Healthcare costs are constantly on the rise, and healthcare organizations are struggling to preserve the expected level of services of care with the ever growing costs to maintain them. One of the most important items in this era is keeping patient data accurate and available, even as it grows exponentially. New IT technologies, such as cloud-based services, that provide a way to comply with privacy and security requirements, are also helping healthcare organizations do more with less. In this guest post, Saimon Michelson, chief architect of a software company that provides secure and unified platform that allows enterprise IT to address the full continuum of enterprise file services, takes a look at several ways edge-to-cloud storage can benefit hospitals and healthcare centers.
Healthcare organizations embarking on a cloud business transformation can develop a secure and unified platform for managing patient information while still realizing significant cost savings.
Protecting patient data
Patient data, contained in EMRs (electronic medical records) and EHRs (electronic health records), requires management. This data must be stored and protected. And information is everywhere – dispersed at numerous, distributed remote locations in file servers and on endpoint devices like smartphones and laptops.
This never before seen increase in patient data is driven by the adoption of new digital technologies like sensors and wearables, combined with HIPAA required data retention requirements of six years. The only way to keep this data available is with technology that possesses elastic file storage capacity. This is how we have landed on the doorstep of scalable cloud storage with healthcare organizations needing to migrate from inflexible local file storage.
Healthcare cyberattack remediation
Healthcare has been a prime target for cyberattacks. Hospitals and other healthcare providers still find themselves vulnerable to hackers because of old, legacy IT systems and antiquated security tools.
This vulnerability is reflected in the ransomware attacks against healthcare institutions in recent years where the attack locks down a hospital’s IT systems. While the attack is in progress, hospitals lose access to their vital digital assets. In several instances, hospitals were forced to utilize pen and paper for record-keeping.
Remediating an attack, with full data restoration, can take days or weeks. Instead, many hospitals prefer to pay the cyberattacker. Last year, Hancock Regional Hospital (Indiana) paid $55,000 to restore encrypted files.
Healthcare organizations with modern data backup and disaster recovery systems were able to handle these attacks without data compromise and without paying the ransom.
HIPAA legislation pertaining to the privacy of medical records mandates the placement of both physical and electronic safeguards to guarantee secure passage, maintenance and reception of protected health information (PHI). HIPAA requires that patient information be governed with strict data security and confidentiality. Healthcare providers must securely store sensitive files in an on-premises data center, private cloud or virtual private cloud, to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Complying with these regulations is extremely difficult, as files residing on users’ workstations, laptops, mobile devices and departmental servers across the organization exist and must be corralled. A centralized approach to storing, managing and protecting files is what’s required.
Digital healthcare benefits from edge-to-cloud
Today, most healthcare data is created at the edge by medical professionals and Internet of Things-enabled devices. By storing and processing this data where it’s created, organizations can reduce the time and bandwidth overhead involved in retrieving this information from the cloud. An advantage of storage at the edge is data availability during a network outage. Edge-to-cloud file services support healthcare providers in their efforts to manage data securely and efficiently, while allowing that data to be instantly available.
Imagine a mobile app that enables physicians to access files securely wherever they are, with the information they need securely stored in their hospital’s data center. If a user loses or damages their laptop, patient data remain safe within the organization. Physicians can now have access to the files they need, anytime or anywhere and the ability to upload images to the cloud. Rather than the inconvenience of sending large images as email attachments, users can upload files to the cloud and send a secure hyperlink, as needed.
Cloud-based management of unstructured data – wherever it resides – brings to healthcare users a wide view into patient health from a single, secure source. The management of endpoint apps, cloud gateways and applications running in the cloud, provides wide insight and control over organizational data. Data management and service orchestration tasks include monitoring, data protection, file sync and share, provisioning and alerts. This component should support role-based access control and event logging, to ensure data sovereignty.
As healthcare providers continue their digital transformation initiatives, secure edge-to-cloud file services will offer real advantage over traditional file storage, modernizing branch office file storage, while maintaining the highest levels of compliance. Digital transformation supports healthcare providers in their quest to reduce storage costs, total cost of ownership, while improving efficiency and the end user experience.
Saimon Michelson is chief architect of CTERA, a software company that provides a secure and unified platform that allows enterprise IT to address the full continuum of enterprise file services from edge to cloud.