3 Steps to Ensure Healthcare Data Availability in the Cloud

3 Steps To Ensure Healthcare Data Availability In The Cloud
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Manuel W. Lloyd

Last updated November 21, 2016


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In 2013, major companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft experienced outages. Not only were these big name outages disruptive to users, they made headlines and proved to be costly to each brand. Google’s hiccup footed an estimated bill of $500,000 while Amazon’s 30-40 minute blackout contributed to roughly $3 million in losses.

2013 was also the year the healthcare industry embraced cloud computing, thanks to modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement, and Breach Rules. With these amendments extending the definition of a Business Associated (BA) to cloud service providers, many of the data breach concerns that had previously kept the healthcare sector from taking to the cloud have been quieted.

But as more patient health data is electronic and residing in a virtual environment, the availability of this data is just as important, if not more important, than securing it.

Unlike Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, the disastrous effects of data outages in the healthcare sector can have potentially deadly consequences.

Not only is high uptime mandatory in a healthcare cloud, business continuity and disaster recovery

(BCDR) plans are also crucial. The good news is the cloud’s virtualized infrastructure, coupled with the expertise and cloud monitoring of a trusted Managed Service Provider (MSP) will help healthcare organizations maintain uptime and reliability. 

Here are three helpful steps:

Risk Assessments Are Absolutely Necessary

While risk assessments are critical to protecting patient health information, a 2012 audit conducted by the Office of Civil Rights revealed that many healthcare entities and contracted service providers fail to perform them. These evaluations must be conducted regularly and require an honest assessment of probable risks ranging from malicious cybercrime attacks to acts of nature such as natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, and power outages. Analyze both the architectural vulnerabilities about data availability and security as well as the effectiveness of the counteractive measures in place. The goal is to minimize the likely impact of such an event and prevent service disruption. 

Proactively Monitor for Cybercrime 

It is often months before a security breach is detected. By this time, hackers have had ample time to infiltrate your system and feast on its data. Since cybercriminals use an unpredictable array of methods to strike, such as viruses, malware, and phishing schemes to steal credentials, the strength of your detection system is critical. Alerts should be set up to identify anomalies such as unusual application requests, forced entry attempts, suspicious spikes in traffic, and abnormal data patterns that suggest a breach. The proactive monitoring tools available through an MSP can help scan, pinpoint, and remediate such attacks.

Assess Downtime Tolerance

Any BCDR plan must be built upon your organization’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). Your RTO is the duration of time in which your service level must be restored to avoid dire consequences. Your RPO is the maximum age of the recoverable files in storage to resume normal operations. An MSP can help determine the optimal scenario for your healthcare organization and prioritize the most critical health care information with near real-time replication.

Through this preparation and foresight, your organization can lay the groundwork to not only protect healthcare information in the cloud but potentially save patients’ lives in the event of an unforeseen outage.

About the Author

Founder and entrepreneurial Virtual CIO of Manuel W. Lloyd Consulting, the author specializes in IT service operational efficiency for healthcare organizations. Manuel honed his skills in the USMC directly for President Ronald Reagan at Camp David.


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