Hospital CIO embraces hosted cloud storage

Many healthcare organizations are leery of cloud storage, but the solution can make sense as the data they're keeping proliferates.

Virtua, a 1,178-bed provider organization, based in Marlton, N.J., is among those who have adopted a private cloud of hosted solutions.

Tom Gordon, senior vice president and CIO of Virtua, backs the application service provider (ASP) model for his risk-averse organization, which operates its own data center for production data and disaster recovery, according to a Healthcare Informatics article.

Hosted solutions offer definite economies of scale in shared bandwidth and staff to monitor the equipment, and applications can be deployed quickly. Virtua treats its vendors as partners. Gordon says it sets a high bar in evaluating vendors and offers these tips for making the right selection.

  • Vet thoroughly. Virtua requires vendors to fill out an extensive questionnaire covering data divorce, auditing, encryption audits and other issues.
  • Make best practices a two-way street. It's important for vendors to understand the business associate requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other regulations.
  • Have an iron-clad contract. Vendors of hosted solutions must have redundant disaster recovery and production data backup solutions, with the ability to replicate data. Virtua's contracts include penalties for unplanned downtime

Unplanned data center downtime cost healthcare organizations $689,912 in 2013, according to a new survey from the Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power. The increasing value of business operations supported by data centers is driving that cost up.

Virtua operates its own health information exchange (HIE)--about a million transactions a month--with the data stored in its data center. Overall, it's experiencing 70-percent year over year growth in clinical data. The organization is in the early stages of an information lifecycle management (ILM) project to determine the types of data it needs to store and for how long to remain in regulatory compliance.

Beyond ensuring security, a strategic plan for migration of data to the cloud is essential, Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recently offered among the lessons from its move to cloud data storage.

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