How Cloud Solutions Are Impacting Healthcare
What hospitals, medical organizations, and health providers should know about the benefits of cloud computing in healthcare
Technology is constantly evolving, especially in the highly competitive healthcare industry.
Many hospitals have already undergone changing their legacy systems to include electronic health records (EHRs), a digital format of paper medical records which was mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and enforced by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Such a transformation in healthcare has provided both administration personnel, physicians, and nurses with timely access to medical records when needed.
EHRs at many medical facilities are currently housed on traditional client-server architectures. IT technology has already helped simplify operations in this regard, making the process much more efficient and patient-centric than in the olden days.
Adopting cloud computing solutions can make healthcare operations even more convenient and cost effective.
The cloud offers on-demand computing by using the latest in technology to deploy, access, and use networked information, applications, and resources. Unfortunately, it also has a complex infrastructure that may be challenging to understand.
In most cases, end users are sure to find that cloud computing is the best choice for their healthcare business, as it’s often less costly than having multiple computers in various medical rooms — each needing proper hardware, updated software, and network accessibility to upload, store, and retrieve patient or other medical data.
Healthcare IT solutions have offered many worthy benefits to the industry already. And now that enhanced security and safeguards are in place for cloud computing solutions, carriers, and service providers, healthcare organizations can rest easy knowing they’re protected from potential loss of control over certain sensitive patient data.
With IT spending on the rise, cloud-based electronic health records (EHRs) is beginning to have an impact on the health industry.
Risks of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
Lack of security and privacy are the two primary concerns healthcare providers face when choosing a cloud solution
In order to overcome these concerns, healthcare businesses must choose a reliable cloud provider who acts in complete accordance with the provisions set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
With massive data breaches increasingly reported in recent years, there is a growing uneasiness amongst patients who fear that hospitals and doctors that use a cloud service provider will complicate privacy of their data. There are also concerns of allowing multiple users to share EHRs among facilities.
In addition to patient privacy, data breaches cost healthcare organizations millions and million of dollars each year. In fact, two of the most recent Cost of a Data Breach Studies from the Ponemon Institute show that stolen healthcare records cost twice the global average. The average cost per stolen record was $380 in 2017 (global average was $141).
Such costs can be devastating for healthcare businesses.
How the Cloud Might Benefit the Healthcare Providers
Despite these concerns and risk, cloud computing is continually transforming healthcare in the modern age.
First, as a Software as a Service (SaaS), the cloud can offer healthcare organizations on-demand hosted services, providing quick access to business applications and fulfilling customer relationship management (CRM).
As an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), cloud solutions can offer on-demand computing and large storage for medical facilities.
And lastly, as Platform as a Service (PaaS), the cloud can offer a security-enhanced environment for web-based services and the deployment of cloud applications.
Transforming healthcare via the cloud is about more than just the delivery of medical information from multiple computers at anytime, anywhere, and on any mobile device. It’s also about the benefits of being able to connect medical centers and cloud users for the purpose of sharing patients' health data over the Internet.
Examples of How Cloud Solutions Can Transform Healthcare
Cloud computing is quickly becoming a necessity in the medical field. It just might be the answer to help transform healthcare to share patient information between medical providers on urgent cases in real-time.
Before total transformation occurs, however, there has to be strategy.
For example, a feasible cloud strategy for a healthcare facility could be using a public cloud infrastructure to allow public access to generic health information or retrieve medical resources. Hospitals and health clinics could even use a public cloud for remote storage of their own medical data (not the patient’s data).
Essentially, a public cloud could offer the healthcare industry service agility and cost savings.
On the contrary, a private cloud could be implemented to connect healthcare providers to securely transfer electronic documents and share health information about patients. Such information might include:
- Clinical applications (EHRs, physician enquiries, pharmacy orders, etc.)
- Non-clinical, healthcare management applications to handle revenue cycle management
- Patient management such as patient billing and claims
Whether managed internally in the data center or hosted externally via a service provider, it’s important to know that such an infrastructure could provide enhanced privacy and security over deploying a public cloud strategy.
Although there are risks to data security for private clouds (as mentioned above), certain preventative measures — such as utilizing a virtual private network (VPN) — can be taken to address possible security threats when one has remote access into the cloud.
A secure, private cloud environment using policy-based control of computing resources is an apt solution for cloud consumers to avoid serious vulnerabilities. However, it still requires specific requirements to only allow authorized personnel to have access to the data — either hosted internally or externally.
How the Microsoft Cloud is Healing Healthcare
Healthcare facilities that ultimately decide on a private, public, or hybrid cloud solution can opt for a virtualization platform at VMware or Microsoft. At Innovative Architects, we usually recommend choosing Microsoft's secure cloud platform, which uses Windows Server with Hyper-V and the System Center. This scalable solution is best able to meet most growing business’s needs, helping easily power cloud applications and/or supply cloud-based computing and services .
The Microsoft Azure cloud computing system, in particular, can provide on-demand simple access to healthcare applications and data. Using a PaaS environment, Microsoft provides a service to supply providers with networks, servers, and storage.
Microsoft Azure complies with the data protection and privacy laws set forth in HIPAA and the HITECH Act. This system also meets Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) as well as Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) criteria. Either implement Azure's .NET Services to integrate public cloud-based applications, or turn to SQL Server-based data services to properly secure the entire infrastructure.
Regardless of what cloud service platform you choose or which provider delivers the best service, the delivery of computing and service must permit sharing of proprietary data resources to help physicians and healthcare providers to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Both the cloud platform and cloud provider must also ensure all of your digital medical data remains secure and private.
So long as these conditions are met, there will be less and less resistance to cloud computing adoption in the healthcare industry.
Are you searching for cloud consulting services to help your healthcare company dominate the competition and provide the best care to patients? Look to IT consultants at Innovative Architects. We work with large and small organizations across the U.S. to find the best enterprise technology solution to meet your needs.
Check out our related case study where Innovative Architects delivered extensive enhancements and SOA based implementations to Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA).