Cloud Computing in Healthcare: Benefits & Risks

Doctor typing on computer in medical office

Healthcare organizations are adopting cloud technology at a rapid rate. The implementation of cloud computing across the sector has brought significant benefits including reduced costs, tightened security, and improved patient care.

Learn why hospitals and other healthcare facilities are embracing the cloud and the risks and barriers your organization should be aware of before migrating to the cloud.

Things to know about Cloud Computing in Healthcare:

  1. What is Cloud Computing?
  2. 7 Benefits of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
  3. Risks of Cloud Migration in Healthcare
  4. Realizing the Benefits of Cloud in Healthcare

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of different computing services over the internet, including databases, software, servers, and analytics. Instead of maintaining physical data centers and servers, you access storage & computing power as needed from a cloud provider.

7 Benefits of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

The greatest benefits healthcare organizations can realize from migrating to the cloud are:

  1. Reduced costs
  2. Increased accessibility of patient data
  3. Tightened security
  4. Greater collaboration through greater accessibility
  5. Improved patient experience
  6. Enabled AI and ML
  7. Enhanced telemedicine offerings

Reduced costs

Cloud computing is cost-efficient. Instead of organizations being responsible for deploying and maintaining large on-premise systems, cloud solutions enable your organization to reduce its data storage costs.

Cloud providers will manage the administration and maintenance of data storage services, reducing your organization’s equipment and IT infrastructure costs and enabling you to redirect those funds where it matters most: providing your patients with the best care possible.

Furthermore, the security offered by cloud storage services ensures your organization is less likely to face up to eight-figure fines from violating HIPAA and other frameworks.

Increased accessibility of patient data

The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) data standard, the 21st Century Cures Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have all played critical roles in making the standardization of data in the healthcare industry an expectation and requiring healthcare organizations to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic medical records (EMRs).

With EMRs in the cloud, healthcare providers can easily share data and access the data they need when they need it.

Tightened security

During the times when paper medical records were used, these records were at great risk of data theft or damage. Records could be easily lost, stolen, or destroyed in an event such as a fire. This put patient safety, privacy and confidentiality at significant risk.

When healthcare facilities began transitioning to EMRs, this risk was reduced but not eliminated. On-site electronic data storage proved beneficial, but still required a staff of IT professionals with deep expertise in data security to ensure patient records remained protected.

Today, an increasing number of healthcare organizations outsource their data storage to cloud storage services. These cloud providers follow strict requirements for data privacy and security, ensuring your organization is compliant with HIPAA and your data storage method will keep your patients’ highly sensitive data secure.

Greater collaboration through greater accessibility

Historically, patients often had separate medical records at each doctor, specialist, or other provider they visited.

The adoption of cloud computing in hospitals and healthcare facilities makes it easier for doctors to collaboratively view and share a patient’s medical records, see updates to these records in real-time, and provide treatment based on comprehensive information about past experiences the patient had with other care providers.

Improved patient experience

Cloud technologies not only empower doctors with the information they need when they need it, but also patients. Cloud computing can give patients real-time access to medical information, lab testing reports, and doctors’ notes, allowing them to better manage their health.

The sharing of information between healthcare facilities that is made possible by cloud computing also ensures patient safety. Doctors can gain insights into interactions between the patient and other doctors and providers, including medications the doctors prescribed and tests they administered.

This protects a patient from being over-prescribed medications and being subjected to unnecessary testing they have already completed at other locations.

Enabled AI and ML

Cloud platforms process massive datasets from diverse sources. In turn, this data fuels machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), which can optimize a healthcare organization’s operations and improve efficiency.

AI can analyze the large volumes of medical data stored in the cloud, including patient records, lab results, and medical images, to identify patterns, make predictions about potential diagnoses, and recommend appropriate treatments based on that analysis.

AI can also help healthcare providers by analyzing the extensive data in the cloud to identify patients who may be at a greater risk for certain health conditions, allowing for earlier intervention and more proactive treatment.

Enhanced telemedicine offerings

The COVID-19 pandemic caused demand for telehealth to skyrocket. Fears of catching and spreading the virus during in-person medical visits drove greater interest in providing and receiving healthcare through technology.

Thanks to telehealth benefits such as convenience, cost savings, and an increase in the diversity of populations served by healthcare organizations in terms of ability, geography, and economic status, the desire for the technology remains today.

The remote accessibility of secure data provided by cloud computing strengthens and scales a healthcare organization’s telemedicine capabilities.

Risks of Cloud Migration in Healthcare

The above benefits of cloud computing are undoubtedly appealing. However, cloud computing in healthcare can also pose risks and challenges, including:

  1. Lack of experts
  2. Security risks
  3. Change management
  4. Privacy and compliance

Lack of experts

Migrating to the cloud requires a deep level of expertise and technological proficiency that is not always found within healthcare organizations.

You need technology experts with the right knowledge and skills to build your cloud infrastructure, manage your transition, and ensure your business takes full advantage of the benefits of the cloud.

Security risks

One of the cloud’s most appealing benefits – the ease of data sharing – is also one of its greatest risks, as it creates serious concerns about the potential for data loss or leaks.

It’s important to keep in mind the notion of shared responsibility — even though an organization’s applications are in the cloud, it’s still up to the organization to secure them. Cloud providers are responsible for physical security and machine-level updates, while application owners are responsible for managing user authentication and overall access to the application and its data.

Change management

Like any shift in technology, migrating to the cloud can be a powerful way to uplevel your organization’s capabilities. However, in order to ensure the change sticks and your investment is worthwhile, you need to incorporate organizational change management into your processes.

OCM works to maximize adoption within your organization and minimize resistance to the change in processes, technologies, and responsibilities, ultimately ensuring you realize the maximum return on your investment in the cloud.

Privacy and compliance

The responsibility of privacy and compliance lies with both cloud providers and organizations.

It’s critical to maintain rigid and well-defined audit logs and trails and stay on top of the necessary privacy and compliance measures; otherwise, you risk significant non-compliance fines under laws and regulations like HIPAA.

Realizing the Benefits of Cloud in Healthcare

AIM Consulting provides cloud consulting services to help you navigate the investments you should be making in cloud technologies, migrate to cloud platforms, plan for business continuity and disaster recovery, and leverage cloud-based automation tools like AWS Pipeline for CI/CD.

Our flexible engagement model allows us to deliver from strategy to implementation to maintenance in ways that make the most sense for you and your business.

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