Verizon takes healthcare to the cloud

By Eric Wicklund
10:29 AM

To Peter Tippett, the primary goal of mobile healthcare is to get information from one location to another safely and securely. That, he says, can't happen without cloud-based services.

"It's mostly about not keeping that data on your mobile computer or phone," says Tippett, chief medical officer and vice president of Verizon's health IT practice. "These are really hard for people to do on their own. We're here to remove that pain from the ecosystem."

That's the motivation behind the recent  release of a portfolio of cloud-based storage solutions tailored specifically to the healthcare market. The new services – Co-location, Managed Hosting, Enterprise Cloud, Enterprise Cloud Express Edition and Enterprise Cloud Private Edition – will make use of Verizon's Terremark cloud computing centers in Miami and Culpepper, Va., enabling healthcare providers to store data in locations that have met both Defense Department and HIPAA security standards.

"Health industry CIOs have a pressing need for reliable, financially secure third parties or business associates that will help address the technical, physical and administrative safeguard requirements under HIPAA security rules," said Lynne Dunbrack, program director for Connected Health IT at IDC. "Offering a secure computing capability should provide a compelling value proposition to these CIOs."

According to Tippett, healthcare is one of the last industries to jump aboard the cloud computing bandwagon, yet it's also the industry that could see the most benefits. With the advent of mHealth and the need to connect large ecosystems of healthcare providers – from the large hospital to the rural doctor's office to the remote clinic to the patient's home computer – the healthcare industry needs a proper means of transmitting data.

The drivers, says Tippett, are a healthcare industry moving away from paper-based records and toward electronic medical records and government mandates that require providers to make that transition within two years or face penalties through reduced Medicare and Medicaid payments. On top of that are federal standards for the protection of sensitive medical data.

"HIPAA standards had no teeth up until about two years ago, and now they're on everyone's mind," says Tippett. "A whole industry of people who said 'I'll get to it later' is now being converted to people who are saying, 'Gosh, I've got to do this now.'"

Tippett says the service will be especially attractive to large healthcare providers and networks faced with the large capital burden of creating secure data centers. Smaller providers, he said, will find this "revolutionary" because they haven't had much experience beyond storing patient records in file cabinets in the back office, but will need to adapt as they work most closely within a healthcare network.

According to Verizon officials. The new services are tailored for healthcare, insurance, pharma and supporting businesses and will include a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement, which ensures that electronic personal health information (ePHI) is safeguarded.

"Today’s healthcare provider is faced with the enormous and costly burden of protecting personal health information for patients,” Tippett said. "To address this need, we are bringing to market a suite of cloud services that enables healthcare providers to secure patient data while offloading the burden of building and managing their own data centers.  Through these and other healthcare-specific information technology solutions, we intend to transform U.S. healthcare delivery."