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The pros and cons of cloud deployment models in healthcare

As IT leaders refine cloud strategies, they should weigh the merits and drawbacks of public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud options.
By admin
Apr 18, 2022, 8:00 AM

Healthcare’s transition to the cloud has been well documented: A survey of CHIME members conducted last year found that 82% of healthcare organizations have adopted cloud-based services.

However, many organizations have not yet achieved their potential in cloud deployment, according to McKinsey. Compared to other industries, healthcare has fallen short by focusing largely on the cloud’s impact on IT, rather than how it can drive change across the organization.

But that’s beginning to change. With the potential to save up to 40% annually, with major cloud service providers (CSPs) increasingly their healthcare footprint, and with business leaders outside of IT eyeing the cloud, Accenture suggests that now’s the time to develop a cloud strategy at scale.

Related story: How to avoid the pitfalls of cloud misconfiguration

As organizations take to the cloud, it’s important to know their options. Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and drawbacks of the main cloud deployment models: Public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud.

The public cloud (the preference for 10% of CHIME members) provides more scalability, and less physical infrastructure, than on-premises application hosting. That said, the latency associated with off-site hosting may make the public cloud a poor choice for mission-critical clinical systems. In addition, while major CSPs increasingly offer identity and access management features (including multi-factor authentication, role-based access, and single sign-on), organizations will still need to take care of HIPAA compliance and HITRUST certification on their own.

The private cloud (leveraged by 11% of CHIME members) combines the flexibility of public cloud with the peace of mind of controlling one’s own hardware and software. On the other hand, it costs more: Not only is there on-premises infrastructure, but there may be a need for virtual machines or containers to run cloud services – and there will be a need for specialized IT professionals who know how to manage enterprise cloud infrastructure. Data redundancy also poses a challenge if organizations host everything in a single onsite data center. 

The hybrid cloud (the model of choice for 61% of CHIME members) takes advantage of whichever cloud service makes the most sense for the given use case – private cloud for sensitive patient and financial information, for example, or public cloud for business applications, analytics that requires significant computing power, product development, and data backups. However, determining which services are hosted where requires significant strategic planning, and cloud management software may be necessary to keep track of what’s what. In addition, migrating applications from a private to a public cloud, and vise versa, can be a significant undertaking and could cause downtime.

The multi-cloud approach (not part of the CHIME survey) uses services from both public and private cloud vendors. This gives organizations better control over which CSPs host which services, letting them take advantage of factors such as geography, contract terms, or security features. As with any choice of IT tools, though, this approach brings the challenges of working with multiple vendors, from governance to interoperability to managing multiple vendor relationships.


Brian Eastwood is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience covering healthcare IT and healthcare delivery. He also writes about enterprise IT, consumer technology, and corporate leadership.

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