Understanding technology, its uses, and its drawbacks has become critical for managers in any industry. Computers, software, tablets, smartphones, sensors, digital communications, and other aspects of the technical realm are the mechanisms on which business processes run. Equipment and software have become intrinsic to how modern business works.
The need is even more critical for executives and managers in the healthcare industry. With so much change needed to improve services, reduce costs, and deal with growing regulation, organizations need to find ways to become more efficient, technology will be at the forefront of the possible tools.
Cloud technology is one area that executives should examine and decide if it can help them. Rather than running their own servers and hosting software applications, companies contract for software services hosted by third parties. The result can often be reduced maintenance, more flexibility in providing and managing services, and an overall reduction in expenses. But there are issues you need to consider.
Protecting data is important for any company. In a highly regulated industry like healthcare, the practice is a must. HIPAA gives the government significant powers to punish providers that do not take adequate care of the patient data entrusted to them. Cloud computing can be secure – the cyber attacks and loss of massive amounts of data that make the news generally happen on systems and networks run by individual companies, not by cloud vendors. But you want to hold independent audits to address whether the providers are as secure as they claim. Furthermore, there are a lot of other questions to ask, according to the National Law Review, because of the legal implications.
Data availability and ownership
In addition to security issues, you should ask questions about data access and ownership. Clearly a provider has to own the data, but that may fall into practical gray areas. Can you gain access to data for analysis whenever you want? If there’s a problem with the vendor, you still need the data that’s been stored there. The provider may regularly have to download data and changes to maintain its own copy, in which case it needs to be in an understandable form and there will be additional costs to store and maintain the data. That could at least partly undercut the advantages of cloud computing.
Working with cloud vendors is significantly different from running your own IT organization. You won’t have deep access into and control over what happens on the vendor’s servers. Instead, you need to develop performance metrics that you can measure and contractually ensure the level of service that you need to operate. Turning IT people from simply technical experts to outside vendor managers is a significant challenge.
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