Data security is on everyone’s mind in this age of cyber criminals, malware, and ransomware. Nowhere is this truer than in the healthcare industry, including fire and EMS agencies. Not only are agencies responsible for complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), they are criminally liable for protecting a wide range of personally identifiable information (PII) under a growing number of state and federal privacy regulations.
Understandably, many agencies have been reluctant to embrace cloud solutions for incident and patient care reporting. After all, maintaining applications and storing data on-premise provides a measure of control that can feel reassuring when an agency is responsible for safeguarding so much sensitive information.
Yet, operating an on-premise environment today is infinitely more complex than it was a decade ago. An IT generalist might have been adequate for maintaining, supporting, and repairing the technology stack even as recently as six years ago. Today, however, each layer of the stack—network, storage, servers, O/S, data, and applications, to name a few of the big ones—requires a different professional who has the specialized training and expertise to keep systems running and to ensure security. Few agencies have the human or financial resources necessary to make maintaining on-premise environments viable for much longer.
Safeguard Against Known Threats and Future Attacks
Enter software as a service (SaaS), or cloud computing. SaaS models represent the best opportunity for fire and EMS agencies to truly take control of and secure their data. More importantly, SaaS models enable agencies to continue to maintain the highest possible level of security in an environment of constantly changing threats.
Beyond security concerns, SaaS solutions provide numerous benefits. Cloud service providers deliver the specialized IT expertise required for maintaining each layer of the stack, and they’re on the job 24/7. They have the capacity for rapid iteration and ongoing improvements to core functionality and advanced security, and they have the specific knowledge to combat cyber-attacks. Service providers can afford to deliver a scale of services that an agency could not provision on its own, at any cost. And, uptime is virtually “all the time”—the standard is 99.5%, and if there is an outage, communication from the provider will be swift and proactive.
Planning an Upgrade? Factor in Security, Performance, Useful Life, and Maintenance
Over the next 1-3 years, many agencies will find themselves evaluating aging on-premise systems and contemplating how to upgrade. Some will be ready to jump to the cloud, and others may try to wring out a few more productive years from legacy systems. For those hesitating to make a clean break, it’s important to consider these questions:
- Do you have the massive amount of up-front cash to invest in capital expenditures?
- Can you afford the long lead times required for an all-at-once technology refresh?
- Will your legacy systems be able to handle the load and be compatible with new technology?
- Can you find and afford the team of specialized IT talent to support, maintain, and repair your system for the next several years?
Focus Resources and Energy on What Matters Most
Perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of SaaS solutions is not related to improving technological performance or saving money. Rather, the greatest benefit of SaaS is enabling fire and EMS agencies to perform their core duties at a higher level. Rather than allocating resources to on-premise system management, agencies can operationalize SaaS expenses in line with revenue streams and services provided. More complete PCRs and incident reports are possible because data can sync across multiple applications, in near real-time, updating files in multiple locations. Eliminating manual data transfer reduces the potential for errors and omissions and saves time.
Ultimately, shifting the IT burden to a cloud service provider frees up first responders to focus on activities directly related to their mission: to deliver the best possible service and care to their communities.