The development of cloud-based systems, from the Internet of Things (IoT) to standard software-based matter, has led to a great many advances and useful technologies for all manner of businesses. While healthcare businesses are certainly included, they need to be mindful of the security risks that come with the benefits. So how can the benefits be enjoyed while healthcare security itself is protected? There are a few basic points to keep in mind.
What are the Benefits of Cloud-based Systems for Healthcare?
Cloud-based systems offer a wide range of benefits for users, not only within the business' confines, but outside the operation as well.
One of the cloud's greatest abilities for healthcare is in its capability to monitor. Monitor what? Monitor just about anything, really. From patient vitals to patient locations to environmental factors like humidity and temperature and beyond, cloud-based systems are commonly a major part of monitoring.
That same monitoring also works off-campus as well; consider the possibilities of sending patients home to recover, yet still being able to control the conditions almost as well as in a hospital. Further consider the ability to tell when someone's in a room, and control heat and lights accordingly. Take these factors and add them together, and the end result is cost savings that are generated with the use of cloud-based systems.
Consider how much time is spent daily looking up patient information in order to know how to treat that patient. Now imagine what happens if every patient's records are immediately available from an interface like a tablet computer. As fast as you would look up a recipe at home, you could look up information about any patient in a hospital, and without having to go from a patient's room to a central storage repository to get any further information.
Doctors talk. Nurses talk. Most any healthcare provider talks to other healthcare providers about operational methods and methods of patient care. Being able to share these methods back and forth allows for further development, improved care, and better patient outcomes.
Those who work with third-party contractors know how important it is to have information to those contractors and their related firms. A cloud-based system makes this data accessible, and not just to the third parties. It also works to give employees that same access if they need to move from place to place, or need to work entirely off-campus for some reason.
Decreased risk of hacking
Contrary to popular belief, security in the cloud is a benefit, not a risk. Because cloud service providers that serve healthcare organizations are HIPAA-compliant, they will have protected facilities that include a single point of entry, biometric authentication, and multiple power and data redundancies -- all of which protect your information. Compare this cloud-based structure to hosting data at your own site where most healthcare companies cannot afford to invest in security on the level of Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud.
What Risks Does the Cloud Pose to Healthcare?
As you likely noticed, the primary benefit from cloud-based systems is the ability to share information out quickly and where it needs to be. Basic healthcare security, though, requires an understanding of the risk.
Civil / criminal penalties
Since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has specific rules related to the protection of patient data, a cloud-based system can leave healthcare operations more exposed and thus in violation of these rules. Penalties can follow accordingly without due diligence in maintaining these expectations, and these include both fines and jail time.
Loss of face
Healthcare businesses are still, at their core, businesses. Without a proper devotion to healthcare security, customers—otherwise known as patients—will trust your business less and be less likely to return in the future. One study found that up to a third of customers in healthcare will stop doing business with a breached organization.
The average cost of a data breach, according to the Ponemon Institute, is $3.62 million. While these numbers are different everywhere, every breach costs something, whether it's in lost opportunity, lost business, or actual spending required to recover from the breach.
How Can Healthcare Best Use Cloud-based Systems Safely?
Maintaining healthcare security is vital to getting the most out of cloud-based systems.
Engage in careful review
The addition of cloud-based systems should be gradual, and carefully considered, before put in to place. Since cloud systems often require new infrastructure to run properly—new connectivity, new endpoints and the like—their adoption must be deliberate in order to be used safely.
Don't forget the basics
Some of the strongest security precautions are the most basic.
- Avoid potential phishing attacks by not opening email attachments.
- Use strong passwords instead of simple-to-remember passwords, and work to memorize them as best you're able to prevent an inadvertent paper trail.
- Keep up with updates and patches to ensure systems are properly protected.
By doing these things, you prevent many common approaches for hackers and improve your healthcare security.
Call in the experts
It's tempting to use the current IT department as an IT security department as well, but don't fall prey to that temptation. A dedicated IT security arm will be better focused on protection, and able to engage in the necessary behaviors dictated by regulators' demands.
How Do I Get Started Using Cloud Systems Safely? If the benefits of cloud-based systems sound good to you, but you know how important healthcare security really is, then the best of both worlds can be had by getting in touch with us at UTG. We understand the specific needs of the healthcare industry, and can offer not only cloud services, but also security and compliance services to help keep your cloud use safe.