In the Clouds

Cloud computing…yet another new term for this older HIM professional to understand and teach the new generation of HIM professionals-to-be. What on earth, or in the sky, is cloud computing?
In the Clouds
When I was doing research on this, I was reassured to learn that I already use it…I have a Gmail personal email account. Instead of having an email programme on my computer, I log in to a web e-mail account remotely. The software and the storage for my account don’t exist on my computer – they are on the services computer ‘cloud’. This is cloud computing.

Taking this to the big picture, theoretically, instead of having a suite of software on each computer in a health care facility, there would be only one application. That application would allow staff to log into a Web-based service which would host all the programs needed to complete tasks. This web-based server, by definition, could be anywhere in the world, and these servers owned by some company would run everything from e-mail to complex health data analysis programs.

Benefits of Cloud Computing
What benefits are there to cloud computing?

According to Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/centurylink/2013/05/02/why-healthcare-must-embrace-cloud-computing/) Cloud computing and the required infrastructure security are continually evolving to meet the security requirements of health care, and there are several benefits to cloud computing including:

Security: Data is encrypted and securely backed up, data can be easily recovered, and is secure using permission-based access.

Scalability: Facilities can easily size the cloud solution to manage increasing data needs. Clouds can store and manage terabytes of patients’ data.

Mobility: With cloud computing solutions, patient information is readily available any time to anyone who is authorized and has the software on any device.

Cost Reduction: By adopting cloud-computing solutions organizations save money. Organizations do not pay for on-site hardware infrastructure and maintenance to store client records. This includes the costs of new software and updates to existing software programs and the required on-site IT personnel.

Cloud Computing System
All of this sounds great. The only thing the user’s computer needs to be able to run is the cloud computing system’s interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud’s network takes care of the rest. But (and there is always a but), what if the web-based server for your organization’s cloud does not ‘reside’ in your jurisdiction? What if the company is Canadian owned, but exists in another country? What if the company is not Canadian, and exists in another country? What about privacy?

Has anyone in government been thinking about this? Yes indeed they have. According to the Canadian Cloud blog, (http://www.cloudlawyer.ca/2011/04/cloud-computing-and-privacy-faq.html) there has been lots of discussion and action. In an opinion expressed in 2011 “… export is permitted but the public body must ensure a comparable level of security for personal information, regardless of whether you permit it to be managed by a Canadian company or a non-Canadian company” unless legislation otherwise prohibits. Several jurisdictions have enacted legislation. For example, Nova Scotia’s anti-export law states:

“The Personal Information International Disclosure Protection Act requires that information under the custody and control of a public body be stored only in Canada and accessed only in Canada unless the individual has consented to its storage or disclosure outside of Canada or one of a number of narrow exceptions apply. Importantly, the head of a public body may authorize the storage of personal information or access to personal information from outside of Canada if the head of the public body determines it is for the necessary operations of the public body.”

What about in your jurisdiction?

Cloud computing….it is in our future.