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Jul 21 2011   11:46AM GMT

The health care cloud: Data security opening up mobile possibilities

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
Cloud, Cloud computing, data privacy and security, HIPAA, mHealth, mobile health

Guest post by: Kevin Dodson, Appirio’s Mobile Practice

Generally speaking, doctors have a phobia of moving health care data to places that they can’t physically see or touch. A majority of medical information is still housed in local servers and paper folders or dusty file cabinets. When many medical professionals are asked about moving health care data to the cloud to make information more accessible, a common response is that it’s unsafe.

These medical professionals are overlooking the fact that storing information in the cloud and providing access to it from multiple endpoints is much safer than what they’re already doing. Cloud computing vendors can supply a level of security that hospitals and on-premise software can’t — security from physical loss or theft. This type of physical theft and loss has accounted for 63 percent of all heath record security breaches, affecting more than 500 people. Theft of disks, hardware and laptops from companies and people who hold native information is not an infrequent occurrence.

Let’s say a doctor accidentally leaves his/her laptop on an airplane while travelling to a conference — this laptop that stores personal health information of multiple patients since  in-house software applications are typically downloaded directly onto the device. This is an immediate breach in security, even if the IT department has layered in security on the device. Any security layers installed on the computer are erroneous once in the hands of a hacker.

HIPAA compliant, cloud-based Electronic Health Records (EHRs) can protect users from having to worry about security breaches at the device level. Data access for cloud-based applications require authentication, thus protecting data from being accessed by those granted with authentication. Because security is at the application level and not at the device level, cloud application providers can also instantly “lock-down” data as soon as a device goes missing.

In addition, cloud-based application vendors that house data for hundreds or thousands of customers can also afford (and are highly incented) to implement the highest-quality security procedures, systems and personnel available.

Why is this important? Other than the obvious security benefits, cloud-based health care solutions open up health care providers to a truly mobile world making them more productive and getting them closer to point-of-care with patients. For example, iPads can be used as primary devices for aided patient interaction. iPhones can also be used to quickly reference medical records while the health care professional is off site.  Imagine how this can take patient care to the next level when you have the freedom to access pertinent systems securely from any device…anywhere.

RehabCare deployed mobile devices to staff members in its long-term acute care and rehabilitation hospitals. Using as the cloud application provider and iPhones/iTouches/iPads as the devices, RehabCare was able to access, update and interact with patient information at the point of care, securely providing a more accurate, personal and efficient patient engagement. As you can see from the linked video above, the quality of care was positively impacted because therapists had more time to engage patients.

Now is the time to embrace, not fear, cloud technology as the standard method to access personal health information. Not only is it secure, but it can directly impact the quality of patient care. What’s stopping you from making the move?

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