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Health care providers encounter a cloud computing conundrum

As with nearly every other industry in existence, health care has been swept away by the possibilities associated with cloud computing. Pharmaceutical companies could analyze patient information more quickly in order to deduce the effectiveness of certain drugs, doctors would be able to access patient records from mobile devices and hospitals could share visitor data more easily.

However, investment in cloud technology has been somewhat hampered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects the confidentiality of individual health records. Though security is becoming less of an issue - primarily due to hosting companies' heavy investment in defensive technology - the benefits associated with the cloud can't be realized because of some of the mandates detailed and enforced by HIPAA.

The challenges ahead
According to Forbes contributor Todd Hixon, HIPAA was enacted long before the age of the cloud occurred. As the entire purpose of the measure was to prevent unwarranted sharing and disclosure of patient information, health care organizations trying to take advantage of cloud computing have found working around red tape to be quite difficult. For example, entrepreneurs trying to solidify a place for themselves in the medical sector want to use vast troves of digital information in order to develop competitive products or services, but getting their hands on the data is a challenge in and of itself.

Another problem Hixon took note of was the absence of cloud web hosting services that are specific to the regulatory, audit-wracked needs of the health care industry. However, Hixon acknowledged that this conundrum was largely associated with big-name cloud vendors that have spread themselves thin. Often, companies that dabble in numerous industries, from e-commerce to food logistics, may appear to be a "dominant" force in the cloud computing market, but cannot give their clients the appropriate attention needed to construct a secure, mission-critical cluster server.

The perceived benefits
Andy Oram, a contributor to Forbes, recently attended the Bio-IT World Conference and Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, Massachusetts, where he found that many health care professionals agree that cloud computing has a place in the industry's future. In fact, it's becoming a necessity.

Pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca have found many insurance providers require drug makers to present insightful, thorough proof that their products are safe and comparatively effective - meaning that their drugs are better than their competitors' offerings. This process has become necessary because of obligations imposed by the Affordable Care Act. In the past, doctors have prescribed many new, expensive drugs only to discover afterward that an older medication could perform just as well at one-tenth of the price.

In order to quickly figure out how effective such a substance is, pharmaceutical companies could take advantage of big data analytics. However, such programs necessitate cloud servers, as they can support the aggregation of digital information as well as the procedure of combing through and translating it. To satisfy demand for these platforms, cloud providers should take a careful look at HIPAA regulations to determine how they can structure environments that make it easy for health care companies to comply with the law.

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