All KPJ hospitals to be on the cloud by end-2015

  • Migration to start with hospitals with older servers
  • End-users resistant to change, but situation improving
KPJ Healthcare Bhd, the biggest private healthcare group in Malaysia, expects all its hospitals to be running on a cloud infrastructure by the end of 2015.

On April 21, it announced that it would be working with IBM to implement a nationwide cloud infrastructure so that it can operate more efficiently and serve its patients better.

Going down this route would also make it the first Malaysian healthcare provider to adopt a private cloud infrastructure, company officials said.

At a media conference, its president and managing director Amiruddin Abdul Satar said that the group is investing RM17 million into the project and believes that it can save up to 30% to 40% of its IT spending in the long-term.

Part of the cloud initiative involves KPJ Healthcare having its servers in one central location, then linking all its other hospitals via cloud. IBM will also build a disaster recovery system for the company to ensure data protection and business continuity.

“By having our servers in a centralised location, we would be eliminating the need to have servers in each and every hospital we operate. It will definitely help us save significantly on hardware costs,” said Amiruddin.

All KPJ hospitals to be on the cloud by end-2015KPJ Healthcare currently has more than 20 hospitals in Malaysia and two in Indonesia. It also owns a retirement and age-care resort in Australia, a sizeable share in a hospital in Bangkok, and also manages a hospital in Dhaka.

IBM Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Paul Moung (pic) concurred with Amiruddin, claiming that the cloud initiative could see savings across the board.

“Typically, for an organisation, 25% of IT costs will go to hardware, another 25% is on software and the remaining 50% is on areas like manpower and space. By moving into a cloud infrastructure, we can expect savings across these areas,” said Moung.

The KPJ project will be implemented in stages. Hospitals which are using older servers will be the first to move to the cloud. With the cloud migration, doctors and medical staff would be able to retrieve medical records and administrative data anywhere and at any time. They need not be in front of their desktops to retrieve the information, as they are able to do so via their mobile devices or tablets, Amiruddin said.

Besides the ease of retrieving information, Moung said that the infrastructure can potentially upgrade the knowledge of the doctors and medical staff as they can now get hold of medical records from other hospitals within the same group.

“It kinds of upgrades everyone to a common denominator,” he said.

KPJ chief information officer Dr Mubbashir Iftikhar said that the initiative could also mark the beginning of other advanced technologies the company may adopt in the future.

For example, it is is looking at technology which would give patients the ability to make an appointment or retrieve their medical records online. Plans for this, he said, have not been finalised however.

“For now, the plan is to allow doctors and medical staff to have access to information seamlessly. We are also looking into the possibilities of allowing patients to have access to information, but this idea needs to be looked into more thoroughly,” said Dr Mubbashir.

Challenges ahead

All KPJ hospitals to be on the cloud by end-2015While the healthcare group is serious and determined to migrate to the cloud, the implementation may see some “roadblocks” along the way. “When comes to IT transformation, we face a lot of resistance from end-users, especially from the older doctors,” said a hospital manager who works for the group.

“They still prefer the old methods,” said the manager who preferred anonymity.

When asked if such resistance is a serious threat, Dr Mubbashir (pic) said that efforts are being made to ensure the migration goes smoothly. “We are helping them, educating them.

"We are seeing great changes and improvements. Now they are more eager to use [the new system] because they find it is not as tough as they envisioned ... . They don’t have to type much,” he said.

IBM Malaysia's Moung said that regardless the resistance, it is only a matter of time before these reluctant end-users "give in".

“If you choose to maintain your own source of data and information, it is just a matter of time nefore you realise that you will be isolated. The data you have is not going to be common, or accurate, it is not going to have integrity,” he said.

“It will be difficult for you to collaborate with other parts of the hospitals; you will be operating as an island and [it's] just a matter of time ... you will be cut off,” he added.

Meanwhile, Moung said that other hospital groups and healthcare providers in Malaysia are also looking at implementing a cloud infrastructure, although they have not started such a migration yet.

“KPJ is the first one. I think they (KPJ) are two years ahead of the rest of the hospitals right now,” he added.

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