India’s healthcare system is maturing, and with that maturity comes a demand for more sophisticated IT resources. The challenge is finding a way to deliver a consistent platform to geographically disparate locations—and do it with little or no capital budget.

Traditional IT solutions require significant upfront investment. A data center, with sufficient storage and compute power—including the capacity to add new users quickly— is an expensive capital outlay. One of the biggest downsides to this model is the need to provision now, using current funds, for business that will occur in the future. Or that one hopes will occur in the future.

Private cloud simplifies IT management, but cost is high

The other big challenge is connectivity. If you have a system with multiple locations – clinics, hospitals, outpatient treatment centers – you need those locations to all work on the same software platform to facilitate data sharing. That means creating a private cloud, which isn’t cheap. Predicting use and provisioning for that expected volume is tricky. Underprovision and you erode staff productivity. Overprovision to keep productivity high, and you can end up spending way more money than you need to spend if the volume expected doesn’t materialize.

Public cloud reduces capital risk and adds agility

That makes a public cloud an attractive alternative. Essentially, you let someone else make the investments and take the risk, and you spend operating budget, not capital budget. Your expenses grow only as your revenue grows, which dramatically limits your financial risk.

The other advantage of a public cloud is the ability to easily provision a consistent platform over multiple locations. It’s easy to add new locations, or new users at existing locations, which gives your organization great agility and flexibility.

Choose vendor with proven security expertise, ability to make needed investments

So what are the downsides to a public cloud use in healthcare? The main concern is security and patient privacy. You need to carefully select your cloud vendor to ensure that your data—and your patients’ data—isn’t compromised.

With the right vendor, though, you can actually provide a higher level of security through a public cloud than you can with a private cloud or on-premise data center. High-level security is expensive, and a good cloud provider can spread the costs over many customers. That lowers the cost for everyone.

One thing to keep in mind if you decide to use a software-as-a-service model through a public cloud for your clinical and business applications—know the terms and costs in detail before you sign the contract. That includes knowing the terms under which you can access or move your data. Also, given the critical functions that medical applications serve, you want to be sure that your cloud vendor has the depth of resources needed to grow with you, and the resources to continually update and refresh data center assets. The whole point of moving to a cloud platform is to have ready access to resources without making that investment yourself. But the cloud vendor needs to be able to make the necessary investments, so a vendor with deep pockets is probably a safer bet than a small start-up vendor, especially for clinical applications.