Your Life Is In the Cloud
As far back as the ’70s, people were predicting that we’d one day be working in paperless offices. I believed in it so much that one of my earliest business adventures established high volume document imaging and indexing for aerospace and media companies. While many places of business still haven’t quite ditched paper, we are increasingly moving toward a world where we use computers and other digital devices to create, manipulate, search and store data and to communicate in a global society.
This is readily apparent in the healthcare sector, an area where there’s an accelerated and clear shift away from paper. Every year, more and more healthcare organizations are choosing to employ cloud storage and other cloud-based services. Research shows that more than 80% of medical organizations have already adopted cloud computing. The people behind these organizations clearly recognize the potential of cloud storage and cloud computing.
But What is Cloud Computing?
In the early days, we referred to it as a computer server, online and accessible anywhere an internet connection could be found. Data is not stored locally on your hard disk, rather it is stored on a network drive on the Internet. Some refer to the Cloud as the Internet; others refer to the Internet as the Cloud.
Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive.
More advanced descriptions and features of cloud computing include resource sharing and expansion. Rather than accessing a single server, horsepower (CPU + Storage Space) can be increased or decreased dynamically or on demand.
Some of the advantages of cloud computing include: accessing your data from anywhere, with any connected device- mobile, tablet or computer, sharing information more easily and finding data more quickly.
Enter Big Data
Data analytics is one of the areas where we can see some of the strongest benefits that come from cloud storage and similar cloud-based services. Through the technology, patient data (anonymized or authorized) can be shared with large groups of experts. It can also be shared with computer analytic software capable of providing calculations that can save the lives of patients and also save the healthcare system money. Some would argue that this is reason enough to introduce cloud storage into a healthcare institution. Imagine the benefit to a pharmaceutical company in receiving real-time feedback on drug efficacy from millions of connected patients. The result is better drugs and proactive interaction, perhaps even lower costs.
Mobility is another big benefit to cloud storage. The data can come from a variety of medical organizations and medical professionals can access the information any time from just about anywhere using a variety of devices. That convenience makes another strong argument in favor of cloud storage. In the past, we mined for precious metals. Today we mine Big Data for precious insights.
The use of Cloud makes it simple for patients to access their full medical history. In addition, it helps to reduce the time it takes to make a diagnosis. It also makes it easier for physicians to provide people with remote consultations and in turn, tend to more people than would have been possible in the past. This new field of private data sharing is markedly different that the common public social sharing phenomenon.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Security is a concern when it comes to cloud storage. However, some would argue that forming an IT infrastructure that uses cloud storage actually offers an extra layer of protection. Local solutions that are based on physical servers need to be kept in secure server rooms, but cloud storage already provides an insulated environment. This is valuable to healthcare organizations that have already had problems with lost or compromised data.
HIPAA defined the requirements for organizations to provide secure access and protection of personally identifiable health data. Once Congress passed this act in 1996, it added a level of security and assurance to cloud computing, particularly when health data is being stored. In Canada, we have a similar law named the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or PIPEDA.
My Life is in the Cloud
Personally, I’m comfortable knowing that my health data is accessible and available 24×7, anywhere I go. I can check my fitness progress with a mobile app from FitBit. I can check my heart rate, ECG and other vitals wearing my cloud-connected Hexoskin top. I can monitor my medications and receive reminders from my RxPense device. I can even send my emergency medical information to my physician, or have him/her receive alerts when one of my vitals becomes critical. I can push a button and have a telemedicine session all because I’m connected to the cloud. My Healthcare organization is also smarter in providing treatment, based on the big data analysis of thousands of patients with similar conditions. So what’s the end result? Hopefully, it’s a longer, more productive and fulfilling life! Better outcomes for all.