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Importance of Using Secure Cloud Storage Options in Healthcare

By: Total Computer Solutions

Proffesional doctor listening to abstract cloud with medical signs

Secure offsite computing resources and databases have become a top priority for healthcare establishments, from dental clinics and hospitals to medical research facilities, and for a good reason. Moving patient data to the cloud enables caregivers to enhance healthcare services without stretching their cash flow or diverting massive amounts of capital into setting up more robust data centers. 

Why Healthcare Organizations Should Consider Cloud Storage Options

Healthcare centers have everything to gain by choosing appropriate, secure cloud storage services. The benefits include:

  • Enhanced PHI Security: Cloud providers offer data security measures that caregivers may not have the know-how or technology to deliver in-house. According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, 90 percent of hospitals and caregivers lose their patient data to hacking and other breaches. Most of these facilities neither encrypt their records nor use current software security patches. On the other hand, cloud storage usually secures protected health information (PHI) against theft and inadvertent disclosure. Before signing business associate agreements (BAAs), hospitals may also negotiate some level of indemnity such that their cloud providers bear a more significant legal responsibility when a breach of PHI occurs.
  • System Accessibility: Hosting clinical and administrative systems or Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) in the cloud makes the software (along with patient details) available from any location. Hospital staff may log in to such systems while on the go, which helps when a doctor has to complete a critical healthcare task from a remote location or home.
  • Disaster recovery: Storing healthcare records on-premise poses a high risk of irreversible data loss. Such loss can interrupt hospital operations for long, making it difficult for practitioners to give their patients the best care. Cloud computing provides multiple storage options that hospitals may quickly turn to and access their healthcare records in case of the breakdown or breach of their primary data centers.

Why HIPAA Should Not Deter Your From Storing Your PHI in the Cloud

How to Create Better Security Around Cloud Storage

Electronic health records, including patient names and image files such as X-ray and CT Scans, constitute sensitive healthcare data. So storing the data in the cloud requires encryption as the first line of defense against security breaches. Also, the use of multiple encryption keys (rather than only one) enhances cloud storage security by keeping the data inaccessible in case one of the keys is breached. Equally helpful are decoy techniques that direct attackers to unimportant, non-sensitive content in the cloud while keeping genuine information safe.

Hospitals may also achieve better healthcare data security through:

  • Access control protocols: These are for user identification, authorization, and authentication. The controls allow system access to only users with the right log-in credentials, such as passwords or biometric scans.
  • Firewalls: A Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) firewall protects data  transmitted between applications in the cloud. It provides a robust security perimeter around the cloud infrastructure, preventing intrusion through both on-premise computers and mobile devices.
  • Antimalware: It detects and stops computer programs designed to gain illegal access into the hospital network to cause damage.     

Hybrid Data Storage: How to Integrate On-Premises Healthcare System With Cloud-Based Solutions

Caregivers who are not ready for a complete shift to the cloud may use a hybrid solution as a transition strategy. In that case, they'll have to integrate their on-premise systems with their cloud-based storage options. They can do it in one of the following ways:

  • Deploy in-house and cloud storage replicas to boost fault tolerance levels
  • Move some of the data to the cloud and store the more current or frequently accessed data in-house. Healthcare organizations may also choose to keep images and other bandwidth-intensive data on-premise for quicker access. Security and privacy concerns may also dictate the type of data a hospital is willing to store in the cloud.
  • Store all the medical records in-house, but host all software in the cloud. There has to be a secure connection between the cloud server and the on-premise hospital database for the strategy to work without exposing PHI to risk.

How to Address Data Compliance Concerns in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations should work closely with their cloud providers to secure their electronic PHI at rest and in transit according to regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The two parties should agree on user authorization and authentication controls to minimize the risk of data loss and inadvertent disclosure. IT chiefs, compliance teams, and their cloud service should review all applicable regulations to develop an effective PHI security policy.

Under HIPAA, a covered entity should have a written BAA with the party creating, receiving, maintaining, or transmitting their PHI. A hospital should ensure that this deal stipulates the rights and roles of each party regarding the handling of sensitive patient information.

Storing your healthcare records in the cloud has many benefits, including stronger PHI security and quicker access to patient information from all locations. Get in touch with us to learn more about robust and secure cloud-based storage options!  

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