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Cloud Computing Is on the Learn How to Choose the Perfect Cloud


8 BY STAN GIBSON H


EALTHCARE INSTITUTIONS of all sizes are facing a common IT forecast—plenty of clouds on the horizon. Smaller practices are finding


it economical to do away with their own modest IT operations and rely on cloud service providers for electronic health record (EHR) services, while larger institutions are building internal, private healthcare clouds. Either way, it’s a new paradigm that calls for infrastructure preparedness. An organization partaking in cloud-based EHR services


will probably find that the simpler it is to access, the better. Small practices are attracted to cloud service providers because they don’t want to own and manage their own servers or deal with complex desktop interfaces that require client setup and user training. “We didn’t have a lot of space. We didn’t want to house a


server or pay an IT guy,” said Dr. Medhavi Jogi of Houston Thyroid and Endocrine Specialists. Seeking simplicity, Jogi opted for Centricity, a cloud-based EHR service from the healthcare division of General Electric Co., when he launched his practice in 2009. “It’s just an icon on a desktop or laptop. You just need a password,” he said, adding that his practice did not need to implement a virtual private network (VPN) to support Centricity. That said, organizations must ensure that client


systems are supported by the hosted service. In most cases, cloud services are intended to work with Windows PC client systems. But that’s changing, thanks to the popularity of the Apple iPad. Dr. Kenneth Luckay, of Luckay Doc LLC in Troutville, VA,


uses Nimble, a cloud-based EHR service from ClearPractice LLC, on his iPad. “I find the iPad very helpful for going to hospitals and nursing homes,” he said.


Healthcare Cloud Users


Must Be Proactive Since using a public cloud service makes one dependent


on the provider, it makes sense to inquire about the resiliency of the provider’s network. For example, find out whether the provider has a disaster recovery site and, if so, whether it is far enough from the primary site that a single disaster would not affect both locations. It’s also important to find out when the provider conducts data backups and how often. Some provide storage only as infrastructure, not as a service, and therefore leave clients to back up their own data. “If the Internet goes down, we can’t do anything. That’s


a big problem. I wouldn’t be able to access what I need,” Jogi said. Given this feeling of insecurity, the size of GE was a major selling point to Jogi. Still, he remains concerned


about network outages and is looking to add a back-up Internet link. Right now, his backup is paper records that are kept in a locked cabinet. Jogi is also concerned about sudden upgrades on


the part of the cloud service provider that could create surprises, including incompatibilities. “You want to make sure your vendor doesn’t upgrade without your permission,” he warned.


Addressing Cloud


Security Concerns When a public or private cloud service is used, data


leaves the user’s premises and is outside the user’s control. Even with sound security technology and policies in place, there is still cultural resistance to allowing data to depart. Mark McCuin, president of Pathagility LLC, a Little Rock, AR-based provider of Software as a Service reporting and


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CONNECTION


VOLUME 1 • ISSUE 3


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