With a priority on investing as much of every dollar on patient care as possible, doctors of chiropractic are looking for cost-effective ways to reduce capital expenditures as their practices grow and exit the Internet technology (IT) business.
On a recent trip to Silicon Valley for a business conference, I met up with my friend Karen Hayward, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of CenterBeam, a IT managed service provider delivering cloud technology. With so much happening in the IT world so quickly, I wanted to get an overview of where we are today in the world of cloud technology. To help doctors of chiropractic learn more about how to leverage a safe, efficient and cost-effective IT environment, I did a quick Q&A with Karen.
What is the cloud? While the cloud terminology is new, the technology is not. When the Internet began offering significant bandwidth in the '90s, Web 2.0 emerged. Greater bandwidth paved the way for companies to deliver enterprise-class applications via the Web. Since then, Web-based services have continued to evolve into what is now commonly called cloud-based services.
In layman terms, cloud computing simply refers to IT resources and applications that are available via the Internet. Services hosted over the cloud run on servers connected to the Internet. Web mail is a simple example. If you use Web mail services such as Gmail or Yahoo!, your e-mail is considered "in the cloud" because you can access it from any device with an Internet connection.
What are the three primary benefits of moving to the cloud? 1) It's cost effective. Managed IT services delivered via the cloud offer reduced management overhead, access to a broader scope of IT expertise, lower overall financial investment, and improved system uptime/availability. IT services are analogous to a utility whereby your cloud provider supplies your organization's computing needs (think "subscribe vs. own"). 2) You gain on-demand services and support. Few health care organizations have the resources, expertise or capital necessary to keep their infrastructure in peak condition, let alone support or contribute to the operational challenges they are trying to conquer. 3) It frees you from the IT burden. By offloading the complexities of IT infrastructure management and helpdesk support, you can focus on patient care. And with the right cloud provider, you'll have on-demand access to a wide range of technical experts and a team that will remain engaged with you to ensure your IT stays aligned with your business requirements.
What does a cloud provider do? Essentially, a cloud service provider owns the burden of continually investing in and maintaining an enterprise-class infrastructure so you don't have to. Instead, you pay a flat monthly rate for just those services you subscribe to. The cloud provider staffs for a diverse set of technical capabilities, procures hardware and software, and ensures your hosted servers and applications remain up to date with the latest security patches.
What are the main things to look for when choosing a cloud provider? Not all cloud providers are equal. Each organization has unique business requirements (such as HIPAA compliance); health care leaders who are clear on their priorities and firm on their requirements can make a transition to the cloud not only a smart, but also a safe decision. Knowing the key areas to focus on as you explore cloud services can help you select the best provider for your needs and help ensure success:
- "Managed care" for your infrastructure and users
- Understands your critical systems and keeps them up and running
- IT and user support when you need it
- Proactive and preventative management and maintenance
- Visibility into the health of your systems
- Ability to add, change and delete services quickly and easily when the need arises
- Available "on call"
- 24/7 live support
- Specialists who are familiar with your organization and users' unique needs
- Ability to troubleshoot remotely and securely
- Secure access
- Ensures all user "endpoints" are secure with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware services
- Secures information, keeping it backed up and quickly accessible
- Meets compliance requirements
- Practices are regularly audited by a third party
- Supports any device
- Understands your unique needs for mobility and supports a wide range of devices (PC/Mac, laptop, tablet, smartphone) from any number of different locations (office, hospital, home, on the road)
- Controls cost
- On-demand services: pay only for what you need
- Service flexibility and scalability, providing a low-risk way to get access to incremental IT resources without a long-term commitment or investment
- Delivers access support expertise on an as-needed basis versus staff full time
- Suite of services that allow you to mitigate the capital expenditures to buy, implement and upgrade your own technology
What are the key advantages of leveraging the cloud? Moving IT services to the cloud allows health care organizations to stay focused on strategic goals and priorities with the confidence that IT operations are running smoothly. And by offering organizations access to enterprise class tools and services, customers receive cost-effective IT services that are more reliable and secure than what they could provision on their own.
Doctors of chiropractic need every advantage in this highly competitive health care marketplace. Leveraging technology to reduce capital expenditures, improve efficiency and build an infrastructure for growth are critical to our bottom lines. Finding trusted technology vendors is 99 percent of the game. You hire the right people, you follow their recommendations and they become part of your practice team. IT service providers will play an increasingly important role and national health care takes hold. Start your engines now, and you'll be ready to fuel your growth for security and longevity in practice.
Dr. Jay Greenstein, is the CEO of the Sport and Spine Companies, including Sport and Spine Rehab, a six-location practice in the Washington D.C. Metro region. He is chairman of the Council for Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters (CCGPP), government relations chairman for the Chiropractic Summit, and the World Olympians Scholarship Program chairman. Dr. Greenstein is a sought-out international speaker and consultant, teaching clinical guidelines and evidence-based leadership; and sits on multiple community and business advisory boards in health care, banking and information technology.