Data is perhaps more important in the healthcare industry than in any other industry. The healthcare industry is data intensive as patient data is continually charted and updated. In the healthcare industry there is no room for dirty data. The risks regarding data are high in the healthcare industry. Not only can dirty data have a negative impact on patient perceptions, it can have an impact on their health. Dirty data is a potential source of errors that could harm the patient, or even lead to their death. Not only must the data be accurate and complete, it must also be able to be shared among different departments and facilities. This research will examine cloud computing as a potential solution for Denver Health.
Denver Health is a large organization with a main hospital, 12 clinics located in schools, the Rocky Mountain Poison Drug Center, eight family health centers, and it operates the 911 emergency services for the area (Turban and Volonino, 2015). The system is spread out over a wide geographic area and the different facilities need to have instant access to patient information and records. Denver Health feels that it needs to upgrade its computer system to a private cloud for several reasons. The first is the need to share data among the different facilities. The second is that it takes over two minutes for the physicians and staff to log into the system while in patient rooms. This time costs nearly $4 million annually in lost time when multiplied over the entire system (Turban and Volonino, 2015).
Denver Health Solution
As a solution, Denver Health installed a thin cloud solution called ThinIdentity. The system uses a smart card to log in and out. The session remains active in the cloud and takes only 5 to 10 seconds to log on (Turban and Volonino, 2015). The system automatically pulls up the patient information when the doctor or nurse logs onto the system, saving even more time than if they had to look up the patient records manually. It is estimated that the new system has saved nearly $5.7 million annually.
The greatest advantage to the ThinIdentity system is that it represents both initial cost savings, and continued annual savings into the future. The initial savings include reductions in the costs of replacing desktops and desktop resource needs. The new system uses less energy, which results in a savings over time. They also reduce help desk calls and reduce physician log in time. The main advantage of the system is in cost savings.
Another advantage to this system is that it reduces dirty data. In a system where data is generated and stored in separate departments, buildings, and entities, there is a potential for data loss or corruption every time that it is transferred. Cloud computing eliminates this risk because users are accessing the same data source from different locations. This cannot eliminate human error, but it helps to resolve issues with mechanical data loss.
Thin clouds have an advantage in the hospital setting as they take up less space, which is often at a premium in patient rooms. Fat clouds are the often a one-size-fits-all package such as AWS or Microsoft packages (Linthicum, 2014). Thin clouds are often able to be tailored to the specific needs of the industry (Linthicum, 2014). This is certainly an advantage for a facility such as a health care organization. Thin cloud providers are often smaller companies, which allows for greater customization, but also might increase the risk over a larger fat cloud provider (Linthicum, 2014). It is possible to add clouds to a thin cloud system, but this increases complexity and risk, just as it does with hardwired data systems (Linthicum, 2014). The thin cloud solution is the preferred choice for a healthcare provider because they can customize the system more easily to meet their needs.
Thin cloud systems would be an excellent solution for any business that needs to access data at multiple locations quickly. The cost savings experienced by Denver Health would be likely to translate to other enterprises and industries. They could be easily used by banks, department stores, and transportation systems, or any other business that needs to store and access customer records. They are mobile accessible, which could be an asset in many business circumstances.
One of the main concerns with any cloud system, regardless of whether it is fat or thin is security. They are often large, integrated systems that must use algorithms to check data integrity and prevent unauthorized observation, modification, and interference with data transfer (Al-Said, Sail, 2013). These problems have been a concern since the beginning of cloud based systems. Cloud security has three aspects: protection of private data, access control, and secure communication (Al-Said, Sail, 2013). Many algorithms and solutions to these problems are continually becoming more sophisticated. This is essential in the healthcare industry where they must meet the requirements of HIPAA. HIPAA has certain requirements that must be met and if the thin cloud provider can meet those requirements, then there should be little concern over data access or integrity within the system.
Even with cloud computing, a system with data as important as that in the healthcare industry must build redundancy into the system. Even though the systems now last much longer than they did in the past, hardware still wears out and system components go down. Having a regular back up system is essential in the healthcare or in any field where the data is critical. Thin cloud systems solve many concerns in the healthcare industry and could be the solution for many other industries too.
- Al-Saiyd, N. & Sail, N. (2013). Data Integrity in Cloud Computing. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology. 58 (3): 570-581.
- Linthicum, D. (2014). Leveraging Fat Clouds Versus Thin Clouds; Understanding the Tradeoffs. Clout Technology Partners. Retrieved from http://www.cloudtp.com/2014/03/14/leveraging-fat-clouds-versus-thin-clouds-understanding-tradeoffs/
- Turban, E. & Volonino, L. (2015). Information Technology for Management: Digital Strategies for Insight, Action, and Sustainable Performance. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.