Laying Down Roots In Healthcare Through Cloud Computing

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It is well to be noted that healthcare providers as well as processors when it comes to protected health information- PHI have historically been pretty concerned with storing or processing sensitive data within the cloud. Rather, they have chosen to host data on on-site servers, taking care of storage, maintenance, and security themselves.

But the fact is that the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed caused a shift in attitude. At a time when healthcare providers happened to be strained while offering cutting-edge treatment, it became pretty clear that existing IT infrastructure can as well be an unnecessary obstacle rather than the key to patient outcomes as well as data security.

The fact is that post-pandemic, more healthcare companies are looking forward to modernizing their IT infrastructure as well as embracing cloud computing. So, it is important to understand the shift and how healthcare can go ahead and successfully make the transition.

Digital transformation when it comes to healthcare: Has it been slow?

Healthcare has always gone on to face stringent compliance needs so as to protect patients’s biometrics, contact information, and financial information. Traditionally, this went on to encourage on-premises data hosting to protect sensitive information and in the hope that it would be seamless to access critical information when it comes to an emergency scenario.

Due to this, healthcare organizations happen to store the least amount of sensitive data in the cloud, around 47%, as compared to the average across other industries of 61%.

Moreover, healthcare goes on to face a resource issue where allocating resources when it comes to new medical equipment, staff, or even treatments rightfully come before investing within the digital transformation. However, the point is that the longer healthcare companies have put this off, the more ground there happens to catch up, thereby only making initial setup costs much higher. Healthcare has not been in the dark about this challenge, as there have been calls to shift toward digital transformation for some time. But the above concerns when it comes to compliance and costs, in addition to some uncertainty on how beneficial cloud adoption can be, have actually gone on to hinder progress.

What have been the additional challenges that the pandemic has brought to the forefront?

The pandemic has gone on to put healthcare under extreme pressure; however, it has also highlighted how the IT infrastructure happens to be holding healthcare organizations back and why they would go on to benefit from the cloud.

As IT staff happened to be pretty stretched, there was indeed no room for challenges or spending time troubleshooting bugs. Crucial IT systems had to be looked into in-house, and not maintained by any third-party cloud provider.

• The fact is that many healthcare employees happened to work remotely during the pandemic, which meant that strictly on-site data hosting was no longer possible, and a dearth of cloud infrastructure made it even more challenging so as to collaborate in this hybrid work environ.

• The rising healthcare demands went on to create staffing shortages, which itself meant IT technicians did not have time when it came to maintaining on-site data hosting while at the same time also dealing with the effects of COVID as well as online working.

• The requirement to increase ward size as well as treatment areas underscored that physical space happened to be much better dedicated toward clinical requirements than hosting the data on-site.

Due to this, healthcare went on to realize that resources could go on to be saved by shifting data management off-site, thereby giving the IT team more time to stress on patient-centric digital assignments. It also became pretty clear that third-party security provisions are often stronger than what can be created in-house.

But the fact is that the pandemic also saw a massive increase in breaches when it came to health data. The healthcare sector went on to experience a 51% rise in the total volume of records exposed from 2019 to 2021, as per Constella Intelligence, the digital risk protection agency.

Healthcare providers as well as data processors realized that shifting cybersecurity ownership to a cloud provider, which is bound by their own certifications as well as commitments, could actually give them more confidence when it comes to their compliance.

What’s in the offering?

In the coming 10 years, cloud computing, especially in healthcare, is anticipated to rise at a CAGR of 17.4% as well as reach a valuation of $280 million, underscoring the fact that the pandemic has indeed been a catalyst when it comes to the growth of healthcare cloud usage.

But the fact is that there are some major considerations for healthcare providers looking to make that move towards cloud computing.

• Avail an Executive Sponsorship: It can be pretty difficult to make a business scenario for executing cloud, given that the return on investment goes on to lag long after the execution. So, a transition towards cloud computing has to be a top-down change, with executive sponsorship, for IT teams, so as to secure the funding as well as the resources required.

  • Break down from the usual: The major issue when it comes to the archaic approach of on-site hosting is that it goes on to create silos, as access often gets restricted to specific hardware or even virtual machines. This safeguards cross-department collaboration as well as access for remote employees, which ultimately bars healthcare providers from getting a total view of patients. Hence, when one makes a switch to the cloud, they have to ensure that they are indeed breaking down such silos and, at the same time, integrating numerous cloud solutions as a full and also patient-centric tech stack.
  •  Plan in terms of scalability: Adopt cloud practices that can go on to scale alongside a digital transformation journey. Opting for cloud services that enable someone to scale the amount of data they happen to be hosting with them or purchase more add-ons when they need them can future-proof the digital strategy and also safeguard the requirements when it comes to a large, costly, and disruptive modernization project of the future.
  • Giving security Priority: Most cloud platforms go on to offer compliant environments as a benchmark. However, the point over here is that one must make sure to completely evaluate all functionality that is desired so as to invest in it, as well as make sure it goes on to meet compliance standards that need to be followed. For instance, for HIPAA compliance, ensure that one can sign a business associate agreement- BAA with the vendor. Thankfully, most cloud providers happen to have the resources and, at the same time, the experience to maintain high-security benchmarks, which goes on to take this pressure off the IT team.

Cloud computing, if in case it is done right, goes on to increase health data protection. By way of executing a robust as well as a scalable cloud infrastructure, healthcare can, with enormous success, make the transition toward modern digital practices that enable them to safeguard PHI while at the same time offering better services for staff as well as patients.