The Cloud in Healthcare IT Strategy

After Douglas Menefree joined the Schumacher Group as CIO, he completed a business process review.  He then challenged the software and healthcare divisions of the company to come together and focus their processes in order to best care for people.

Menefree helped the overworked IT group shift from developing and maintaining software and systems to focus on meeting corporate needs for growth. The IT department faced a challenge – they were so busy maintaining systems that they couldn’t meet the needs of a growing healthcare company. Company leaders were “frustrated at the failures of information technology, the inability to deliver,” says Menefree.[1]

While cloud computing played a role in his overall plan of reshaping the IT culture, Menefree points out that he never had a cloud strategy. He developed an overall IT strategy that served to help healthcare company do what they did best. Cloud computing was one tool among many to help shift IT from maintenance mode to innovation mode.

By developing a comprehensive strategic plan, Menefree addressed many of the challenges in cloud implementation at the outset. For example, he defined specific security requirements that had to be met, and then found providers who fulfilled his requirements. As a result, Menefree managed a shift from on-site applications to SaaS (Service as a Solution) and then the IaaS (infrastructure as a solution).

The IT staff focuses delivering IT innovations that can scale alongside the growth of the healthcare company. “We see our [IT] staff as difference-makers,” says Menefree. “They drive innovation, and for that, cloud is a competitive advantage. [2]

He explains that cloud computing delivers the following fundamental benefits: Agility, Redundancy, Security and Uptime. The two data centers of the Schumacher Group are located in Louisiana and Texas, an area facing regular hurricane challenges. Utilizing redundancy in the cloud, Menefree can help prepare for the ongoing risks in his region.

Menefree also used a gradual adoption strategy. Beginning in 2005, he used Salesforce.com as the CRM tool. Along the way, he has worked through initial challenges of IT resistance to long-term challenge of effective systems integration. Over time he has overseen the shift to about 70 percent of data-center operations being hosted in the cloud. Ultimately, his success is rooted in strategic solutions that help the company reach company goals more effectively.

[1] David F. Carr. IT Strategy, Not Cloud Strategy. Forbes, November 11, 2010.
[2] Mary K. Pratt. “Making Time for Innovation.” CIO, March 1, 2013.

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