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8 Benefits and Risks of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

We explore four benefits and four risks of cloud computing in healthcare and show how the cloud can successfully augment healthcare if implemented correctly.

Despite it being around for over a decade, people often refer to cloud computing as “the future” for businesses. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that cloud computing is quickly becoming a new standard for businesses across the globe. Every day, more and more businesses and industries migrate their data to a cloud or hybrid server. The healthcare industry is no exception. As healthcare professionals adapt to the ever-changing world of technology, they have begun to introduce cloud solutions into their work.

A recent partnership between Microsoft and Walgreens shows that there is mutual interest in bringing healthcare provision to the cloud. The benefits of cloud networks for healthcare professionals are plentiful – but so are the potential risks. Cloud computing has the potential to completely change the way healthcare is provided, and so too must the way healthcare and cloud providers defend against possible dangers. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of some of the advantages and hazards that cloud computing brings to the healthcare industry.

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BENEFIT: Data storage capacity

One of the biggest current applications of the cloud in healthcare is data storage. The healthcare industry works with a tremendous amount of data, and even the most sophisticated hardware installations can’t handle it all. Cloud networks allow healthcare professionals to store all the data they use off-site to avoid the cost and strain of maintaining physical servers.

BENEFIT: Scalability of service

While the need for healthcare is 24/7, certain periods like the cold and flu season require more of the healthcare provider’s attention. The cloud can scale to increase or decrease data storage and traffic depending on the client’s needs. Thus, healthcare providers are able to fit their network requirements to match their service demands.

BENEFIT: Collaboration

Clients who use the same cloud network are able to easily transfer data between each other. In situations where healthcare companies need to share medical information with each other, this would be a huge advantage. The data can be shared with anybody who needs to see it, allowing for quicker collaboration to provide healthcare solutions.

BENEFIT: AI and machine learning

The massive amount of data that healthcare providers deal with take up a lot of time to manage – time that could be spent with patients. Since more cloud platforms are integrating AI and machine learning into their services, they can help alleviate some of that burden. Healthcare providers can use these systems to analyse and respond to the enormous quantity of unstructured data they utilize.

RISK: Implementation

Switching from an on-premises installation to the cloud means changing your entire method of handling tasks. Healthcare providers planning to implement a cloud solution must ensure that everybody comes up to speed with how to work on the cloud efficiently. Otherwise, your business risks downtime, improper handling of data, or information leaks.

RISK: Security dangers

Cloud networks provide security tools that look for, warn you of, and deal with suspicious behavior. However, they are not perfect. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating 416 cases involving security breaches of health information. Of those 416 cases, 47% were caused by hacking or an IT incident.

RISK: HIPAA compliance

All cloud-based health solutions must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This includes security measures, but also extends to protocols for patient privacy, enforcement of laws, and breach notification procedures. The tenants of HIPAA need to be understood by both the healthcare and cloud providers in order to ensure HIPAA compliance.

RISK: Availability and control

Despite all odds, cloud platforms will go down from time to time. Healthcare providers need their data to be available at any point, so any downtime on the cloud platform’s side will have a negative impact on productivity. This is true of business-owned physical installations as well, but businesses must rely on the cloud provider – not themselves – to bring the service back online.

The applications of the cloud in healthcare are no doubt exciting, but they come with a variety of potential problems that must be addressed. Cloud solutions can make the work healthcare professionals do more efficient and beneficial for the patient. Without proper safeguards, though, the possibility of poor medical provision or security breaches increases. It’s up to both the healthcare providers and cloud platforms to check for these issues – and stop them if they arise.

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