3 cloud concerns for hospital IT execs

The healthcare industry has been slow to adopt cloud technology due to security, compliance and cost issues, among others, according to a recent report from iHT2.

In the paper, "Answers to Healthcare Leaders' Cloud Questions," iHT2 looks at barriers that prevent cloud adoption.

Here's what the paper says about three cloud issues facing providers:

  • Security: The industry lags when it comes to security, and cloud systems have seen breaches of their own, according to the study. In the iHT2 report, Luis Taveras, CIO of Barnabas Health in West Orange, New Jersey, says that while he sees advantages in the technology, concerns remain regarding security, including who has access to patient data and whether it will be encrypted. Jeff Pearson, vice president and CIO at Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics in Tyler, Texas, tells iHT2 that he sees a rising level of comfort with cloud security among healthcare executives, but notes that "you have to worry that it you make a poor choice of a cloud vendor, your organization is still going to suffer."
  • Compliance: Staying HIPAA complaint also is a concern for healthcare organizations. Some cloud vendors say they have HIPAA-compliant data centers, but many smaller ones do not run their own centers, David Reis, CISO and vice president of IT governance at Lahey Health in Burlington, Massachusetts, tells iHT2. One HIPAA Omnibus rule in particular--the deadline for which is weeks away--is a major change to privacy regulations. Under the rule, business associates and subcontractors that work with covered entities now are accountable for privacy and security of personal health information. The rule specifically defines cloud services as business associates, according to the report.
  • Cost: While for an organization there may be more upfront costs when purchasing their own system, the long-term cost of having data hosted in the cloud can be similar or even higher, providers say, according to the report. However, Reis, of Lahey Health, adds that there is a little-noticed cost factor that discourages some institutions from employing cloud services. "Most cloud services are by subscription, and subscription fees come out of our operating budget," he says. He adds that paying monthly fees to cloud vendors limits the amount of money available to cover other expenses, such as for staff and training.

Despite the concerns, surveys show a trend toward increasing acceptance of the technology, iHT2 concludes.

And, in fact, hospital IT executives increasingly are turning to the cloud to lower maintenance costs while trying to meet their growing technology needs, according to a June survey by HIMSS Analytics.

To learn more:
- download the report