Author: Matt Ferrari
Co-Founder & Former CTO
Storing and Managing Healthcare Data in the Cloud
It doesn’t seem that long ago that electronic health data tended to roll in on gentle, manageable waves. Not anymore. Thanks to the growth of electronic health records and a multitude of electronic medical devices, healthcare organizations are being flooded by data from every direction. Ultimately, this is an enormous positive, as it makes interoperability—defined as the meaningful exchange of consumable data—truly feasible.
But before this can happen, a fundamental decision must be made: where exactly to store it all?
Big Data brings big challenges
The challenges of where—and also how—to store data, while assuring its easy availability, aren’t exactly new. In fact, they’ve been present ever since the healthcare industry began its transition from paper-based to electronic information. But now it’s a matter of huge scale, speed and variety. Data is coming in so fast and exponentially now, IT departments often quickly become overwhelmed.
This in itself should disprove the prevailing mantra “storage is cheap.” Obviously, it’s really not with so much more data coming in. Especially healthcare data, with its mounting costs to maintain HIPAA compliance, to secure and encrypt protected health information, and to keep backup and disaster security measures in place. There are also the added costs of organizing the data for quickly availability in analytics applications —an increasing (and increasingly expensive) responsibility for healthcare IT departments.
The HIPAA-compliant cloud data center
A healthcare dedicated, cloud provider can help calm the storm of overpowering data. First, no matter how strong the flow of data, cloud storage can easily expand and scale to contain it. This is in stark contrast to the time-consuming effort of procuring and installing physical storage infrastructure internally. In essence, organizations can purchase capacity as they need it and have it instantly available, making what was once an unpredictable capital outlay an easier-to-budget operational expense.
This is an ideal time for a reminder that we’re discussing healthcare information—which is more tightly regulated than almost any other industry. It’s also more fluid and difficult to manage than data from industries such as retail or manufacturing. Accordingly, a cloud provider that focuses exclusively on the healthcare industry can provide an extra measure of assurance that data security will conform to the most rigorous industry and government compliance.
Specifically, this provider will have the systems, the knowledge and other healthcare-centric resources to secure protected health information in-transit and once in the data house. Backup and disaster recovery services will also be available. And perhaps most importantly for effective population health management, a healthcare-exclusive provider will understand how data is used by healthcare organizations—and store and manage it with these considerations always in mind.
Ride the wave
You can’t stop an actual tsunami, but you can prepare for it. And working with a secure, health-dedicated cloud services provider, you can ride the wave of Big Health Data all the way to true interoperability.
Interested in this topic? Read about how machine learning is helping us get smarter at healthcare.