The cloud is here to stay

Nov. 14, 2017
Janette Wider,

The ongoing debate on hardware vs. cloud seems to have been put to bed. We featured the topic of hardware vs. cloud this edition and asked two solutions providers for their thoughts. The consensus is for organizations to make the move to the cloud, if they haven’t already.

Moving to a cloud solution has a multitude of benefits: Significant savings (including savings on data storage), streamlined collaboration, interoperability improvements, workflow improvements, and more.

Let’s talk about cost first. It’s very expensive for a hospital to develop and maintain a compliant environment for large-scale EHR implementation. For example, without the cloud, a lot of staff has to be employed by the hospital to maintain and keep the EHR system running and HIPAA compliant. If an organization is looking to save costs by reducing the number of staff, then this might be the answer. The potential savings on infrastructure that a hospital could save by moving to cloud technology are significant.

Next, let’s explore interoperability and workflow. Stephen Wray, CEO of CloudMine, brought up an interesting point right off the bat in his piece on page 21, regarding interoperability, “Today’s healthcare system could (arguably) be diagnosed with a “connective tissue disorder, in that it lacks necessary agility, is inconsistently supported, remains largely disconnected and has been proven to be vulnerable to cyberattacks. In order to improve the functionality of healthcare and to fully realize the capabilities of healthcare technology and data, it is the right time to invest in establishing a connected health ecosystem through cloud-enabled interoperability.”

Wray also touches on the barriers our disconnected healthcare system creates, “Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare IT spending occurring over the past five years, frustrations continue to grow over the lack of a connected healthcare system. This disconnected state creates significant barriers to patient engagement, provider care delivery, data access, system efficiencies, and behavioral insight. While assimilating a growing stack of technology assets within the body of healthcare and life sciences organizations, we seem to have (physiologically speaking) forgotten the essential role of connective tissue.”

Wouldn’t it be great if doctors and other healthcare staff members could access cloud ePHI on their mobile phone? If a patient is having a serious problem, and his or her doctor is away from the office, the doctor can access the records from a smartphone and give the best course of action for the patient to take.

Wait … what about security? With all the breaches and attacks recently, should we be worried about the cloud being vulnerable? Especially when a doctor or other healthcare professional can access PHI on their smartphone of all places?

Marty Puranik, CEO of Atlantic.Net contributed an article on page 20 this month, and gives some tips on a HIPAA-compliant cloud. “It is considered secure to access cloud-based patient data via a smartphone or tablet, provided that all the technical, administrative, and physical safeguards are in place—as outlined in the Security Rule. HHS has issued a similar set of recommendations on how to make sure that mobile devices are HIPAA-compliant.”

Okay, that sounds good. But what if something goes wrong? Puranik covers that next, “When a cloud service provider is processing, storing, or transmitting ePHI on behalf of a covered entity or business associate, they must locate and respond appropriately to any exploits or other threats to the data. They must mitigate any damage, record what happened, and describe the results.” This is good news for patients and organizations. When organizations are recording what happened, they can therefore make improvements.

One last thing I’d like to touch on, regarding the cloud, is the potential for telehealth capabilities. Mobile technology has come so far in the past few years; it would be a shame not to integrate them into the healthcare sphere. With the cloud, doctors could have telehealth consultations, tele-surgery capabilities, and monitor patients at home for chronic conditions or post surgery without having them make a trip to the office. All the pertinent information would be on the cloud and accessible to the physician to make telehealth more of a regular occurrence.

Overall, it seems like hardware is a way of the past. The cost and the lack of interoperability make the cloud the clear choice for healthcare organizations moving forward. I urge you to read both articles this month on hardware vs. cloud which are located on pages 20 and 21.

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