Benefits and Risk of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

Cloud computing is changing the way in which healthcare providers, doctors, hospitals, and clinics are able to deliver quality care to their patients. The cloud’s scalability allows innovation in the healthcare industry to boost a lot of benefits, such as operations streamlining and cost reductions, but it also poses some obstacles when it comes to data security.

So lets start off with a simple explanation of what the cloud is. At its simplest form, the term cloud is purely a metaphor for the Internet. Historically, all software and applications lived on your computer or a server that could only be accessed in a specific location. But as we are moving into a time where a patient (or customer) is accustomed to, or expects, 24/7 access to a service and information, the cloud allows access to those programs and information practically anywhere.

This shift is complicating the healthcare industry as patients and companies) have become more dependent on technology. Healthcare IT departments are having to scale quickly to keep up with the demand for real-time clinical, administrative, and financial IT functionality.

The benefits of the cloud: On an organizational level

Scalability / Flexibility: Cloud based technologies are giving healthcare companies the ability to access a greater number of resources with better processing scale. With the ever-changing environment that the healthcare industry is, the cloud allows for fluctuation in demand.

Cost: We can’t talk about innovation without talking about cost. Today, healthcare companies spend upwards of 75% of their IT budgets on maintaining internal systems. With the use of cloud computing, companies are able to cut some of their high cost hardware and capital budget expenses and move to a subscription model that scales to their demand at that given time.

The benefits of the cloud: On a patient level

Access to healthcare: This includes virtual care options for many underserved patients including telehealth visits.

Medication adherence: Automatic refills and reminders pushed directly to patients help patients stay on track with their medications.

 

Obstacles Facing the cloud:

Increased Bandwidth: According to Comcast Business, cloud computing, “shifts the bandwidth focus to connections between the network and the cloud infrastructure. While email and ecommerce can put a significant burden on internet connections, it pales in comparison to when you transfer data storage to the cloud, replace business-critical applications with SaaS and tap a hosted database somewhere in the ether. Suffice it to say that a basic internet connection won’t be sufficient in most cases. At the enterprise level, you’ll need dedicated private lines to get appropriate levels of service.”

Security: Dr. Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute explains this concern well: "There's a lot of concern about sensitive information winding up in the hands of a cloud provider, where you don't have the final say as to where that data resides," he said. "There's so much sensitivity about sharing that information – if you fail once and that information gets out, the reputation impact would be enormous."

As cloud computing in healthcare becomes more and more understood and reliable, the advantages are clear, but it would be careless to not take a deep look with careful attention to detail, so data security, usability, and speed are not sacrificed. Putting in proper security solutions, such as tools and alerts to deal with any suspicious attacks or behavior, not assuming your cloud provider is responsible for your data security, verifying what your coverages are, and creating an internal plan. It’s important that both the healthcare organization and cloud provider understand HIPAA compliance regulations, so data is secure and in trusted locations.

It is Extract’s mission to help hospitals and other organizations simplify their workflows to increase data accuracy and deliver better patient care, safely and securely. Interested in learning more about how our HealthyData platform can help your organization? Reach out today.