healthcaretechoutlook

Putting Together Cloud Based ERP and Health Care

By John Jay Kenagy, PhD, SVP & CIO And Melanie Rivero, Manager, Enterprise Applications, Legacy Health

John Jay Kenagy, PhD, SVP & CIO

For years now we have engaged in the debate regarding Cloud based services and whether they can be adequately reliable and secure. We have asked ourselves if ‘the cloud’ can stand up to our data centers that we have fed, nurtured, and watched grow. Does any of this sound familiar? It was far too common a refrain at Legacy Health.

When we started our journey of optimizing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Infor’s cloud offering was off the table, deemed too challenging and too unknown. Our lack of complete understanding and experience in this space lent itself to assumptions that cloud hosting simply had to be riskier. How can we trust something we can’t see, touchand walk into? Our comfort level was grounded in the tangible and familiar. We held strongly to these concepts even though we had been running our Laboratory Information Systems successfully in a Cerner-hosted data center. Let’s face it, we work in health care which tends to be more risk-averse and lags other industries in the adoption of new technology.

"Instead of phasing out our people and assets, we took the opportunity to reallocate resources to support our core business, healthcare"

During this same time period, a shift was occurring within the large-footprint ERP vendors. The era of companies devoting major capital to ERP implementation has come and gone a decade ago. Vendors were realizing that expanding a customer base would require a different model that traditional high price entry point with hardware and software.

For Infor to get our environment to the cloud, they had to convince us that we could be successful, period. Infor had to provide anew infrastructure that came with redundancy, scalability, disaster recovery, healthcare-grade security, and performance that met or exceeded our on-premise solution. When we learned that Infor had chosen Amazon Web Services (AWS) as their cloud service partner, we realized two undeniable facts: as a regional health system, we could never achieve the cost benefits that AWS could get through volume purchasing and operational efficiencies at scale. Likewise, we could not compare the security infrastructure that they could build and spread across many customers.

In the end, what drove us to the Infor cloud as an early adopter, in addition to the AWS partnership, was that the operating expense tradeoff is cheaper than the depreciation of a multi-million capital investment. Craving the ability to consolidate contracts across the enterprise (Supply Chain, Physician, Legal, and Property Management), we would have to invest in an extensive platform upgrade to deploy Infor’s integrated Contracts Management. We also were running on an expensive database and operating system platform which did not have the components to support Infor’s newer solutions. The choice was clear: The cloud option would allow us to concentrate efforts on enhancing our business processes and optimizing core back-office function, rather than running servers and maintaining software. After all, our mission in IS is to support business effectiveness and efficiency.

With our move to the cloud came a natural anxiety from our staff that supported our on-premise infrastructure. What would their jobs be? Would they still be needed? Instead of phasing out our people and assets, we took the opportunity to reallocate these special resources to support our core business. Following the decommission of our on-premise Infor infrastructure, we repurposed the platform to build out a needed Epic electronic health record disaster recovery solution. The technical staff joined the Epic Infrastructure Services team and focused their attention on our clinical and operational systems.

Melanie Rivero, Manager, Enterprise Applications, Legacy Health

Adopting the Infor cloud was simply our first step in next generation ERP. Our second step was moving to a subscription model for the application, exchanging what had been a perpetual license agreement and annual maintenance fees. It changes the relationship, creating a stronger partnership and deeper interdependency. We transition from running and maintaining software on our schedule, often not current, to using a service that is delivered, updated and managed on our behalf. We engage with Infor in a way we never did before.

While many parts of the traditional IS life change in a cloud-based, SaaS environment, many things stay the same. IS and our operational partners must remain tightly connected. Our IS accountability continues to be strategic visioning and customer service. We advocate for our customers; we promote change management and adoption of solutions to improve business functions. We become the face of the remote cloud system and service provider, and their mistakes are our problems.

Cloud-based, subscription ERP solution has let us tap into a routine and reliable service to power our back-office functions. We fully appreciate that ERP is essential to our operations; we could never run our complex business without technology. Embracing this change, our IS division can shift focus and attention to Legacy’s core mission—delivering world-class health care.