Cloud Computing for Healthcare; Compliance, Disaster Recovery & Business Sustainability

September 7, 2011
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The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH)’s financial stimulus plan for the meaningful use of EMR systems and IT services has motivated the healthcare industry to quickly adopt electronic data storage options.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH)’s financial stimulus plan for the meaningful use of EMR systems and IT services has motivated the healthcare industry to quickly adopt electronic data storage options. The large amounts of data created, transmitted and processed by the nature of the healthcare industry require a powerful and elastic data hosting solution – cloud computing.

IT Infrastructure Consolidation Contributes to Business Sustainability

Edited to include a quote from U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra’s op-ed in the NYTimes.com:

“In health care alone, a productivity increase of 1 percent in the next 10 years — much of which could be achieved with cloud-based services — represents a $300 billion value.”

Cloud computing offers certain advantages specific to the healthcare industry, including reducing overall healthcare costs by consolidating IT infrastructure. As the economy moves toward long-term sustainability for business survival, cloud computing offers both the reduction of IT energy and power consumption, as well as capital requirements.

Outsourcing or consolidating a complex IT infrastructure also makes complete business sense for healthcare industries – their focus and resources can be reallocated to their patients or their proprietary healthcare software, allowing for faster developments and improvements in care.

Compliance in the Cloud

Compliance and safety in the cloud is possible with all technical and process security measures implemented by IT vendors. As mentioned in an earlier blog post on HIPAA violations and cited in the U.S. Health and Human Services Department breach statistics, the greatest percentage of breaches were due to physical theft or loss, not cloud security breaches. To ensure your data is protected, ask your provider to provide evidence of compliance audits or independent reviews, such as a SSAE 16 or SAS 70 audit to verify they follow industry-standard security measures.

Application Availability and Anywhere Access

With the cloud, an unpredictable and high number of transactions each day are no problem, delivering high data and application availability with resource scalability. Traditional healthcare applications require resources to be installed on individual servers and may be prone to downtime or other disruptions if unable to handle large amounts of data.

Information sharing in the cloud enables real-time collaboration, improving productivity and streamlining business operations with the advent of ‘anywhere access’ to documents and applications. Access to information and archives is especially critical for healthcare industry employees that often need to reference medical records and frequently revisit protected health information.

Faster Recovery Times and Affordable Solutions

Disaster recovery in the cloud presents faster recovery times and cost-effective solutions compared to traditional tape backup plans. The loss of electronic medical records and patient data can result in a major HIPAA violation and large fines, such as the Health Net data breach early this year. Based in California, the insurer lost the sensitive medical and personal data of almost two million employees, members and healthcare providers. IBM, Health Net’s IT vendor, reported missing server drives as the culprit. Health Net’s previous data breach occurred in 2009 after the loss of a portable hard drive.

Losing data can mean major damage to both your company’s operations and reputation, but the cloud can help quickly and accurately recover data in the event of a disaster by replicating entire servers, applications, data, software, network and security to an offsite location. Disaster recovery in the cloud can provide affordable and faster recovery times with a significant decrease in the cost of production environments.

Cloud and Healthcare Industry Statistics

Statistics from CDW’s online survey of IT decision makers across diverse industries found the most common applications in the cloud and used by the healthcare industry include web and video conferencing at 39 percent, with email at 24 percent. Nineteen percent of the healthcare industry uses the cloud for file storage while 12 percent uses it for e-learning purposes.

CDW also reported on the percentages of organizations by industry implementing or maintaining cloud computing with large businesses coming in at 37 percent, higher education at 34 percent, healthcare at 30 percent, and the federal government at 29 percent.

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