Compliance and Security

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Compliance and Security

With data breaches an ongoing concern for IT managers, hospitals need to ensure compliance with HIPAA, Ayad noted. The first thing health care providers should consider when seeking a cloud platform is whether the cloud provider will sign a business associate agreement, said Ayad. Cloud platforms such as Office 365 and Windows Azure enable providers to comply with HIPAA business associate agreements, he said.

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The cloud provider should not be able to data-mine or analyze the data it hosts, said Ayad. "We read about how email can be scanned for keywords to serve up advertising and can be used for analytics," said Ayad. "Microsoft doesn't do any of that. We think that's an important consideration for privacy."

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Data Control

"It's important to look for a cloud provider that gives you control of your data," said Ayad. A cloud provider offers the flexibility to control permissions and delete the data from the cloud, if necessary, without prior notice, he said. The health provider should also be able to terminate the service quickly, if needed.

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A cloud platform should provide the flexibility to use a hybrid option of partly on premise, to take advantage of existing IT infrastructure, and partly in the cloud, said Ayad. "The cloud isn't an all-or-none choice," he noted. "A hybrid option provides a happy medium between the two."

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A cloud platform is enterprise-ready when users are already familiar with a product from an on-premise version and the platform lacks a steep learning curve, according to Ayad. Workers may be familiar with Office or Outlook, and won't have to learn a new product, he noted. This familiarity is important in mission-critical environments such as a hospital, said Ayad.

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When a cloud platform is patient-centered, it can allow health organizations to be more efficient and spend more time on patient care, according to Microsoft. Sharing data in the cloud allows for better decisions on patient care. "With cloud productivity solutions such as Office 365, it can radically change the experience for patients because of the way it allows teams to work together and share information," said Ayad.

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Unified Communications

When cloud platforms incorporate unified communications capabilities such as presence, messaging, video and audio conferencing, they enable better communication between physicians and patients. "That's where cloud-based productivity solutions come into play. They completely change the way teams collaborate in health care," said Ayad. "The ability to quickly communicate and move between departments can make the difference between rapid recovery and life-threatening complications." Communication tools in the cloud also help on the health plan side with medical claims, said Ayad.

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Identity Federation

The cloud allows health care providers to align multiple parts of an organization, such as doctors' practices and clinics, under a common identity security framework, said Ayad. "Having such functionality not only improves your security, it also improves these communication hand-offs when there's sharing across information boundaries," he said.

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