require reconfiguring. The degree of change will depend on the chosen cloud deployment model and the speed at which the changes are adopted.

The second blog in this series will focus on the organizational changes required for a cloud deployment of IT services.


Rod Thurber is Senior Consultant with Gevity's Architecture and Standards Branch. He has more than 20 years experience in health care IT service delivery across multiple delivery models including internal IT and private cloud. He has also been engaged to evaluate service delivery models and managed service threat risk assessments.