The Use of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
What is the “cloud” that technology companies talk about? Why is it important and what does it do?
When companies tell you that your data will be stored in the cloud, they are really telling you that your data will be located on a network of servers instead of locally on your computer. This data is usually accessed through internet browsers, though some companies offer dedicated mobile or web apps designed to streamline access. Popular cloud-based services include Google Drive, Dropbox, and salesforce.com. There are advantages to cloud services such as the ability to access files from any device with an Internet connection, elimination of the fear of running of out of hard drive space, and simultaneous collaboration with colleagues on the same document.
Cloud computing is becoming increasingly beneficial to the healthcare industry. Each of our health profiles is made up of thousands of data points that require a lot of storage space. This “big data” is often too much for one server to manage and expensive for healthcare organizations to support. Cloud computing, gives healthcare professionals access to patient data from anywhere with an Internet connection, enables rapid scaling as datasets get larger, and can dramatically reduce the costs to manage complicated, in-house data-warehousing software. Having access to patient data, anywhere, also enables clinicians to support patients more effectively. Through distributed access, clinicians can collaborate with colleagues quickly, seamlessly sharing data to get to an optimal care decision. With this remote monitoring capability, healthcare professionals can spend more time making treatment decisions and less time faxing records.
Cloud computing also makes it possible for people to receive quality healthcare without stepping a foot into the hospital. With the growth of technology, mobile devices can monitor vitals and keep care teams up-to-date on medical conditions, on-demand. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, can now be monitored by people with diabetes (PWDs), family members, coaches, and care teams remotely, providing support beyond the office visit. Along similar lines, studies suggest that cloud computing may improve self-care and glycemic control in underdeveloped countries around the world.1
Security is a common reason that some organizations resist adopting cloud computing in healthcare. However, maintaining data locally is not definitively safer than the cloud. Strong encryption with password management is one of the core mechanisms that cloud computing systems use to guard against data loss and theft. Most cloud systems replicate data in multiple locations, increasing redundancy and minimizing the risk of losing everything due to system crashes. Also, clouds can reallocate security resources to increase support for defensive measures. Dynamically scaling defensive resources on-demand has clear advantages and can make data access easier and safer.2
Glooko operates in this emerging space: the intersection of cloud computing and protected health information (PHI). Losing data or having it fall into the wrong hands is unacceptable. Fortunately, Glooko is HIPAA compliant and takes multiple measures to prevent breaches in security from occurring. First, the platform is password protected at each level of entry with several levels of authentication. Next, Glooko hosts its platform and REST API’s within a virtual private cloud (VPC) at Amazon Web Services (AWS), which behaves like a stricter security cloud and controls access to the Glooko cloud. Glooko selected AWS based on its extensive set of HIPAA procedures, but also added additional layers of security to further protect PHI. All inbound and outbound traffic are encrypted using secure sockets layer (SSL) so that any data would be useless to hackers. Finally, Glooko regularly subjects itself to vulnerability and penetration testing from third-party agencies to test its security and ensure that PHI is as secure as possible.
Cloud computing is becoming an important component of healthcare and chronic disease management because of its clear advantages both technically and to users. Has your organization started to take advantage of the cloud?
1 Piette, John D. et al. “A Preliminary Study of a Cloud-Computing Model for Chronic Illness Self-Care Support in an Underdeveloped Country.” American journal of preventive medicine 40.6 (2011): 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.02.014. PMC. Web. 20 July 2017.
2 European Network and Information Security Agency ENISA. 2009. [2011-09-08]. Cloud Computing: Benefits, Risks and Recommendations for Information Security http://www.enisa.europa.eu/act/rm/files/deliverables/cloud-computing-risk-assessment.