Practices and hospitals differ over safety of cloud-based data

While hospitals believe off-site storage can put information at risk, practices see it as a way of making their files more secure.

By — Posted Jan. 11, 2012

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A large number of health care organizations are looking to cloud computing to improve costs and efficiencies, even though some have concerns about data privacy and security.

A survey of 97 health care organizations by Orem, Utah-based marketing research firm KLAS found that 71% of health care organizations were deploying or planned to deploy a cloud-based solution. The survey was released in December 2011.

Respondents' reasons for wanting to move to the cloud, and their plans for using it, varied by organization size.

The report found stand-alone organizations such as physician practices were interested in hooking into a cloud-based electronic medical record system hosted and located at a larger organization. They saw cost and security benefits in doing so.

The report quoted a physician from a large stand-alone practice as saying, "I am generally scared that I will lose my data. But if it's in the cloud, I know it is more secure. I can see why physicians who have their own practices might all want to use cloud solutions. Then they wouldn't have to worry about the security of the data on-site in their office."

Hospitals, on the other hand, are concerned that cloud technology is not advanced enough to make them feel secure about storing patient data there. They "are taking a more cautious, staged approach to adopting the cloud," the report said. Many are looking to a private cloud for various services such as e-mailing and image archiving, rather than public services, such as Google, because of the perceived increase in security associated with a private cloud service.

A February 2010 survey of 565 information technology professionals in several industries, by Mimecast, a cloud-based software vendor, found 32% of health care organizations were using a cloud-based data storage system. Forty-six percent of those considering using one cited security as the main reason for not moving forward; 33% said maturity would help change their minds.

A study published in December 2011 by CompTIA, an information technology industry association, found many health care organizations are unfamiliar with cloud computing. Tim Herbert, vice president of research for CompTIA, said it is likely many organizations are using software-as-a-service applications and don't realize what they are using is considered a cloud-based service.

The same study found 56% of physicians are using smartphones, and 25% are using tablets for work purposes. For many, the ability to access an electronic medical record from a mobile device was a high priority.

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