The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enacted in 1996 is the governing legislation. It stipulates that the privacy of patient records can never be compromised under any circumstances. But, the HIPAA omnibus and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act mandate that the health care industry must migrate patient records to the Cloud. Failure to utilize electronic records will attract penalties under these acts.
While the compulsion to migrate is a given, the Cloud migration process can be daunting. First, the data to be migrated is voluminous and second, health care professionals are, as yet, uncertain of the security of Cloud based computing systems.
However, the Cloud is evolving, Cloud vendors are conscious that healthcare professionals need help migrating their data and have devised several ways of ensuring that the data is seeded into the Cloud at their data center using customer-shipped tapes or disks. Many Cloud service providers are building strict security systems in compliance with extant regulatory mandates like SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. They ensure that data is encrypted, backed up redundantly, and made highly available for access and recovery. Permission based data access is automatically enforced.
Health care services adopting Cloud computing benefit from the scalability of Cloud solutions. The steadily burgeoning patient data quickly consumes space and there is a persistent and consistent need to acquire additional storage space. The need to retain data for at least a period of six years further compounds the problem. Cloud storage can be scaled up on demand and health care organizations can requisition for more storage as and when the need for additional space arises.
Cloud computing reduces the costs of maintaining IT infrastructures and software. The organization no longer has to purchase capital intensive IT hardware and meet costs of software licensing. The number of IT personnel engaged in maintaining the IT infrastructure can also be reduced to a bare minimum. The IT expertise available with the vendor can be used instead for maintenance and management of IT infrastructure and for any kind of troubleshooting.
Easy access to patient information over the Internet results in cost savings for patients. Patients do not end up paying for the same tests twice even when they go to other healthcare organizations for their medical needs.
Health care professionals racing against time, hail the mobility of Cloud based databases as an answer to their prayers. The professionals can review patient information on the go or during leisure hours from the comfort of their homes. They can utilize the time saved in providing high levels of quality service to their patients. They can also remain connected with their patients at all times of the day.