Health IT in the Cloud: Moving From “Nice to Have” to “Mandatory”
This is a guest post by Mohammad Shahnewaz, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at M2SYS Technology.
83% of IT executives report they are using cloud services today for healthcare IT according to the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey. Health IT is moving to cloud and it’s no longer a “nice to have.” – It has become a necessity.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 set in motion a series of strict compliance requirements for the healthcare industry. HIPAA’s primary concern was to secure the privacy of patient’s medical data and restrict access from unauthorized third parties. In 2013, the HIPAA omnibus rule came into effect which now recommends the healthcare industry to ensure portability, security and access to that information to only entitled persons. In addition, the “Meaningful Use” initiative healthcare industry has access to patient medical records needs to store it on an electronic medical/health record system by 2015 or face penalties.
Current Adoption Scenario
According to 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey 83% of Health IT executives reported they are using cloud services today, 9.3% are planning to use it, and the rest are not ready to commit due to not having enough knowledge about their organizational plan. Another research report by MarketandMarkets suggest that while only 4% of healthcare providers adopted cloud based services in 2011, use of the vertical cloud (a cloud computing environment optimized for use in a particular vertical industry, here healthcare industry) it is now growing by 20% annually. By 2017, it is predicted that healthcare organizations will spend $5.4 billion on cloud services.
Why consider the cloud for health IT?
HIPAA rules and regulations for the healthcare industry are continuously evolving, and cloud service providers are also always upgrading their computing capability and infrastructure to match the strict and heavily regulated industry requirements. The healthcare landscape is becoming more heavily populated with cloud service providers that provide HIPAA complaint solutions for healthcare institutions.
Cloud based health IT services provide a higher level of security contrary to the idea that adoption of cloud services hinders security concerns. Data security is a major priority in healthcare and unauthorized access or loss of personal medical information may lead to legal and financial penalties, or tragically, loss of life. Both healthcare organizations and cloud service providers are constantly looking for ways to enhance safety measures that ensure data security and provide access to authorized personnel only. One safety measure healthcare providers can take is to enable cloud based biometric patient identification system. It has the capability to work as a cloud based solution and authenticate users of the EHR or EMR system based on their biometric traits such as fingerprint, finger vein, palm vein or iris before the get access to the main system.
Healthcare organizations are moving to cloud based computing systems to realize these benefits:
·Security: Increasing data security is the main concern for adopting cloud computing in healthcare. The new HIPAA compliance rule now makes cloud service providers (business associates as defined by the Omnibus Rule) liable for ensuring the security of healthcare data. They need to make sure that data is encrypted and backed up, verifying that data can be easily recovered, and using permission-based data access.
·Scalability: Healthcare Organizations need to keep record of the last six years data. Considering the volume of data that is generated during this period can be formidable for an on-site hardware infrastructure, the use of cloud storage for this growing data accumulation makes it much easier to scale in a cloud storage capacity.
·Portability: Portability of documents and applications is another top benefit to consider for many organizations considering the use of cloud computing. This is particularly useful for physicians to access electronic health records, test results and other important info — whether in the office, at the hospital or at home. The ability to access this information from anywhere in the cloud helps physicians to provide high level care to patients.
·Cost: The HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey states that 46% of healthcare organizations feel their IT infrastructure and maintenance cost have been reduced due to using cloud services. The need of purchasing on-site server hardware’s & maintenance cost can be avoided by going to the cloud. More over the cost of hardware & software update from time to time, on site IT personnel are no longer needed.
Future of health IT on the cloud
Over time healthcare IT is progressing from cloud infrastructure to cloud-based applications and services. A variety of new ways are surfacing on how to access the information available on the cloud. Cloud applications, secured text messaging, and micro websites are getting designed for mobile devices. As the use of EHR/EMR systems can raise potential HIPAA privacy concerns, some of the cloud data security providers are predicting a push towards “virtual desktop infrastructure.” a process of running user’s desktop inside a virtual machine that lives on a secure server in the datacenter.
By moving to the cloud, healthcare providers will open the door to new opportunities for information consolidation or aggregation of patient information to assist physicians and clinicians make better choices and increase the quality of care. It is time for health care to make the most of the opportunity that cloud computing presents and realize that Health IT in the cloud is a necessity, as many other healthcare organizations have already realized.
DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.