Enhancing Health Data Infrastructure with Cloud Computing

Enhancing Health Data Infrastructure with Cloud Computing

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Enhancing Health Data Infrastructure with Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has been around for quite some time. The high-tech concept was not warmly welcomed by many at the start, with many casting doubts on the security of data stored in a remote location called ‘cloud.' However, after going through testing and development phases that have proved its viability, businesses and organizations have embraced cloud computing after realizing just how cheap, flexible and scalable it is. The journey has been the same in the healthcare sector where cloud service providers have pitched camp to make good of the large pool of data that healthcare centers hold.

Public Cloud Vs. Private Cloud Vs. Hybrid Cloud

As the name suggests, the public cloud is ‘public’ in terms of hosting. The Cloud Service Provider is responsible for the management and maintenance of the client’s data. This type of cloud relieves the customer of the cost of testing and maintaining but has been cited to be less secure than the private cloud. A healthcare organization would choose to use this type of cloud if information passed through it is not that sensitive.

Private cloud, also known as enterprise or internal cloud is hosted on the company’s intranet, and the company is solely responsible for what happens to the data held in it. It is said to be more secure as file sharing is restricted within the network (privacy)and the customer can more easily adhere to the compliance rules. The disadvantage is that the whole burden of the cost of maintaining and upgrading data centers lies on the company.

Hybrid cloud, an arrangement that’s fast catching heat, is a marriage of both public and private clouds. For instance, a health entity can choose to host its app on a public cloud while storing its data in a private cloud. Apps, infrastructure, and data for one entity are served by multiple different clouds.

Why Cloud Computing?

The main purpose of involving Information Technology in any human experience is to alleviate it and make it more comfortable. Involving cloud computing in healthcare is therefore not a move to eliminate manual processes but make them easier and rewarding.

Remote access-Any authorized member of an organization can get a-hold of information from any location stored in the cloud. The result is a streamlined collaboration between them and therefore better service delivery.

Interoperability- Be it in telemedicine capabilities such as long-distance doctor consultations, surgeries or monitoring of patients to a simple video conference call, cloud computing has to come in play. It is fast, efficient and reliable.

Offline Storage-Cloud offers a good choice for storage of large amounts of data and backup/recovery files as compared to devices that can be stolen or destroyed. Even if on-premise files are tampered with, the ones on the cloud are still safe.

Improved medical research

When all the data in an organization is stored in a pool, it is possible to fish out whatever detail one may need and even share it as long as it is made available. Data analysts can study patterns and create a more responsive system to the users.

Data Security Concerns with cloud computing

One of the major things that result in data breaches on clouds is lack of cyber-security skills. When the covered entities are not familiar with the important features of cloud computing, then they miss out on the advantages it offers. Some of these features include Cloud Access Security(CASBs), data loss prevention and encryption. Some clients store their data in the public cloud on a default setting without an encryption key or password. This is a potential bait to cyber criminals. It is important that the IT team, security team and compliance team of a company be ahead on all matters cyber-security to keep patient information safe.

Losing control of data is another way through which information on the cloud can be compromised. This is also known as DOS (Denial of Service). Stakeholders must check that strong security protocol is put in place to keep away malicious programs that might kill the cloud.

Other advancements

Data infrastructure makes for the core of IT in health. From networks to servers and devices, constant improvement in technology is what can guarantee a secure data system. Aside from cloud computing, there have been recent developments in making IT systems more efficient and user-friendly. Some of them include:

Converged and Hyper-converged Infrastructure(CI and HCI): Convergence in infrastructure basically aims at unifying core resources for better management and risk analyses. Multiple components such as servers, data storage equipment, software, and network equipment are combined to a single optimized package. Hyper-convergence, on the other hand, is when this architecture is supplied by a single vendor in a software-centered setup.

SD-WAN technology: Software-defined Wide Area Network technology involves creating a reliable WAN from different network links. It could be a public broadband, MPLS or wireless networks. The result is a higher bandwidth network that fosters faster content delivery which is cost-effective as well. The links on the network can be monitored for loss of data, latency, and congestion among other factors.

All-flash array technology: This is an advanced data storage and retrieval mechanism that’s suitable for handling big analytics and data. The multiple flash storage devices are solid-state and just like standard drives in terms of physical appearance, only that they have different communication protocol. The flash arrays allow for data reduplication, replication, and backup recovery. For heavy workloads and cost-cutting regarding reduced purchase of new servers, this technology is spot on.

All these technologies support cloud integration in one way or the other. Here is a list of ten leading cloud companies in the country:

  • Amazon Web Services(AWS)
  • Intel
  • Dell EMC Secure Healthcare Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure
  • IBM
  • Google Cloud platform
  • ClearDATA
  • Rackspace
  • Iron Mountain
  • SAP

Lastly, it is important that the covered entities and business associates of a hospital or health insurance company using cloud computing understand the HIPAA Compliance rules that apply. The Office of Civil Rights OCR has given clear guidelines on the same. At the end of the day, the patient’s data privacy is the first priority for any health organization.