Healthcare Data Security Using the Cloud
As the healthcare industry encounters several rapid changes pertinent to reduction in costs and enhancements in clinical outcomes, healthcare organizations, as a recent measure, are transforming to Electronic Health Records (EHRs). This transformation is mainly to manage and systematize patient and all other medical data and records. With the conception of this new system and various other IT systems in the healthcare industry, health organizations must focus on digitizing and storing large amounts of sensitive medical data. However, despite the constant insistence of industry experts and government, the adoption of EHR still continues to lag behind among several healthcare providers of the US. It has been found that, as of late 2012, only 69% physicians of the United States reported to have been using EHR systems for storing their data. While in other countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and the Netherlands, there are way more than 95% of healthcare providers who have been found to use this system.
The main reason behind this discrepancy among American healthcare providers is the security, accessibility, and cost associated with EHR systems. In addition, there are two challenges that have to be addressed: one is the need to provide the necessary availability and performance for handling large sets of data, and the other is to protect sensitive healthcare information so that they meet certain industry regulations, like those dictated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Importance of Healthcare Data
As mentioned in an article on Wired, hackers or cybercriminals show particular interests on healthcare information or data, as its dollar value happens to be relatively substantial. For instance, a person’s social security number would be worth just $1 while the same person’s medical identity would be worth $50, a significant increase in the value. By possessing such medical information, criminals obtain the ability to carry out medical identity theft, which typically means receiving goods or services using the personal medical information of a different person, causing destruction in that individual’s records, making service providers liable and raising expenses for everyone involved. Hence, secure storage of healthcare data and records is extremely essential.
The New Challenge for Healthcare Providers
As the healthcare industry tends to adopt higher standards of medical images like 3D imaging, better image resolution, and video, there is a further increase in the amount of data that has to be processed and stored. In addition to the processing and storing of medical data, healthcare organizations must also take steps to protect those data. As the amount of digitized medical data increases, so does the chances of being maliciously attacked. In order to deal with the increasing frequency and cost of data breaches and also to comply with the different industry regulations, healthcare organizations and providers are found to be highly driven to take measures for protecting their sensitive medical information. And most of these organizations are considering cloud to be the best solution.
Cloud Storage and Healthcare IT
The various advantages offered by cloud computing are apparent: enhanced agility, flexibility and efficiency, highly accessible resources, lower costs, and simplified management. The cloud can be used by those top executives of healthcare organizations, who aim at augmenting patient care as well as generating revenue for the organization while reforming the meager resources of IT, to offer cost effective application support and capacity.
Howbeit, when it comes to moving to the cloud, the two major concerns to healthcare professionals are availability and security. This is because the IT administrators of healthcare organizations are required to protect the constant availability and security of medical data in order to meet the uncompromising standards. Storage on the cloud ensures organizations on pay-as-you-use services, reduced costs, and enhanced agility, enabling them to enjoy all possible external IT capabilities which they may not otherwise contain in-house. When developed properly, cloud storage can also meet every other demand of the healthcare organization, including data security.
Security of Healthcare Data
With cloud based storage for medical or healthcare data, it has never been easier to protect all streamlined data and applications, in addition to protecting the same from intrusion and virus attacks. However, there is still one visible feature of security that is often neglected, which is the data center’s physical security. The cloud storage system selected by the healthcare organization must implement onsite security systems, such as biometric scanners, armed security guards, and key cards, which will reduce the number of employees containing direct access to the stored sensitive data. This process will help in the reduction of internal data breaches by employees who are likely to be displeased.
In addition to such concerns pertinent to the physical security of sensitive medical data, cloud solutions serving in the healthcare industry must also offer a strong physical infrastructure that contains several redundant layers for various aspects like connectivity, cooling, and power in order to ensure constant availability of the cloud.