It is observed that there are many healthcare organizations that are expanding their digital storage options due to growing implementation of internet enabled mobile devices. No wonder, cloud computing security is gaining unprecedented attention in healthcare sector. 

Healthcare is a data intensive industry and therefore it is important for administrators to appreciate significance of securing sensitive health information of patients by understanding fundamentals of healthcare cloud computing security. This will also enable them to select the appropriate cloud security solution for their specific requirements. 

There are quite a few concerns expressed by healthcare authorities and healthcare IT executives regarding cyber-security in terms of Patient’s Health Information (PHI). These concerns, irrespective of their justifications, are forcing healthcare professionals to be skeptical about adopting cloud computing. The issue is how healthcare industry can reap harvest of new technologies while still maintaining integrity and security of PHI.

Relevance of cloud computing to healthcare industry

The most obvious advantage of cloud computing is that the organizations are able to store data at offsite locations while maintaining seamless accessibility irrespective of location, device, and time. Cloud computing is also considered as outsourcing of enterprise IT infrastructure to access computing resources. 

Thanks to cloud computing, employees need not be stationed in offices for performing their duties anymore. They can login to their respective departments from any location such as their homes or even while travelling. This attribute of cloud computing can be especially beneficial to healthcare organizations because the employees need to shunt between different departments, branches, or wards. 
Healthcare industry is highly regulated since it generates and handles Protected Health Information in any format including digital or paper. Therefore one must ensure privacy of data irrespective of the location of data storage. 

Every entity with access to such information falls under premises of Business Associate regardless of the fact the entity may never view the information. This implies that any company that is involved in storage of documents on behalf of the healthcare provider is considered as BA and must adhere to regulations such as HIPAA. 

In spite of the arguments that tried to establish that cloud hosting providers are not accessing the documents while enabling storage facilities, the authorities maintained that the parameter of access to information is not referred to definition of Business Associate. 

Key advantages of healthcare cloud solutions

Implementation of cloud solutions can provide multiple advantages to healthcare organizations. Cloud healthcare facilitates use of mobile devices in organizations to move data to cloud. Cloud computing also enables keeping of all application environments in protected cloud environments. 

Employees who need to move to different locations can leverage cloud computing to access multiple locations without actually being there. It is also possible to share highly secure clinical research data without compromising privacy of health data. 

In one of the actual use cases of healthcare cloud, Intel offers Collaborative Cancer Cloud to facilitate analysis of large volumes of patients’ data without impacting privacy and security of health data. It should also be noted that the organization does not give up control of data at any point since the data never leaves its site. 

One of the distinct advantages of healthcare cloud is that the data is accorded remarkable security at data centers. While a container is facilitating collaboration, it is securely connecting both the parties. Organizations can maintain their operating environment constantly updated because the healthcare computing is offering benefits of parching. This guarantees security of operating system as well as apps that are vulnerable to un-patched environment. 

Understanding security risks of healthcare cloud

It needs to be understood that in spite of multiple benefits of healthcare cloud there are some potential security concerns to be addressed. Security of Protected Health Information by complying with HPAA regulations is one the most significant healthcare cloud security concerns. 

Although, there has been an appreciable growth of cloud adoption from 8 percent to 37 percent in last year, it is much less in comparison with other industry verticals. This can be attributed to the fact that healthcare cloud needs to conform to HIPAA regulations. 

It is observed that concerns of doctors switching provider locations, data privacy, and restricted applicability of mobile device management tools are also some of the distinct security risks associated with healthcare cloud. 

This explains faster rate of cloud adoption in unregulated industries than regulated ones. Pressures of regulations are also responsible for lack of ability to move healthcare data to public cloud apps. Security is an impediment in adoption of cloud computing in many sectors of industry. However it is more evident in industries that are extremely regulated verticals of industry such as healthcare.

Healthcare organizations take al precautions to limit excessive sharing of Protected Health Information. In fact there are also other types of data that need to be protected including financial, diagnostic, and social security number related data.

 

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