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Cloud Computing in the Hospital - the Way is the Goal

Established IT structures, personal preferences and a lack of digitization knowledge: The digitization of the hospital is a growing challenge. A lot of potential for reducing the complexity of processes lies in the cloudification of the hospital architecture.

Eliminate Redundancies, Gain Efficiency

It is not uncommon for the IT infrastructure of hospitals to consist of grown legacy applications with a multitude of systems and hundreds of applications, some with redundant functions. A complete overview of the entire architecture and its possibilities is hardly possible - especially in everyday hospital life. Architecture offers the possibility to bring order into the IT jungle and to establish exactly the structures as well as cost transparency in order to finally implement requested technologies such as cloud computing with an added value for employees but also patients.

Why Cloud Computing?

The use of a cloud offers many advantages from both the architectural and the user perspective. Its architecture works in layers: There is the user interface (frontend), the data behind it, the logic of the processes, the concrete technology and the storage. The cloud abstracts the technology and enables standardisation through technological unity, on the foundation of which all upper layers can be built. The cloud enables a level of abstraction to be adopted that allows the small-scale layers below to be left behind and thus to work at a level that really focuses on those who are to benefit from the structures on a daily basis. At the same time, the cloud offers almost unlimited technology power, which enables new processing speeds, especially for very computationally intensive tasks.

The upper levels of the architecture therefore entirely focus on the user, functions and the interfaces to other health care institutions (interoperability). What sounds so simple here is unfortunately not so clearly structured in all IT systems. One disadvantage of IT is that it is not yet highly standardised. When I build a house, for example, it is almost irrelevant which craftsman's company I commission, in the end the functions of the house are the same. This is not the case in IT. The position of the architect, who knows the IT construction kit like the back of his hand and compensates for the lack of norms and standards in the construction of IT systems, is correspondingly important.

Architecture is therefore often referred to as the Google Maps of IT. So how do we go about a successful cloud project?

Inventory

Before any measures are taken, it is obligatory to take an inventory of the status quo. In addition to the question of existing programmes, applications and their use, this also includes an overview of all the stakeholders involved, from the doctor to the nurse to the IT support team. In this process it becomes clear where the red line and where the pain points of the hospital lie. Important: Not every institution faces the same challenges. These vary according to the specialised orientation of the hospital but also the amount of legacy issues. The communication channels within the individual departments and staff members are also an important point for the further planning of measures.

Realisation

With the inventory and the target architecture, the implementation can proceed in a controlled manner. Nevertheless, especially in the case of long-term projects, there are new developments in the framework conditions or the technical possibilities that require an adjustment of the implementation procedure. And it is precisely here that an architecturally supported project, thanks to the clear target architecture, gains a decisive advantage in reacting to changes. Possible options can be clearly presented as impact analyses in the target architecture and advantages can be weighed against disadvantages. Similar to the alternatives, however, Google Maps routes technology building blocks, functions or processes instead. Steering committees can thus make better and more informed decisions.

Data Protection as a Factor of Uncertainty

The black cloud that likes to hover over hospital digitisation consists of the very different cantonal regulations. They define the scope. On the one hand, it is about using technology to save lives. On the other hand, there is data protection. Good architects work hand in hand with lawyers and data protection experts to know what is allowed in the cloud and what is not. Where interfaces are OK and where no data should flow. Because technology and data responsibility can be managed well today. With the right expertise and an appropriate dose of abstraction. Data protection is no longer a reason to do nothing. And for those who know the framework conditions, the full potential that lies in the future of health care can only unfold. 

This article originally appeared on Medinside (only available in german).

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