Is Hybrid Cloud The Answer To Data Security In Healthcare?

Nothing has highlighted our dependence on the healthcare sector quite like the COVID-19 pandemic

Yet at a time when restrictions and stay-at-home orders were in place across much of the world, maintaining access to that healthcare has arguably been more difficult than at any other time in recent memory. A recent study by Imperial College London actually found that staff safety and access to healthcare had overtaken risk aversion and funding as the primary concern for the sector, resulting in a 62% pivot toward digital technology as a means of consulting with, diagnosing and triaging patients.

Just like the majority of private for-profit businesses, healthcare institutions needed to keep their services running in a remote and risk-free way wherever possible. Ironically, there was a time during the pandemic where going to the doctor could actually have been bad for patients’ health, putting themselves and others at risk. It was therefore only natural that, like businesses, healthcare providers moved to risk-free socially distanced Zoom consultations and online prescriptions in order to quell the spread of COVID-19. The sector may have had the same problems as the private business sector, but has it fallen into the same traps?

For instance, according to McKinsey, e-commerce companies managed to cram ten years’ worth of digital change into the space of just 90 days at the beginning of the pandemic in order to keep their businesses moving. The healthcare sector has arguably done the same, rapidly accelerating its plans for remote digital healthcare. Remote consultations, online prescriptions and biosensors were no doubt already on the cards for many hospitals and healthcare practices, but none of them would have expected to have to leap into these innovations with both feet at the beginning of last year. This has presented somewhat of a dilemma for the sector. In their rush to ‘go digital’, have they chosen the most secure solution in terms of data sharing?

The importance of data in healthcare

Remote patient care is only possible thanks to the sharing of sensitive data. The most prolific example of this during the course of the pandemic has probably been the vaccine rollout, with vaccination status and other personal medical information being gathered centrally in the NHS COVID-19 app, ready to be shared with other entities in the overall fight to overcome the virus. In 2021, the UK government published its “Data Saves Lives” message in an attempt to ease public concern over data sharing when it comes to their own private medical records.

The ministerial foreword reads: “Data identified those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus. It helped us to help them shield, which protected both themselves and their families. Data was essential to our day-to-day response. And it powered vital research that helped us discover new treatments that saved lives in communities across the world. Data made all the difference.”

A cloud-first approach to healthcare

Our battle against the novel coronavirus would not have been nearly as effective were it not for the cloud. Shortly after the pandemic started, the NHS reinforced its ‘cloud first’ approach as part of its ongoing digital transformation efforts. With so-called ‘COVID hotspots’ emerging throughout the country and some practices being placed under more strain than others, the cloud became absolutely essential for ensuring people got the support they needed. The cloud, for instance, could enable 111 calls in, say, Liverpool to be handled by a team in Oxford or anywhere else, alleviating the pressure on local teams. The continued digitisation of services has therefore become a priority for the healthcare sector – but what is the best path to the cloud?

Public cloud, private cloud, or both? 

To understand why a hybrid solution might better serve the healthcare sector than simply opting for public or private cloud solutions, it’s important to understand how each solution works. Public cloud solutions, such as those offered by Amazon, Google and IBM, allow organisations to tap into a centralised pool of resources as and when they’re needed. From raw processing power to optimised software, and all of the power and cooling that goes with it, organisations can simply tap into what they need as part of a subscription model that can scale with their business. Private cloud, on the other hand, is better suited to larger organisations that are happy to make a more long-term investment in their IT infrastructure. With a private cloud solution, a healthcare provider might have slightly less financial flexibility, but will also have dedicated computing power that they – and only they – have access to. This results in tighter security, powerful performance and more streamlined compliance with data regulations like GDPR, for instance.

For any organisation practising healthcare and dealing with sensitive patient data, a private cloud solution is always going to be preferred due to the inherent security advantages. Those in the public sector are also used to working within predetermined budgets, so the CapEx approach might be less daunting than it would be for say, a small startup. That said, healthcare companies can still benefit hugely from the flexibility and scalable computing power of public cloud solutions when it comes to virtualising workflows and relieving any dependency on legacy hardware.  Therefore, a hybrid approach to cloud computing that combines the advantages of both public and private cloud, in a way that suits individual departments and organisations, is surely the best way forward. Perhaps that’s why NTT’s 2021 Hybrid Cloud Report revealed that 94% of businesses that adopt a hybrid cloud solution say it is now a critical part of meeting their core operational needs. Why should the healthcare sector be any different?

About the Author

Neville Louzado is Head of Sales at Hyve Managed Hosting. As Head of Sales at Hyve Managed Hosting, Neville boasts a demonstrated history of working in the Information Technology Services industry. Skilled in Sales, Managed Public and Private Clouds, VMware, Data Centers, and Virtualization, Neville is a strong sales professional who graduated from Staffordshire University.