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Best Practices for Healthcare Data Management in the Cloud

GettyImages-934679414The digitization of the medical industry has brought with it substantial changes that are transforming healthcare settings. Healthcare information technology (IT), for example, has enabled organizations to significantly improve efficiencies and patient outcomes by incorporating advanced data-sharing tools and systems. 

However, while "big data" is playing an important role in improving healthcare systems, it also comes with its challenges. The biggest issue is the management of such large quantities of data and ensuring sensitive information remains secure. Thankfully, cloud computing has emerged as an improved solution to old healthcare data management processes. Cloud-based solutions offer a more convenient and efficient way to accurately and safely handle extensive amounts of data, which can further improve outcomes and decision-making processes. 

With that said, any new technology comes with its risks. While cloud computing offers numerous advantages, it's important to develop an implementation strategy that is carefully designed to avoid unnecessary risks that could set your company back. 


Why the Healthcare Sector Needs Secure Cloud Computing

Cloud computing services have gained rapid popularity for a reason. They are affordable, versatile, and help keep data sharing more organized and secure. With better access to such large quantities of data, it also enables healthcare professionals to make more informed decisions, which can improve patient outcomes. 

While concerns may arise about the security of cloud computing due to its internet-based, off-premises nature, it actually provides advanced security features that significantly bolster the safeguarding of healthcare data. Cloud-based solutions were specifically designed to make data sharing safer and more secure. The security issues arise only when these solutions are not implemented correctly.


Barriers to Cloud Storage Implementation to Keep in Mind

The three main barriers to cloud implementation are security and privacy concerns, regulatory compliance, and downtimes or service interruptions. 

The important thing to remember with any of these challenges is that all of them can be avoided. Any process improvement initiative can fail if the company doesn't have a solid implementation strategy. The issue isn't cloud computing; the problem is knowing how to implement cloud computing effectively. 

For example, most process improvement initiatives often sputter when companies overly complicate the new processes, neglect essential research, lack ownership, fail to communicate details, and ignore employee training. Again, all of these issues can be avoided with the right implementation strategy. 


1. Security privacy concerns

Because cloud services store data in data centers, there are concerns about how that data is kept safe when transferred and stored offsite. This is a valid concern, emphasizing the importance of organizations carefully selecting their cloud providers and implementing secure protocols like encryption and data backups.


2. Regulatory compliance

With so much incoming and outgoing data, ensuring companies stay compliant with data privacy regulations, such as those imposed by HIPAA and GDPR, can be challenging. 


3. Downtimes and service interruptions

Cloud services are not immune to outages and issues that cause downtime. This means patient care could be interrupted when a technical downtime issue arises. 


Practical Risk Avoidance Strategies for Cloud Solution Integration in Healthcare 

The best way for your company to avoid common pitfalls and challenges with cloud computing is to follow these best practices.


1. Evaluate the Needs of Your Company

First, not all cloud services are created equal. It would help if you spent time evaluating your organization's specific needs to determine the right solution. Additionally, understanding your company's needs includes ensuring everyone within the company has what they need to effectively adapt to whatever cloud service you implement. This means communicating the details beforehand and allowing employees time to train and learn the new systems to avoid errors and better prepare them for the transition.


2. Ensure Privacy, Security, and Compliance

When you start researching cloud providers, you must do your due diligence to check their track record and how they handle security issues. Make sure they have a good reputation and are compliant with industry standards and regulations. 

Your team should also use privacy and security best practices when implementing cloud solutions, such as using data encryption, monitoring for breaches and unauthorized access, and restricting who has access to sensitive information. 


3. Invest in Robust Backup Solutions

Investing in backup solutions is critical to avoid issues with outages and service interruptions. This often involves developing an emergency recovery plan to ensure you can still access or recover data and avoid losses or disruptions in patient care. Conducting regular data backups is one of the best ways to do this. 


4. Conduct Regular Assessments and Monitoring

Finally, it's important to regularly assess and monitor your cloud systems to avoid performance issues. Proactive monitoring can ensure issues that could bottleneck performance are identified and addressed before they become a significant problem. Continuous evaluation also ensures your cloud solution and provider meets your organization's evolving needs. 


Final Thoughts

If you currently use digital systems for sharing, transferring, and storing data, it is advisable to transition your existing data management processes to modern cloud solutions. Cloud computing is one of the best ways to improve patient care while ensuring sensitive data remains accessible, secure, and compliant with regulations. 

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About the Author: Miles is an independent writer with a background in business and a passion for tech, healthcare, psychology, news, and simply helping people live happy and fulfilled lives. He has lived and traveled all over the United States and continues to expand his awareness and experiences. When not writing, he is most likely mountain biking or kicking back with a cup of tea.

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