Healthcare News & Insights

Get ready for the biggest cloud computing risks: 3 keys

Many health care organizations are turning to cloud computing for EHR systems or other health IT. But are providers prepared to deal with the risks? 

Cloud-based EHRs can help health care organizations, especially smaller providers, reap the benefits of EHRs and other health IT systems that may be too costly when hosted on-premises. However, many organizations are concerned about the security of data that’s stored in the Cloud.

Cloud computing security is a significant danger, but there may be a different risk health care organizations should pay even more attention to: outages that lead to data loss.

For firms in all industries, losing data in the Cloud is more likely than having data leaked or stolen by cyber criminals, says Gartner cloud computing security analyst Jay Heiser. While there have been very few known instances of data being breached at a cloud computing provider, Heiser cites several major outages over the past two years involving Amazon, Carbonite and others, which in some cases left data unrecoverable.

And, of course, if the data in question is patients’ electronic health records, losing that information permanently or even temporarily can have serious consequences and threaten patient safety.

Providers still turn to cloud computing

Despite the risks, cloud computing is gaining popularity in health care. While 33% of health care organizations are currently using at least one cloud-based service, an additional 48% say they plan to use cloud computing services in the future, according to an April poll from Healthcare IT News.

What can those providers do to minimize the risk of a vendor outage having a serious impact on their operations? Experts recommend:

  • Have a back-up plan in place for when there’s a vendor outage and services aren’t available, as recently happened during an outage at a major cloud-based EHR vendor. That means having an alternate process for all tasks that use the Cloud, and training staff so they know the procedures before a problem occurs.
  • Make sure data is backed up. For mission critical-data like EHRs, many providers make their own backups to keep on site in case a cloud-based EHR system becomes unavailable. Data should also be backed up in case the cloud-hosted information is lost.
  • When choosing a vendor, investigate its reliability. That includes making sure the service level agreement includes an appropriate up-time guarantee, as well as checking with vendor references about how outages and other problems have been handled.

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