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Clarifying cloud demands for integrated care

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Cloud technologies offer new ways of working and innovation but cutting through the complexity will be key to underpinning the integration of health and care, says James Henigan, managing director of SCC Hyperscale and SCC Cyber.

As the integration of health and social care takes on a new urgency, the organisations involved are looking closely at how this can best be supported by migration to cloud services.

Indeed there appears to be growing consensus that the way forward inevitably involves cloud – whether on a private, public, multi or hybrid cloud basis.

Meanwhile an increasing range of software-as-a-service offerings and hyperscalers are providing platforms on which a raft of specialised applications can be built. These can provide great scope for innovation to support new models of healthcare. On one hand they can support care in patients’ homes, easing the pressure on GPs and hospitals.

On another they can align with the setting up of integrated care systems, enabling new approaches to data, clinical care and co-ordination with social care. This comes with the opportunity for operational efficiencies, cost savings and high security standards that now prevail in the public cloud.

But there are complexities in any migration, often determined by legacy technology estates and processes, which mean that it will not always be appropriate to shift everything into the same cloud at the same time.

Need for questions

Organisations have to question themselves about how well their existing operations and digital estates can align with specific cloud services. They need to make sure that workloads and applications will be shifted to the right places at the right time.

There are key issues to consider around: the barriers in legacy technology; the future split of in-house and cloud systems; the linking of data from connected medical devices; how the changes might create new risks to cyber security; how it could all affect the split between capital and operational expenditure.

Beyond these are issues to consider such as ensuring there are no hidden costs, either in the cloud service or in making expensive changes to internal systems and data flows. There has to be a full understanding of the workloads and processes and of whether a particular cloud service meets the requirements. It will also be necessary to have the type of skills needed to co-ordinate cloud services and manage relationships with the providers.

In addition, this all has to be aligned with the specific demands of health and social care, reflecting the needs of patients and the evolution of national policy and priorities.

This complexity comes against a backdrop in which, while some specialist service providers maintain commercially robust offerings, the hyperscalers are becoming more dominant and some competitors are struggling to stay in the market.

It is a highly complex scenario with multiple factors, some of which will be unfamiliar to many organisations, and one in which they will require support from partners with the right experience and an in-depth understanding of the issues.

Provide your perspectives

UKAuthority and SCC are working on an initiative to help digital and service leaders in the sector strengthen their own understanding and deal with these factors in harnessing the cloud for integrated care. We are running a thought leadership exercise that begins with a survey on how readers see some of the main issues.

It provides an opportunity to convey your perspective, raise your own issues and concerns, and influence the debate that will involve a round table discussion and publication of a white paper early next year.

This research is relevant to officials involved in all areas of health and social care, from NHS, local government, third sector and central government bodies, and all are invited to take part.

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