Imagine a complicated surgical procedure driven by hand-eye coordination to such a degree that even a 200 millisecond delay in data transmission from the surgeon's machine to the next step in the operating room can be costly. Now imagine the routine processing of patient data models for optimizing service delivery locations and options.

In the first case, healthcare providers need rapid, on-site computing. For the second, speed is not as much of a factor. Such criteria go into determining whether data should be stored and processed on site or on the cloud. On-premise data processing gives healthcare providers more speed and more reliability. On the other hand, cloud processing liberates the same providers from being married to legacy infrastructure, allows them to scale up and down on computing power as needed and realize significant cost savings.

Given that there are advantages to both on-site and cloud computing, the ideal solution would be one that captures the best of both worlds: leverages all the flexibility of the cloud, while providing the immediacy of onsite computing and at impressive cost savings. Such a system is called the hybrid cloud and may be the best bet for storing and processing data in healthcare settings.

Philips offers just such a service, HealthSuite PaaS, which is a hybrid system delivering agile computing with the most efficient allocation of hardware resources. Below are a few advantages of the hybrid cloud as explained by Klaas Wijbraans, Chief Architect at Philips, at the Philips' Andover Software Excellence Conference.

1. Developers can keep their eyes on the prize

Use of the hybrid cloud allows flexibility with computing resources being assigned as and when needed. Developers can focus on higher-level applications or building blocks for their programming environment, instead of worrying about whether they're on premise or cloud.

Since the grunt work of figuring out where the data needs to be processed is left to the cloud management suite, developers can work on the larger challenges of the software solutions to be delivered. In other words, they can concentrate on the “what" instead of the “how."

“[The hybrid cloud] is fairly smart in all resource allocations so if something is overloaded or fails, it will reshuffle everything to still match your capacity demands," Wijbraans said. Such efficient allocation of resources also delivers a huge, additional advantage: cost savings. You pay for only what you use in the hybrid model.

2. A central mission control

IT can be firmly in the cockpit and get a bird's-eye view of resource allocation in terms of computing containers and all the hardware integrations needed for various tasks including software development and data processing.

Sometimes, when a programming environment moves back and forth between on premises and the cloud, the software language and associated security protocols might change. Containers are a packaged solution—comprising the application, programming libraries and other files—needed to ensure uniformity no matter where the development takes place, on premises or on the cloud.

“For IT, the big advantage is that they only need one single place for central monitoring of all the hardware integrations," Wijbraans explained. “You can have a staging environment and a production environment and you have more control to upgrade either of those."

3. Data integration is a breeze

There's no need to panic every time a new product suite is introduced to the healthcare system with its own set of data points and ways of doing things. “The hybrid cloud can deliver a single point of integration for interpretability," Wijbraans noted. The various languages for data essentially get read by one central node for easy data analysis further down the line.

Because you're working with integrated data, “you can have unified development independent of whether you're on premises or in the cloud," Wijbraans said.

4. The hybrid cloud provides end-to-end serviceability tools

Changes to implementation procedures can easily be carried through to the entire infrastructure instead of having to check off servers or computing nodes individually. Deployment of data processing programs or software environments are much easier because you don't have to deal with different hardware anymore. “It helps get new solutions to the market faster," Wijbraans said.

5. Healthcare systems can have their cake and eat it, too

The hybrid cloud delivers ease of data processing, a one-glance overview of computing through a central platform and ways of encrypting sensitive data for transfer back and forth from cloud to premises.

A hybrid cloud approach allows for easy scalability of computing resources and developers need not be locked in to a specific vendor. In addition, data can be shared easily across multiple locations and programming environments. The fact that a hybrid system can also prove to be cost-effective is icing on the cake.

Today's healthcare computing requires agility, speed and security all while keeping an eye on cost. While on-premise data crunching might work (and even be necessary) in some instances, in others, providers can afford to use the cloud more often. The hybrid cloud leverages the best of both worlds and can prove to be a valuable ally for today's healthcare providers.


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