Hybrid Cloud Adoption in Healthcare: A Dose of Reality for IT Pros

(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on Data & Storage Asean)

With healthcare staff working heroically and tirelessly on the frontline of the COVID-19 global outbreak, the last thing they need is operational disruption inhibiting their responsiveness to emergencies in real time. The risk of system or network failures, patient information security lapses, or cybersecurity threats means technology is playing a central role in this fight.
 
Healthcare providers need to ensure their network infrastructure can eliminate avoidable downtime and channel medical resources to where they’re needed most.
 
With decisive action, proper tools, and the right mindset, healthcare IT pros can play a key role in ensuring this. Here’s how.
 
Compliance: A Bitter Pill to Swallow
Healthcare organisations have long embraced hybrid clouds in their digital transformation journey. Spurred by customer expectations and regulatory standards, healthcare companies plan to aggressively increase their hybrid cloud usage by 44 percent in the next three to five years. However, behind the challenge of cloud complexity hides a greater foe that could undermine its agility: compliance. Indeed, pressure to comply with Asia Pacific’s industry standards for service quality and data security drives healthcare’s current digital transformation. With new uncertainties evolving in tandem with the pandemic, it’s critical for healthcare organisations to ensure operational readiness of their network and systems. IT pros will need to keep compliance front of mind as they deal with multiple clouds, greater data volumes, and more networked devices than they can possibly track.

So how can healthcare IT pros manage this? The way I see it, they have two paths. The more cumbersome way would be to “build” compliance into every aspect of their networks, which reduces the speed of scalability and incurs higher costs. Alternatively, they could “buy” this level of compliance. There are plenty of industry-certified vendors or providers out there offering solutions like data security and monitoring to meet industry standards. In fact, going down this route is a viable way for IT pros to transfer the burden of compliance to knowledgeable and better-prepared partners, even as they focus on delivering cloud stability and performance to medical staff whenever and wherever they need it.
 
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Beyond the woes of compliancy, data security is another frontier healthcare organisations cannot afford to neglect, literally. Case in point—according to a report by Frost & Sullivan, cyberattack incidents can cost large healthcare organizations in Asia Pacific an average of US$23.3 million in economic loss. With the hefty cost of security failures at stake, there’s an urgent need to rethink cybersecurity.
 
Diligent network monitoring solutions remain the only sensible and effective method of ensuring security. With healthcare staff increasingly working remotely, new and more complex IoT solutions, as artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning technologies are being introduced. Compliance-ready tools for network monitoring  help IT pros obtain greater network visibility and implement the following best practices:

  • Analyse Data Flows: Using NetFlow analysis, IT pros should quickly identify suspicious and potentially malicious spikes in unwelcome or suspicious types of traffic. NetFlow can also help keep an eye on areas of the network potentially reaching peak capacity.
  • Monitor Every Object: Every virtual instance on the cloud—whatever its digital nature—must have its state and performance parameters monitored around the clock for continued compliance.
  • Trace Applications: In a fast-paced environment where any slowdown or disruption could cost lives, application tracing of actual application traffic (versus synthetic transactions) allows rapid root cause identification for network problems and aids in quick resolution.
  • Log All Data Traffic: This is a requirement for any cybersecurity effort, as it allows IT pros to easily identify and aggregate traffic and user access patterns for analysis

Plan for the Worst
80 percent of ASEAN businesses have experienced disruption of some kind in the past year due to unplanned systems downtime (46%), inability to recover data from the current data protection method or product (32%), or data loss and ransomware attacks (both at 30%).
 
IT pros need to govern their hybrid infrastructures with the assumption they could eventually fail. This means redundancy and preventive measures—like backup and disaster recovery – come second only to healthcare cybersecurity solutions in terms of importance. This is especially true in healthcare, where equipment failures cost more than time and money.

It’s vital for IT pros in healthcare to consolidate the configuration data of all mission-critical systems and services connecting to—and within—their cloud-based infrastructures. This repository allows for speedy restoration of the virtual network to its absolute best state within minutes of an outage. This is one of the easiest and most overlooked methods for backing up systems and isn’t difficult to perform with the solutions offered by cloud providers. In practice, it should allow IT pros to ensure a level of operational compliance, even as they troubleshoot a breach or kick-start a full system restore.

Futureproofing the Healthcare Industry
The adoption of hybrid infrastructure in the healthcare sector is still in a fledgling stage. But with present healthcare challenges putting a chokehold on resources, this is now a key focus. It’s go time for IT pros to ensure they’re ready for increasing complexity in the network and compliance.

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