For some industries such as the telecoms and high tech markets, cloud computing presents a key innovation that enables them to efficiently utilize IT resources, improve time to market, and reduce TCO by shifting “the upfront cost burden of new initiatives to IT providers” rather than themselves.
Does it have a legitimate place in the health care market? The recent Healthcare Innovation IT summit in Singapore touched on cloud computing as a viable agent of transformation: reduced operation costs, improved efficiency, and ultimately better patient care delivery.
Let’s take a look at some challenges that have been discussed:
Security and Data Governance. EMR apps are prone (too!) to frequent software updates and such IT-related services may well be better accommodated by a cloud model. BUT the usual suspect is that these cloud-based versions may be breached and that data will be hacked. In addition, the healthcare market has gazillions of sensitive data that requires defined security processes and monitoring. And that’s not to say that EMR itself is a “tough sell, with surveys repeatedly suggesting that patients were suspicious that of their data would be compromised or shared without permission.”
(Read: Survey says Patients want EMRs or they think they do)
Dr. Ngai Tseung Cheung, CMI of Hong Kong Hospital Authority (HKHA), keynote presenter at the said healthcare event, mentions that the weakest link related to security is that of staff access to data. Their successful security-breach free EMR implementation required strong cultural change, policy education for data handling and risk mitigation, multiple-level user access implementations, and data pattern monitoring to close the security loop. Cheung related that his vision for HKHA is to have an EHR running over the cloud in the near future.
Availability and Reliability. Mission-critical healthcare apps demand uptime. Always. This may not be as concerning as security, given the opportunity of instant provisioning, redundancy, and load balancing with the cloud. This is where I think “awareness of infrastructure technologies and strategies” must be realized to appreciate better what the cloud can offer in terms of providing better availability.
With continued data center expansion in many healthcare facilities, hospitals may take advantage of cloud’s cost benefits too.
Compliance (related to security and data governance). A big challenge for healthcare is to comply with numerous regulatory frameworks, such as keeping patient info within one’s country. Who has access to sensitive healthcare data in the cloud? How can you ensure that cross-border legal limitations on storage and access of data are met?
You might want to read this find: IT security and health care compliance resources.
In my opinion, there should be some trade-off to make cloud computing happen. The healthcare market is evolving and needs to reduce costs. Cloud computing has a great opportunity to serve this objective well. It will be interesting to see how the healthcare market will evolve in cloud adoption and implementation in the next 2 years.
Meantime, listen to previous stories about healthcare IT and cloud computing:
Healthcare and Cloud Computing
Healthcare might be Ripe for Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing in Healthcare IT
Incidentally, a presentation on the use of private cloud infrastructures by the Integrated Hospital Information System (IHIS) Singapore took a closer look at areas of concern and risk management when venturing to cloud computing. As soon as we get a copy of the presentation, we may be able to share so keep in touch by subscribing to our blog.
IHIS also illustrated several cloud attributes: multi-tenancy, service-based, elasticity, pay-per-use that make it “attractive”. Ong Leong Seng, Director of Architecture, recommends to start with architecture — “understand business drivers, existing services and core business processes” if you’re looking to implementing cloud computing solutions.
Get a copy of the presentation.
Check out our healthcare product, MEDCURIAL, and see how it helped some of the biggest hospitals in the country provide better patient outcomes.