Tips on covering how health care providers use ‘cloud computing’

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

cloudMaybe you’ve seen the meme “There is no cloud… it’s just someone else’s computer.” It’s been circulating on the Internet for a while. You can have a laugh over the variations here (GoT, Star Trek, the Matrix).

In a new tip sheet, I give an overview of cloud computing, how health care entities are using it and why the cloud is increasingly important to the health sector.

To help me with the tip sheet, I called George McCulloch, executive vice president for membership and professional development at CHIME, a premier industry trade group for health care CIOs and senior health IT leaders. McCulloch served as CIO at a number of health care organizations for several decades, most recently as deputy CIO at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

McCulloch sees a trend away from self-hosting and towards third-party cloud computing. This is happening for several reasons, mostly because of improved security in cloud computing and because data retrieval from “the cloud“ has gotten faster, he said.

When journalists are writing about health IT and cloud computing, they should think about it as “not just one thing, but lots of different flavors,“ McCulloch advised. The cloud could be used for data storage or running applications or the ability to do analytics and different organizations have different reasons to work off the cloud. Sometimes cost is a factor, as cloud services are pay-as-you-go expenses rather than of big-ticket capital investments, he said.

Some health organizations have gone full in to the cloud, while others are trying it out a little at a time. “I was taking little bits off to the cloud at first,“ McCulloch recalled, adding that he started with credentialing software, which doesn’t include patient information.

Health-IT-Workshop-Logo

The pre-registration deadline for this workshop is Sept. 28.

As cybersecurity becomes a greater concern among health care organizations, many are looking to cloud computing vendors to provide that data security instead of taking on the job and liability in-house. “The risk shifts from you to the vendor,“ said McCulloch. “If they provide good security then that could lessen the risk of a cyberattack.”

Journalists can ask their local health care providers whether they are using the cloud and, if so, what the motivations are for switching from in-house systems. If cloud computing isn’t on the table, why not? This line of questioning could yield fresh topics of interest to your readers.

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