Cloud technology in a healthcare setting

What are the opportunities and challenges for cloud computing in healthcare?

 

The healthcare industry is under constant pressure to streamline the sharing and availability of information, while at the same time maintaining ever-more rigorous controls over patient privacy, and of course, reducing costs at the same time.  Therefore cloud computing offers some significant opportunities, perhaps even more significant than in many other industries.

What are the opportunities and challenges for cloud computing in healthcare?

 

The healthcare industry is under constant pressure to streamline the sharing and availability of information, while at the same time maintaining ever-more rigorous controls over patient privacy, and of course, reducing costs at the same time.  Therefore cloud computing offers some significant opportunities, perhaps even more significant than in many other industries.

The ability to quickly access computing and storage resources when needed, without the requirement for a large technical staff is pretty much the perfect solution for many hospitals, health clinics, and doctor’s offices.  It should provide them with an incredible opportunity to improve services to their customers, the patients, to share information more easily than ever before, and improve operational efficiency at the same time.  The challenge, at least for now, is the critical element of maintaining patient privacy.  The risks of exposing sensitive patient data, especially in public cloud infrastructures, continues to act as a drag on the rate of cloud adoption.

 

Where does cloud computing in healthcare make sense?

 

The range of services offered through the cloud is expanding at a staggering rate.  Certainly healthcare providers can look at a number of services to help reduce IT management costs and accelerate deployment of new IT processes but they should be wary of moving anything requiring highly sensitive information out into the public cloud services until they clearly understand the risks and the legal ramifications.

The recent furor around Dropbox security has been drive driven in no small part by the fact that information customers thought was protected by encryption from everyone but themselves is, in fact, open to examination by Dropbox employees.  Imagine a scenario in which files containing PHI were placed in a cloud storage service, even temporarily, and were later found to have been exposed to employees of a third party.  So at least for now, while such things as email, payroll, backup and so on are all available through the cloud, organizations should put in place tight procedural controls to prevent protected information moving out into the cloud in an unsecured way.

 

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