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The cloud for hospitals and practices:
a comparison of options

We know from countless conversations with IT managers, doctors and clinic managers: Cloud computing is a hot topic in hospitals and medical practices. This is because cloud technology makes IT infrastructure more flexible and - depending on the variant - makes day-to-day IT work considerably easier. But what is meant by "cloud"? We explain the differences between various cloud variants and show why software-as-a-service from the cloud is an ideal solution for hospitals.

CLOUD-FIRST FÜR DIE DIGITALE ZUKUNFT

Which cloud variants are most common in the German healthcare sector?

Not all clouds are the same in clinics and practices - because the term appears in different contexts in the healthcare sector and does not always mean the same thing.

We explain what is behind the different variants and present which ones are most suitable for healthcare facilities:

  1. The private cloud
  2. The public cloud
  3. SaaS from the cloud

1. The private cloud: own infrastructure with an external service provider

One of the best-known types of cloud is the private cloud. With this type of cloud infrastructure, the hospital or practice purchases or rents its IT infrastructure, but this is located in an external data center of a service provider or in a centrally operated data center of a hospital chain or practice group.

This service provider or the central IT of a facility takes over the maintenance of the infrastructure, its updating and offers support as well as remote administration. In this type of cloud environment, the associated software applications are purchased by the medical facility and installed locally on the computers in the data center.

An example of an application scenario for a private cloud in a hospital chain is a centrally operated storage system for data storage in which, for example, all image data of a hospital group is archived. The purchased or rented servers in the data center of the cloud provider or the central IT service provider are operated in-house, as is the archive software required for this.

Tobias Anger, Chief Technology Officer

„Digitalisierung ohne Cloud funktioniert nicht. Denn erst durch Cloud-Lösungen können medizinische Daten standort-, geräte- und software-unabhängig einfach bereitgestellt werden. Der Datenaustausch erfolgt geschützt über das Internet – bei seriösen Anbietern komplett Ende-zu-Ende-verschlüsselt. Auf dieser Basis ist echte intersektorale Vernetzung möglich.“

Tobias Anger, Chief Technology Officer Telepaxx Medical Data GmbH

2. Public cloud: infrastructure as a service

The public cloud is a dedicated cloud infrastructure environment that is hosted by external providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), StackIT or T-Systems. The rented storage space or the rented computing power is located in their external data centers. The chosen cloud provider is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the infrastructure (servers). A public cloud is therefore also an IAAS solution - an infrastructure as a service.

Zudem bieten Anbieter einer Public Cloud zunehmend auch „höherwertige“ Services an. Diese zusätzlichen Funktionen wie Speicher- oder Rechenleistungen haben keinen direkten Bezug zu einer dediziert gemieteten Hardware. Ein konkretes Beispiel hierfür sind S3 (von Amazon Web Services) oder Blob Storages (von Microsoft Azure). Dadurch können in Public Clouds sogenannte Buckets angelegt werden, in denen theoretisch unendlich viele Daten gespeichert werden können. Welche Server oder Festplatten diesen Service letztlich bereitstellen, ist für den Systemadministrator nicht ersichtlich.

The hospital pays monthly service fees for the provision of the infrastructure and the associated services of a public cloud. At the same time, with a public cloud, the healthcare facility is still responsible for installing, administering and updating the required software on the rented servers itself. To do this, the hospital must have an IT team with the necessary expertise, for example in DevOps.

A practical example of a public cloud in the healthcare sector is the archiving of data. When using the public cloud, the hospital creates its own user account with the cloud provider, through which it obtains the necessary S3 or blob object store and archives data directly to it via an S3/blob interface. However, such an interface must be supported by the selected software provider that collects the data in the hospital (such as a PACS).

3. SaaS from the cloud: software as a service including infrastructure

Software as a service (SaaS) goes one step further and offers complete software solutions from the cloud as a package. Both the software and the underlying cloud infrastructure are purchased as a service from a hospital or practice in a subscription model. SaaS is the best-known service model in cloud computing.

The main advantage of software as a service is that the desired software solution is made available via the Internet and is therefore ready for use without prior installation - regardless of individual workstations or computers. The purchase and maintenance of the hardware and software as well as updates are handled by the SaaS provider.

The IT department of a hospital only has to take care of selecting the desired software, participate in the provision of interfaces to existing systems and support communication between the users of the software (e.g. doctors) and the SaaS provider.

Practical example: SaaS solution for medical image data management

The TMD-Cloud from Telepaxx is a SaaS solution based on a cloud infrastructure. Customers do not have to worry about hardware or software. They simply pay a monthly fee for use. The amount depends, among other things, on the storage requirements and the desired software modules.

The TMD Cloud applications are completely cloud-based and therefore available anytime and anywhere. This makes your image data management highly scalable and flexible.

TMD Cloud in comparison

Comparison: SaaS solution with private cloud

  • Simpler: SaaS is easy to implement and use. The hospital or practice does not have to worry about installing, configuring or maintaining the software or hardware.
  • More cost-efficient: Thanks to the lower costs for use and maintenance. The entire infrastructure and administration are outsourced, reducing the burden on the facility's own IT as much as possible.
  • More scalable: The institution can adapt the number of users and the storage capacity to its needs.
  • More flexible: scaling and adapting to new requirements is extremely easy. The healthcare facility can add new functionalities to the SaaS software at any time.
  • More innovative: SaaS providers continuously invest in the further development of their software. Hospitals and practices automatically receive the latest versions and innovations.
  • More reliable: SaaS providers such as Telepaxx guarantee the availability of the software and ensure greater data security.
  • More secure: Continuous updates, the latest technologies, redundant data storage at different locations, encrypted transmission according to the highest data protection standards and more are an integral part of our SaaS solution for the healthcare sector.

Conclusion: What is the optimal cloud for hospitals?

Private clouds only allow hospitals and medical practices to partially benefit from the advantages of a shared infrastructure or modern technologies - and if they do, then only with a very high level of in-house IT input. Public clouds make it possible to exploit the potential of innovative cloud technology, but with a considerable amount of work from the in-house IT department. Due to the personnel resources and qualifications required, this is usually only feasible for very large hospital groups.

For all other hospitals and other healthcare facilities that want to use modern cloud technology with minimal IT effort and the highest standards, SaaS from the cloud is the best choice. This variant of cloud computing offers hospitals and medical practices not only financial and operational advantages, but above all the necessary flexibility and security to meet the high demands of the healthcare sector.

FAQ: Cloud computing for hospitals - frequently asked questions and answers

Cloud computing describes the provision of IT resources such as servers, storage, databases, software and networks via the internet. Instead of operating these resources locally in the hospital, they are hosted by a cloud provider and made available to the hospital via the internet.

Cloud solutions offer hospitals numerous advantages, including increased flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency. For example, the cloud allows medical data to be securely stored and easily shared, improving collaboration and efficiency. Cloud solutions also provide access to the latest technologies and innovations without the need for large initial investments in hardware.

Yes, cloud solutions can improve patient care by providing quick access to complete and up-to-date patient data. This supports informed decision-making and better coordination of treatment. Cloud-based platforms also facilitate remote access to healthcare services.

Healthcare facilities should store data in the cloud in order to benefit from advantages such as increased security, simple scalability and improved networking. The cloud enables the fast and secure exchange of information between doctors, nursing staff and other healthcare providers. This increases the efficiency and quality of patient care. The cloud also offers the advantage of regular backups and better disaster recovery options, minimizing data loss.

Various types of data are suitable for the cloud, including electronic health records, diagnostic data, medical images, administrative data and research data. Sensitive patient data can be stored securely in the cloud, provided that the appropriate security and data protection measures are observed. Large amounts of data, e.g. from clinical studies, can also be effectively processed and analyzed in the cloud.

Cloud providers use extensive security measures, including data encryption, continuous monitoring, firewalls and regular security updates. Many providers also offer compliance certifications to ensure that data processing complies with legal requirements, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Cloud solutions eliminate the need for high initial investments in hardware and reduce the ongoing costs of maintenance and upgrades. Thanks to a usage-based billing model, hospitals only pay for the resources they actually use, which makes costs predictable and transparent.

The cloud enables faster and easier access to patient data and applications, regardless of location. This improves efficiency and collaboration between different departments and external partners. In addition, new applications and updates can be implemented quickly, which increases the hospital's ability to innovate.

SaaS offers hospitals cloud-based applications that are easy to implement and use. These applications are accessible anytime, anywhere and are regularly updated, ensuring security and functionality. SaaS solutions are particularly beneficial for hospitals looking to optimize their IT resources and increase operational efficiency. The cloud infrastructure comes directly with the desired software as an integrated package. This allows hospitals to benefit from the advantages of cloud technology with minimal IT effort.

Switching to cloud solutions can pose challenges such as migrating existing data, integrating with existing systems and training staff. When selecting a cloud provider, it is therefore important to consider the extent to which the cloud solutions are compatible with existing systems and support important standards such as DICOM in the area of image data management.

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Dorian von Karsa Telepaxx Medical Data
Dorian von Karsa

Further information

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