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Negotiating maximum cloud uptime from service providers
This article is part of the Health IT issue of September 2011
The meaning of the phrase health care cloud is evolving as the U.S. health care system expands its IT infrastructure. It can refer to patient Web portals, radiology image sharing, back-office Software as a Service (SaaS) for insurance billing and accounting applications, even patient care documentation contained in Google Docs and secured with third-party applications such as CloudLock Vault. If federal health IT leaders' dreams come true, it will also include a nationally connected health information exchange within a few years. Right now, however, health care cloud typically refers to just one thing -- Web-based electronic health records (EHR) systems, hosted by a vendor. Regardless of how an organization uses patient data within the cloud, uptime is the key to a successful implementation and continued usability. While some CIOs and physicians have expressed reservations about using cloud vendors, the ones that make the leap typically claim that a vendor's cloud uptime is better than the uptime they could provide themselves. ...
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Before a health care organization contracts with a cloud storage provider, both sides must settle the thorny issues of data ownership, possession, backup and retrieval.
Cloud storage is a viable option for health care entities, but they must address HIPAA compliance, risk assessment and data encryption before contracting with a service provider.
Uptime issues with health care cloud services can lead to HIPAA compliance issues, not to mention lawsuits. To avoid problems, be firm when negotiating service agreements.