The Cloud Presents Benefits and Challenges for Healthcare Organizations

The rise of electronic health record (EHR) systems, diagnostic imaging devices and other healthcare applications is driving overwhelming growth of healthcare-related data. A Ponemon Institute study found that 30 percent of the world’s data storage is consumed by the healthcare industry.

The sheer volume of data is straining on-premises IT infrastructures, leading many healthcare organizations to seek new IT models that improve system flexibility, agility and scalability while also keeping costs in check.  Naturally, these organizations are increasingly looking at the cloud.

IDC says worldwide cloud spending by healthcare providers will total $10.8 billion in 2018 — almost as much as the finance, manufacturing and public sectors combined. Analysts further note that there has been a shift in healthcare clouds from simple data storage to using advanced cloud-based applications to lower costs, gain efficiencies and personalize patient care.

Privacy, of course, is of extreme importance given the sensitive nature of most healthcare data, including electronic Protected Health Information (ePH), personally identifiable Information and financial data. A variety of vendors address the privacy issue with healthcare-specific cloud platforms that are fully compliant with HIPAA, HITECH and other healthcare regulations. In addition to delivering end-to-end security, these platforms are built for easy integration with leading EHR solutions, provide advanced analytics capabilities, and have integrated software development kits and application programming interfaces.

Migrating critical applications to the cloud is a complicated process that requires careful planning. The sensitive nature of healthcare data requires caution to ensure no security gaps are created during the move. It may require some network security tools to be reworked or reconfigured.

For healthcare organizations with existing on-premises applications, migration to the cloud can be especially problematic. Any migration project should begin with a thorough assessment to identify and prioritize what assets can be easily migrated, which may need to be redesigned or replaced, and which are better off remaining in-house.

Assessing workloads, designing migration plans and finally migrating to a healthcare cloud platform is a demanding endeavor. SSD’s IT professionals have specific expertise in healthcare technology solutions, a deep understanding of the various cloud models, and proprietary assessment and migration processes. We can help ensure that a shift to healthcare cloud services will deliver the desired benefits.

Whether you move to the cloud or stay with an on-premises system, SSD’s Total Healthcare IT Services practice can help streamline workflows and ensure that your team follows best practices for compliance with ePHI requirements. We will implement tools and processes to protect workstations and electronic media and ensure that only authorized personnel can access ePHI. This includes unique user IDs, automatic log-off, encryption policies and integrity controls to confirm that ePHI records have not been altered or destroyed.

We will also monitor and track system activity to help ensure the secure transmission of data, and help you establish policies for mobile security. Offsite backup helps protects your critical data from a site disaster or ransomware attack.

The cloud can relieve the data storage burden on healthcare organizations and provide access to advanced applications that improve the quality of care. Getting there isn’t easy, however, and healthcare organizations must still take steps to ensure that ePHI is protected — wherever it’s stored. SSD offers a suite of solutions and services to help maximize efficiency while ensuring data security and privacy.