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Symantec Finds Clouds are Rolling in for Healthcare

Created: 29 Mar 2011 • Updated: 10 Aug 2011
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by: David Finn, Health IT Officer, Symantec

At HIMSS’ annual conference this year, Symantec sponsored a survey to find out what the forecast is like for the healthcare IT industry. The consensus: cloudy.

In general, the survey showed healthcare providers are beginning to see some of the needs and problems with their current situations.

Of the 568 healthcare professionals who responded to the survey, 55 percent said disaster recovery keeps them up at night. This is understandable since a healthcare system is subject to HIPAA and other legal and regulatory requirements as well as having to support complex infrastructures. What makes the situation worse is that many providers don’t have a solid plan. Of the systems most likely to have full-proof disaster recovery plans, only 31 percent do.

Eighty percent of respondents reported archiving more than one copy of their images, but best practices are being swept under the rug. Only 31 percent of respondents archived according to HIPPA recommendations and best practices. Another third stored archives in a single data center and only slightly more (36 percent) stored archives in datacenters located less than 100 miles apart.

Symantec’s research found that in response to this situation, an increasing number of organizations are turning to the cloud for a solution. Respondents indicated that 56 percent are considering hosted solutions for managing data or applications. Had this survey been conducted last year the number would likely have been considerably less.

Hosted solutions offer an attractive alternative to the healthcare industry. Such solutions ease the burden on in-house IT, which is typically characterized by few people, limited dollars and huge workloads.  These problems are becoming more of an issue, too, as the amount of data stored by providers is rapidly and unceasingly increasing.

Of note, the survey revealed that nine percent of respondents currently use cloud-based vendors for storage. This indicates a few things: healthcare organizations are beginning to understand the cloud; they are starting to see why it’s a good solution with massive storage demands; and they see how the cloud can help with disaster recovery while simultaneously reducing costs.

Still, a few providers aren’t quite sold. The survey showed there are three main concerns from those not considering hosted solutions. First, they aren’t sold on hosted solutions’ security. Forty-three percent of respondents shared this concern, which is a common concern with the cloud. Second, 32 percent of respondents said they aren’t sure about the performance. Providers can’t afford down time, and this is a new solution with which they don’t have experience. The third concern, shared by 31 percent, is the cloud is too costly.

While these concerns are understandable, there are ways to resolve them. For instance, cloud security is becoming more advanced, and access control to protect privacy is possible within a cloud infrastructure. Cloud performance is actually uniquely suited to the complexity of healthcare systems. The numerous users and endpoints can easily collaborate and access the needed information because it’s all in the same place. Finally, cloud costs are often less than traditional storage costs. Providers frequently end up overestimating (and thus overpaying) the amount of storage needed with traditional storage options. For some cloud offerings, providers pay only for what they use.

As healthcare providers learn more about cloud offerings more of them will consider adopting the cloud.