The cloud has become a ubiquitous term both within and outside of tech circles, and it was only a matter of time before cloud-based applications became a standard, go-to business model for software developers. Providing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to clients promotes a culture of efficiency that catalyzes progress across nearly every industry.
Cloud-based EHRs are typically offered to medical practices as SaaS models to provide web-based access from anywhere a physician can access the Internet.
This is convenient for doctors, who can benefit from paying for use without having to worry about upgrades or server maintenance, resulting in a reallocation of IT operations that drives costs away from hardware/software spending and towards meeting other practice goals.
There are still many misconceptions when it comes to the safety of medical data stored on the cloud, however. For instance, it’s a common belief among many physicians that server-based systems are more secure than cloud-based software, namely due to their immediate proximity of stored data to the provider.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s take a moment to debunk the myths associated with cloud-based EHR security.
Myth #1 – The Cloud is Too Young to Tackle Security Concerns
For years, cloud computing was viewed by the medical industry as a new, unproven technology. Today, though, perceptions have shifted, resulting in the image of a more refined, comprehensive solution.
Cloud computing is an adolescent in terms of calendar years – it’s not a passing fad and therefore should not be dismissed easily. Private, public and hybrid clouds all have a place in today’s business world.
Case in point: millions of people have conducted their banking via secure cloud-based websites and have used web-based systems like the Google apps suite for all kinds of personal and professional correspondence.
In healthcare, the cloud has undeniably cemented its a place within EHRs. A cloud-based EHR offers a plethora of options for protecting patient data — often more than an in-house IT department or budget could ever make possible.
Myth #2 –Data Stored on the Cloud is More Vulnerable
Just because you can’t use your data server as a footrest at your office, doesn’t mean your data is less secure – or even less tangible, for that matter. Web-based EHR systems often store data in high-level storage centers with bank-level security and a minimum of 128-bit encryption methods, per HIPAA’s standards.
Many cloud systems guard you against a security breach by automatically encrypting all data upon receipt. Unlike server-based records that can be read by anyone with access to the server room, encrypted files require a specific code key to read them, rendering the data useless to thieves.
Cloud-based EHRs means users access the system through a web-browser and not software uploaded on office hardware. Therefore, if your office’s computers, tablets, mobile devices or other systems are jeopardized during a natural disaster, you’ll still be able to open your password-protected data from another device.
Myth #3 – Cloud-based Applications are More Vulnerable to Malware and Viruses
If you’ve ever downloaded a malicious file on your computer, you know malware and viruses are real threats. But the good news about cloud-based EHRs is that viruses primarily infect the end-computing device, not cloud-based servers.
To protect against attacks, cloud-hosting vendors hire former hackers to monitor the health of the systems they maintain. Verizon’s Terremark, for instance, thoroughly oversees its system to make sure no one is trying to access its clients’ highly sensitive information.
Terremark’s experts use multi-layer security processes such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems and client logging aggregations to defend patient information from malicious attacks.
Myth #4 –Cloud-Based Software Doesn’t Offer Multi-Level Authentication
With paper and client-server EHRs, anyone working in a clinical practice could potentially access, view and copy protected health information without leaving a trace. With cloud-based electronic data, however, those who access patient files are often easily tracked down.
Login tracking features allow for the source of data breaches to be immediately spotted and stopped. On paper, illegal accessing of files are more difficult to spot. But with cloud-based systems, inappropriate behavior can be immediately flagged and be dealt with accordingly.
A number of high-quality, cloud-based EHRs designate users different levels of access based on their roles within an organization. Assigning tiered levels of duty-specific security clearance to employees makes it easier to prevent data breaches.
This kind of role-based security prevents staff from unwittingly obtaining and altering information that doesn’t pertain to his or her assigned functions, thus adding an additional layer of security to an already protected system.
So while the thought of storing your information in a far-off warehouse may seem unsettling, the truth is it’s never been safer. Ultimately, these types of EHR systems provide users of all sizes the kinds of cloud-based security advantages you’d normally only associate with saved costs and data accessibility. Now it’s up to medical practices to look to the cloud for the most secure health care technology available.
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