“Cloud computing should not be called cloud computing,” he said. “It's not a computer up in the cloud. It's about 2,000 computers on the ground. It's really parallel computing and parallel storage. We've gotten away from telling our customers that we are a cloud-computing company. It gives the impression that it's just floating out there and that's far from the truth.”
Jain, a practicing internist at the Cleveland Clinic for the past 15 years, is the senior vice president and chief information officer for Explorys, a Cleveland-based healthcare data analytics firm he helped launch in 2009. He served as senior executive director of IT at the Cleveland Clinic until 2011.
Explorys still advertises itself as a company selling big data and cloud-based services, bandying two of the hottest buzz phrases in healthcare IT marketing these days.
In point of fact, Explorys is not a pure-play public cloud, at least as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which, in trying to cut through the marketing hype about the cloud, has come up with its own set of cloud definitions and descriptions.
“We're a community model and some would say we're more of a hybrid model,” Jain said. The cloud has “allowed us to create an environment that sits in a private data center. We own our own computers. We don't rent from anyone. We buy our own space and only buy heating and cooling from a data center.” In fact, Explorys uses two data centers, one in Cleveland, the other, for geographical diversity, in Austin, Texas.
“We've created a farm of CPUs that's almost a supercomputinglike experience,” Jain said. It extends to customers' number-crushing capabilities in a “software as a service” delivery model to hospital clients “where all they are doing is powering up a Web browser and pointing it at a website.” The array of computers and the architecture allows users to “crank out analytics in a profoundly more robust way than you can with database architecture. You don't have to worry about being the best healthcare system and the best data manager and the best data warehouse,” just the best healthcare system, he said.
Jain said he foresees all of healthcare IT migrating to a cloud-type environment within 10 years.
“It's no longer a competitive advantage to have your data kept in a silo,” Jain said. Coming pay-for-performance and pay-for-wellness reimbursement schemes will require sharing data across organizations to unprecedented levels, he said. “Take readmissions. No one hospital will be handling that by themselves.” Meanwhile, “storage has become very, very cheap and computations have become very, very cheap. I think it's inevitable in healthcare that we're not going to be storing radiological images in the basement of a hospital.”
Computer-enabled consumers may be the most powerful forces driving healthcare organizations toward cloud platforms, Jain said.
“I have more computing power in my smartphone than I have in my home computer,” he said. And with that phone, “I'm retrieving data from the cloud. I'm not crunching data on my phone. The way we do most of our online purchasing is all cloud-based. I don't think people are going to allow the healthcare organizations and the vendors to go beyond 10 years” before adopting cloud computing.
On Monday, Modern Healthcare will offer an update on cloud computing in the U.S. healthcare industry, a follow-up to similar cloud status reports in 2009 and 2011.
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn