Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival

Brian T. Horowitz, Tech Journalist | 12/26/2012 | 26 comments

Brian T. Horowitz
When streamlining and automating IT services in a hospital, you need a flexible, scalable, and content-rich service delivery model, according to Doris Peek, CIO at Broward Health.

The Fort Lauderdale-based Broward Health is the fifth-largest non-government-owned public health system in the United States. Its IT department employs 168 people who support 8,000 employees.

Before its IT service management (ITSM) upgrade, Broward Health had difficulty keeping track of work requests and ended up spending extra money on resources and duplicating tasks, Peek told Enterprise Efficiency. Broward Health was "trying to manage our business from many sources and we were not doing a good job of it," she said. "We were a mess, frankly, and we weren't really following the [ITSM] best-practices."

Automation is the key to hospital IT survival, according to Peek. "If you don't get your head around how you're going to deliver your service and have some sort of automation, you're not going to survive in this world."

A shift to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) was necessary. "We had no choice -- it was either change or die. I think the management would have outsourced the common service of IT had we not managed to change our service delivery approach."

The SaaS pricing model allowed it to be handled as an operational expense, rather than the capital expense outlay that new servers and software would have required. This was a big advantage. If Broward Health didn't implement a SaaS platform, Peek told us, the hospital system would have had to beg its board of directors for the funds required to purchase new hardware and software licenses.

Broward Health now uses its cloud-based SaaS solution as a way to order new IT equipment, such as a new printer, phone, or computer. The healthcare organization also put its service catalogue in the SaaS repository.

Broward Health plans to add incident management to its SaaS platform, but it is currently concentrating on change management and using the platform for new equipment purchases, according to Peek.

"We started with change management, and we're going to begin incident management the beginning of [2013]."

The SaaS platform allows nurses to focus on helping patients rather than tracking work requests for IT equipment, Peek noted. Before SaaS, they'd have to "call to get someone on the phone and log service requests. We've moved from a big black hole to a transparent department."

A key strategy for Broward Health in implementing SaaS for ITSM was integrating National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards on its network, so it can improve its tracking of IT equipment. "We have a lot of information we never had before. We now know how old the printer is, how many times people have requested to fix it."

SaaS for patient data
As for healthcare data and electronic health records, doctors access patient data through virtual private networks from datacenters in Kansas City. Concerns about security are holding back Broward Health from transmitting patient information over the ITSM SaaS platform. Peek noted that healthcare is behind other industries, such as banking, in placing sensitive information in the cloud.

"Healthcare is very risk averse," says Peek. "Eventually healthcare will catch up to the rest of the world."

She suggests that future expansion of SaaS at Broward Health might involve a doctor reporting difficulty with a medical device through the service. The physician would submit a request using the ITSM platform, but the hospital would have to mask the patient's name or diagnosis involved.

So, what factors do healthcare organizations need to consider when deciding on whether to go with a cloud-based SaaS solution?

Without the ability to automate services through SaaS, an IT department could be in disarray, notes Peek. SaaS can allow an enterprise to organize business processes in one place.

According to Peek, it's important for organizations to choose a cloud service that is integrated with an ITSM foundation and has a governance structure with service-level agreements.

She believes one way to approach implementing a cloud-based SaaS application is to treat the platform like an Amazon shopping catalogue. "Don't get focused on the traditional instant management or change management. Think of it like shopping in your own warehouse."

Is Broward Health on the right track? Will cloud-based SaaS platforms work for your healthcare IT organization? How else would you put such solutions to use in your enterprise? Share your thoughts below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
geeky   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/29/2013 9:46:33 AM
Re: Crawl walk run
Exactly I dont understand why people ignore these infrastructure without analyzing the proper requirements 1st.
nasimson   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/25/2013 2:38:08 AM
Re: Crawl walk run
@Susan: Yes undoubtedly. I guess this is the actual challenge now. Let's hope whatever new technologies are being launched does not affect the legacy networks and procedures.
DBK   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/23/2013 10:58:46 PM
Re: Selecting a SaaS vendor
Usability is key and why most major software companies invest usability labs and studies.  These on going ventures also can and value to the overall functionality with test subjects that have critical imput.  No usability, limited adoption and success.
Susan Nunziata   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/17/2013 11:42:06 PM
Re: Selecting a SaaS vendor
@Vijo: This is outstanding guidance. Thank you so much for sharing this. There are many elements here that could easily be overlooked in the selection process. You have probably saved a lot of folks a big headache by sharing your best practices. Much appreciated.
Vijo Menon   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/15/2013 4:31:43 PM
Re: Selecting a SaaS vendor
We looked at our current state of our ITSM esp. incidents and change and projected a five year future state.  Using the figures, we could decide our market place and vendors. For instance, do we need a market player in the high end or mid market segment.

Healthcare IT execs should validate that the hosting facilities are in the US and SAS 70 II compliant. How do they handle PCI and HIPAA requirements? Is it single tenent or multi tenant?

Most important, what is the process and tradeoff if you decide not to continue with your vendor? What happens to your data and in what format will they be returned to you. Divorce from a Saas vendor is expensive and nasty

What is the skill set required to administer  the system? You should have the competencies to support the system




Susan Nunziata   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/11/2013 10:13:33 PM
Re: Selecting a SaaS vendor
@Vijo: thank you for sharing that example. Can you tell us more about your process and criteria for vendor selection? Who participated in the process? How did you dtermine the priority criteria? What questions should healthcare IT execs be asking of SaaS vendors as they go through the evaluation process?
Susan Nunziata   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/11/2013 10:11:36 PM
Re: Crawl walk run
@MDMConsult: Human capital is indeed crucial. In your opinion, what are the skills that healthcare organizations should be seeking for their IT departments in the near and long term?
Susan Nunziata   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/7/2013 10:27:24 PM
Re: Crawl walk run
@naisimson: The greatest challenge is probably in bridging the gap between SaaS solutions and the legacy systems and apps that have been in place in the healthcare environment for so many years. 
Vijo Menon   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/7/2013 2:20:27 PM
Selecting a SaaS vendor
The marketplace for Saas is crowded.  You must know your principal drivers and process maturity before selecting your vendor.

After benchmarking and industry analysis, we choose ServiceNow. Our main concerns were security and the ability to create services  and processes with minimum effort and in an intergrated manner. You might have a great design concept or architecture - but if they cannot be implemented  easily in an user friendly interface,  your service delivery strategy will have many roadblocks
nasimson   Healthcare IT: SaaS Is Essential to Survival   1/4/2013 10:53:17 AM
Re: Crawl walk run
@Susan: Very well said. Kudos to them people who have accomplished the goals so far. What do you think would be the constraints IT professionals might be facing right now in realizing the true potential of SaaS?
Page 1 / 3   >   >>

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