Oursourcing IT jobs and cloud computing

This morning I posted a quick note about a shortage of qualified IT staff in healthcare. Todd Eury of Pharmacy Resource Technology (PTR) left me an interesting comment that I would like to share with you.

When appropriate – what about strategic IT Outsourcing? IT Management Solutions delivered by U.S. based firms? For example: http://www.pharmacydatahosting.com Opesnet handles IT Outsourced Management Services for LTC Pharmacy Operations. I understand the frustration with the shortage – but this might be an answer in some cases / situations. Reputable firms can provide great value and help contain/ lower costs.

I think this is an excellent idea not only for the IT staffing shortage, but as an answer to difficulties in advancing a cloud computing model in healthcare. It is clear that the shortage will hamper efforts to implement advanced technology in healthcare, and in particular pharmacy. Many IT professionals are grown and educated from within a healthcare system, often limiting their expertise in cutting edge automation and technology. Strategic IT outsourcing offers access to highly trained professionals specializing in models not currently used in the healthcare industry. The idea of outsourcing could also be extended beyond cloud computing to encompass pharmacy information systems, barcoding automation, electronic document management, etc. In other words, leave it to the experts. I love the idea Todd, keep ‘em coming.

Government driving clound computing

InformationWeek.com: ” Cloud computing may still be emerging as an IT delivery model, but U.S. government agencies are forging ahead with plans to adopt cloud services or build their own. The attitude among government technology decision makers seems to be that the benefits outweigh the risks and that the risks can be mitigated with planning and careful implementation. With a nudge from federal CIO Vivek Kundra — Kundra was an early adopter of Google Apps when he was CTO for the District of Columbia — a growing number of federal agencies are plugging into the cloud. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), for example, is well along in building an internal cloud in its data centers. And NASA’s Ames Research Center recently launched a cloud computing environment called Nebula. At the same time, government technology planners are working to ensure that the rollouts go smoothly. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has drafted a definition of cloud computing to keep implementers on the right track. And the General Services Administration has issued an RFI to cloud service and platform providers, in an effort to scope out the market in advance of demand.” – Hold the phone. How could healthcare let the federal government get ahead in the “cloud computing” race? Shouldn’t the level of bureaucracy in the government allow us to pull ahead? Healthcare better wake up and get to work before they are forced to follow “cloud computing” standards developed the National Institute of Standards and Technology . As a rule of thumb, one should never let governments dictate the future of technology.

A rose by any other name….

HealthBlog: “Monday evening, I was invited to attend a dinner with my fellow panelists (Dr. David Kibbe, Ravi Sharma, Steve Adams, Martin Pellinat) and others to discuss the idea of clinical groupware.  If you are not familiar with that term, clinical groupware is described as a set of practice management, electronic medical record, decision support, prescription writing and other solutions that could be delivered to clinical practices as services over the Internet.” – Hold the phone. Isn’t that the same thing as SaaS or clound computing or simply and extension of EMR/EHR? Sounds like it to me. Maybe we should all agree on a standard naming convention as different names for the same thing is more confusing than helpful. I’m just sayin’…

Physician’s stolen laptop contains patient information

EMR and HIPPA: “This story made me think of two things:
1. Why is PHI being stored on the laptop in the first place? I wish I could find out if there was an EMR involved. If there was, then the EMR should be storing all of the patient information on the server and none of that data should be stored on the laptop. So, if it gets stolen there’s no breach. That’s the beauty of an EMR these days. There should be no need for this to happen.
2. There’s some really cool technology that’s been coming out in recent laptops that will allow you to remotely wipe out the laptop if it ever gets connected to a network. Basically, once your laptop is stolen you report it stolen and they start tracking it down kind of like they do with stolen cars (same people from what I understand).”
– The story associated with this blog goes on to say that “Patient names, treatment dates, short medical treatment summaries and medical record numbers were stored on the computer.“  This wouldn’t have been an issue if all the patient information was stored in the “cloud” and viewed and updated via a secure connection when necessary. Security aside, data stored on a local hard drive increases the chance for lost or duplicate data. Anyway you slice it, this was a bonehead move.

End-user virtualization in a hospital.

InformationWeek:”Norton Healthcare, the largest health care supplier in the Louisville, Ky., region, has adopted end-user virtualization as a means of giving doctors and nurses a desktop that follows them on their rounds.

The five-unit acute-care hospital chain and supplier of 11 neighborhood clinics is in the process of providing 1,000 thin clients to end-user end points, such as nursing stations, clinic treatment centers, and 50 physician offices. With three shifts a day, most end points have three different users every 24 hours, noted Brian Cox, director of IT customer services.

With VMware view set up, Cox has been able to let doctors and nurses move around the hospital and still access their desktop from the closest thin client, often at the nursing station of a wing instead of having to go back to their own desks. Their desktops can be called up from any location and used to enter patient information or look up patient records.” – Thin clients can be a useful piece of hardware in a hospital setting and I’ve touched on them before. The article doesn’t make it absolutely clear, but your personal desktop actually follows you around regardless of what machine you use to log on. Thin clients are also easier to manage and maintain than traditional desktop PCs from an IT standpoint. I realize this is not cloud computing, however it’s the same basic idea on a small, internalized scale.

Put your pharmacy in the “clouds”

We’ve all heard the term “cloud computing”, but I think very few people have taken the time to discover what the term actually means. “Cloud Computing” is certainly a buzz-word and can be found all over the internet. Unfortunately, the definition appears to be whatever marketing needs it to be for the sake of advertising.
Continue reading Put your pharmacy in the “clouds”

Google outage raises questions about cloud computing.

ZDNet: “On Thursday, a major outage affecting 14% of Google users caused widespread panic, and raised questions about cloud computing in general. This outage happened just when the US Goverment began discussing how cloud computing fits into their $78 billion IT budget for 2010.

Running companies (and the Goverment for that matter) in the cloud is risky business. In theory it sounds interesting, but in reality you better know what you’re getting into.” – I’ve become quite interested in clound computing lately. The healthcare industry is ripe for this type of technology, especially with all the hype over EMRs. It’s obvious, however that there are issues that remain to be worked out.