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Healthcare Data, Security, and ‘The Cloud’

Mar 29, 2015 12:02PM ● By MED Magazine

By Bryan O’Neal

The healthcare industry is fast becoming one of the biggest adopters of cloud based services.  According to the 2014 HIMSS Analytics (a subsidiary of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) Cloud Survey, 83% of IT executives reported that they are currently using some type of cloud service. 

There are three main categories of cloud computing solutions which are Infrastructure as a 

 Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).  IasS is when a service provider hosts the hardware, software, storage, servers and other infrastructure components on behalf of their customers.  PaaS allows organizations to develop, run and manage web applications without building and maintaining their own infrastructure.  SaaS refers to applications that are hosted by a service provider and made available to customers over a network, usually the internet.  In the study by HIMSS Analytics, SaaS was the most popular of these three categories (66.9%).  Clinical applications, Health Information Exchange, Human Resources applications, and Back Up and Disaster Recovery are areas where many healthcare organizations are using the cloud.

So, why are companies switching to cloud based solutions?  Some reasons are cost effectiveness as well as the reduction of the administrative burden associated with application and hardware support and improving Health Information Exchange abilities.  They can be quickly deployed and may alleviate staffing concerns for IT departments by serving as an augmentation of the technological capabilities of a healthcare organization.

As you shift more of your applications and other services to the cloud, there are some things that you need to give careful consideration.  These are especially important since the dependability of your Internet and local network has now become the most critical point of potential failure.

·        Consider using two separate providers for Internet service to avoid interruption

·        Add redundant gateway appliances for increased uptime if one device fails

·        Actively monitor critical devices 24x7x365 with a firm that can notify or respond with a defined service level to resolve the outage

·        Isolate power and add battery backup for all critical communication equipment

·        Be diligent on network and device security to avoid prolonged outages and data leaks

By carefully considering these items and choosing the right service provider, your healthcare organization can benefit from a cloud strategy.  If implemented and used appropriately, cloud services can increase your efficiency, mobility, and technological capabilities while decreasing your costs.  The forecast looks to be “cloudy” with a chance of sunshine.

Bryan O’Neal is a healthcare technology consultant at Golden West Technologies - Rapid City, SD.