Many patients, many updates, huge amounts of data. It seems the cloud is the perfect place for storing and accessing healthcare information.
The cold, hard truth is medical information is now the most sought after data by cyber criminals. Some service provider solutions, such as Salesforce, integrate security and compliance measures. Encryption and two-factor authentication are things you need to look for, as well.
By using cloud computing, healthcare organizations should be able to provide improved patient care. It is expected healthcare cost increases could also be limited with scalable, pay-per-use systems. As cloud technologies quickly evolve, the challenges include reliability, integration, data portability, and, of course, privacy and security.
Implications of Health Data in the Cloud
There are many implications to storing massive amounts of health data in the cloud. These include:
The reliability of information availability in this field is a matter of life and death. Even lapses in performance or use of older technologies, such as modems for Internet access, can have profound implications. The amount of acceptable downtime varies per industry and business. In healthcare, any outage is not satisfactory, and disasters can impact performance in addition to cybercrime.
A cloud platform can cause lapses if data cannot be integrated. Patient, emergency, billing, reimbursement and pharmacy information should be completely integrated and follow the latest standards. Data should be available to meet the requirements of physicians, nurses, surgeons and everyone else involved in the healthcare process.
Cloud vendor switches can often be troublesome. It might be hard to move databases from one platform or service to another. Such events may disrupt business operations or lead to conflicts in data. If a vendor refuses access to data, your organization may be unable to provide service to patients or customers.
Another problem is if the cloud service is discontinued. One system may not be interoperable with another, making migration to another service a challenge.
Data breaches have become all too common in the healthcare sector. Ponemon Institute reported this summer that 90 percent of healthcare organizations have had one or more data breaches – this is in the past two years alone. Names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and more can be obtained.
The implications of identity theft and fraud are huge. There are massive criminal organizations willing to pay top dollar for this data. In fact, medical records are more valuable now than credit card numbers.
The truth is consumer health data is becoming more secure in the cloud. This is due to improved security platforms and measures. The Salesforce Health Cloud service is one of them. It lets healthcare providers access health records from all types of sources any time. The patient relationship management system can obtain data from medical devices.
Salesforce’s platform provides a very high level of security based on the principle that any system’s security is as strong as its weakest link. Lots of organizations have access.
One report says, on average, healthcare workers use 26 different cloud services.
The platform offers various security and HIPAA compliance tools. Event monitoring, encryption and audit trails help to identify and shore up vulnerabilities.
Laptops, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices present a significant security risk. Two-factor authentication is one effective strategy while others include SMS identity confirmation when logging in from an unknown device.
Sometimes customers are advised to limit their logins to a specific IP address. In addition, session timeouts can be decreased to limit the opportunities any malicious intruder could have.
Many tools exist for securing consumer health data in the cloud. In fact, the cloud, through advances in hyperconvergence, is rapidly becoming more secure, but nothing is 100 percent foolproof. These resources are convenient for healthcare providers.
It’s critical they follow all safety and compliance protocols to get the most out of the cloud and avoid outages, fraud, identity theft and business disruptions as best they can.
About the Author: Rick Delgado is a freelancer tech writer and commentator. He enjoys writing about new technologies and trends, and how they can help us. Rick occasionally writes for several tech companies and industry publications.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.
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