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5 Tips For Sending Health Data To Cloud

Health IT managers are reluctant to use cloud computing for data storage, says Iron Mountain exec Ken Rubin. Here's his advice for smart handling of health data.
5 Key Elements For Clinical Decision Support Systems
5 Key Elements For Clinical Decision Support Systems
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Recent research on cloud computing in healthcare suggests that many IT managers are reluctant to store critical patient-related data in a cloud-computing environment. With this in mind, one healthcare executive from information management firm Iron Mountain is prodding health CIOs to take a second look at the technology.

Ken Rubin, senior vice president and general manager for Iron Mountain's healthcare division, understands that CIOs have many concerns as they develop a robust IT infrastructure that lets clinicians access data quickly, while ensuring that the system helps the organization meet its obligations under the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules.

Although the findings of a recent study from KLAS found that the healthcare market has seen little adoption of cloud technology for critical data such as electronic health records (EHRs), patient accounting, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, Rubin believes health IT managers can learn to appreciate the benefits of cloud computing once they begin using the technology.

[ For more background on e-prescribing tools, see 6 E-Prescribing Vendors To Watch. ]

Rubin offered five tips:

1. Get to know your data. The cloud is ideal for archiving and backing up your tier-two and tier-three data. Figure out which data you need instant access to; that will be the data that is worth the higher-cost on-site storage. Send the rest of the data to the cloud, where it's still easily accessible but at a lower cost. You need only two years of data in your cache and the rest can be archived. Segmenting your data and applying information lifecycle rules and concepts will reduce your costs without compromising accessibility.

2. Make sure you have encryption in transit and at rest. You can't afford a patient-data privacy breach or risk falling out of compliance with HIPAA data-privacy standards.

3. Make sure you can move your data in large quantities. Your cloud provider should have the capability to move large quantities of data without chewing up your bandwidth and compromising performance. When dealing with terabytes of data--whether you are moving to, or withdrawing it from, the cloud--you don't want to degrade system performance because your bandwidth is overwhelmed when data is moved from one system to another.

4. Make sure your cloud can handle multiple applications. Once you start using the cloud, you'll want to use it for more types of data--clinical, imaging, operational, and so on. Make sure your cloud platform can accommodate multiple applications such as a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), and that it can scale to accommodate these large data volumes.

5. Choose a vendor you trust: Think about a multi-year or decades-long solution. The vendor you select should be financially viable and committed to the business; you don't want to be moving data around every couple of years. Focus less on features and functions and more on reliability, viability, and trust. Pay attention to service-level agreements (SLAs) for uptime, access, and response times. Weigh all of this and focus specifically on the systems value, not price, as you assess those factors that will deliver the benefits of your cloud investment. Price is important, but less so than reliability, security, and knowing that your data is available when you need it.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)