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Can Cloud Computing Help Solve Healthcare’s Looming IT Crisis?

Posted on November 21, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The title of this post comes from a whitepaper called “How Cloud Computing Can Help Solve Healthcare’s Looming IT Crisis” that was done by Intel together with CareCloud and terremark (A Verizon Company). My initial reaction when reading this whitepaper was “what looming healthcare IT crisis are they talking about?”

The whitepaper makes the general case about the challenges of so much regulation, security, and privacy issues related to healthcare IT. I guess that’s the crisis that they talk about. Certainly I agree that many a healthcare CIO is overwhelmed by the rate of change that’s happened in healthcare IT to date. Is it a crisis? Maybe in some organizations.

However, more core to what they discuss in the paper is whether cloud computing can provide some benefits to healthcare that many organizations aren’t experiencing today. The whitepaper cites a CDW study that just 30 percent of medical practices have transitioned to cloud computing services. No doubt I’ve seen the reluctance of many organizations to go with cloud computing. Although, as one hospital CIO told me, we have to do it.

The whitepaper makes the case that cloud computing can help with:
-Security, compliance and privacy
-Cost efficiency and improved focus
-Flexibility and scalability

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whitepaper and its comments on the value of cloud computing. Should healthcare be shifting everything to cloud computing? Is there a case to be made for in house over cloud computing? Will some sort of hybrid approach win out?

Healthcare Cloud Spending To Ramp Up Over Next Few Years

Posted on October 4, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

For years, healthcare IT executives have wrestled with the idea of deploying cloud services, concerned that the cloud would not offer enough security for their data. However, a new study suggests that this trend is shifting direction.

A new study by market research firm MarketsandMarkets has concluded that the healthcare industry will invest $5.4 billion in cloud computing by 2017.  This year should see a particularly big change, with total healthcare cloud investment moving from 4 percent to 20.5 percent of the industry, according to an article in the Cloud Times.

The current US cloud market for healthcare is dominated by SaaS vendors such as CareCloud, Carestream Health and Merge Healthcare, according to MarketsandMarkets. These vendors are tapping into an overall cloud computing market which should grow at a combined annual growth rate of 20.5 percent between 2012 and 2017, the researchers say.

As the report notes, there are good reasons why healthcare IT leaders are taking a closer look at cloud computing. For example, the cloud offers easy access to high-performance computing and high-volume storage, access which would be very costly to duplicate with on-premise computing.

On the other hand, the MarketsandMarkets researchers admit, healthcare still has particularly stringent data security requirements, and a need for strict confidentiality, access control and long-term data storage. Cloud vendors will need to offer services and products which meet these unique needs, and just as importantly, change and adapt as regulatory requirements shift. And they’ll have to have an impeccable reputation.

That last item — the cloud vendor’s reputation — will play a major role in the coming shift to cloud-based deployments. If giants like AT&T, IBM and Verizon stay in the healthcare cloud business, which seems likely to me, then healthcare institutions will be able to admit that they’re engaged in cloud deployments without suffering a public black eye over potential security problems.

On the other hand, if the giants were to get cold feet, cloud adoption would probably slow substantially, and remain at the trickle it has been for several years. While vendors like Merge and Carestream may be doing well, I’d argue that the presence of the 2,000-pound gorilla vendors ultimately dictates whether a market thrives.

Android Security Risks May Outweigh Benefits

Posted on April 26, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Not long ago, my colleague John Lynn made a compelling pitch for the Android platform, arguing that it’s likely to take over healthcare eventually given its flexibility.  That flexibility stands in sharp contrast to Apple phones and tablets, which work quite elegantly but also impose rigid requirements on app developers.

That being said, however, there’s security risks associated with Android that might outweigh its advantages. The major carriers are doing little or nothing to upgrade and patch the Android versions on the phones they sell, leaving them open to security breaches.

The Android security problem is so egregious that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the  Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate how AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile handle software updates on their phones.

In the complaint, the civil liberties group argues that the carriers have been engaging in “unfair and deceptive business practices” by failing to let customers know about well-known unpatched security flaws in the Android devices that they sell.

What makes things worse, the ACLU suggests, is that the carriers aren’t even offering consumers the option to update their phones.  Though Google has continued to fix flaws in the Android OS, these fixes aren’t being bundled and pushed out to the wireless carriers’ customers.  As the ACLU rightly notes, such behavior is unheard of in the world of desktop operating systems, where consumers regularly get updates from Apple and Microsoft.

In its complaint the ACLU argues that the carriers must either provide security updates to customers or allow them to get refunds on their devices and terminate their contracts without any penalty. It’s asking the FTC to force the carriers’ hand.

In the mean time, with healthcare requiring strict data security under HIPAA, one has to wonder whether hospitals and medical practices should be using Android devices at all (at least for their work).  Of course, clinicians who are accustomed to using their personal Android phones or tablets will be inconvenienced and probably fairly annoyed too.  But as things stand, hospital CIOs better be really careful about how they handle Android phones in the healthcare environment.

Verizon Launches HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Services

Posted on October 4, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Last month, I shared some of Verizon’s big plans for the medical space with you, including their desire to become the industry’s default carrier of secure healthcare data.  This week, Verizon has launched its cloud service line, and I wanted to share some of the details on how it’s set up with you.

Verizon’s Enterprise Solutions division is offering five “healthcare-enabled” services, including colocation, managed hosting, enterprise cloud, an “enterprise cloud express edition” and enterprise cloud private edition. In addition to the services, Verizon provides a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement which, one would assume, is particularly stringent in how it safeguards data storage and tranmission between parties.

The new Verizon services will be offered through cloud-enabled data centers in Miami and Culpeper, Va. run by Terremark, which Verizon acquired some time ago. Security standards include PCI-DSS Level 1 compliance, ITIL v3-based best practices and facility clearances up to the Department of Defense, Verizon reports.

In addition to meeting physical standards for HIPAA compliance, Verizon has trained workers at the former Terremark facilities on the specifics of handling ePHI, Verizon exec Dr. Peter Tippett told Computerworld magazine.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Verizon is also pitching its (doubtless very expensive) health IT consulting services as well to help clients take advantage of all of this cloud wonderfulness.

Not surprisingly, Verizon notes in its press release that “each client remains responsible for ensuring that it complies with  HIPAA and all other applicable laws and applications.”  If I were Verizon, I’d be saying that too, and doubtless states the obvious. That being said, it does make me wonder just how much they manage to opt out of in their business associate agreement.  Call me crazy, but I think they’d want to leave as much wiggle room as humanly possible.

The bigger question, as I see it, is how big the market for these services really is at present. According to the Computerworld story, only 16.5 percent of healthcare providers use public or private clouds right now. Verizon may be able to turn things around on the strength of its brand alone, but there’s no g uarantees. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Verizon Hopes To Be Secure Healthcare Network For All

Posted on September 11, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

If you’re like me, you might be wondering how carriers are  looking at their role in the healthcare business — and whether some of their talk about mHealth is just noise.  (I’ve always seen mHealth as a space ripe to be be dominated by applications developers and device manufacturers, not carriers.)

To get my head straight, I recently had a conversation with Dr. Peter Tippett, chief medical officer and vice president of Verizon Connected Health Care. In it, he changed my view of what Verizon is doing in mHealth, and moreover,  what ground Verizon specifically hopes to own in healthcare over the next several years.

When I think Verizon I think switches and routers and cables, not consumer-facing applications and medical devices. And before I talked to Dr. Tippett, I assumed that Verizon’s main healthcare efforts likely involved going head to head with other wireless/wireline connectivity players for connectivity business in some form.

Well, think again.  Verizon’s Connected Health Division, says Tippett, is aiming to set the bar much higher.

“The question is, ‘what happens after wireless data?’,” Dr. Tippett said. “This isn’t a two month plan, this is a strategic extension of Verizon to transform the healthcare industry using our huge capability around the world.”

On the more immediate front, Verizon has mHealth technology under development which, to my mind, would solve a difficult problem.  For five years, he says, Verizon has been developing a new mHealtlh platform which will tie together data from testing devices like blood pressure cuffs, weight scales and EKGs into an analytics engine that makes sense of it all.

“No doctor wants four glucoses a day from 1,000 patients,” Dr. Tippett says. “Just mobilizing the data isn’t enough. You’ve got to create a cloud service that can do big data analytics on it and normalize the data, then trigger the alerts to the right people — including patients.”

I’m going to keep my eye on the mHealth platform, which definitely intrigues me.

But the really big play for Verizon in this space seems to be in HIPAA-secure data hosting and exchange.  Verizon already has a massive presence around hosting, app management, security, identity management and the cloud, having added Cybertrust and Terramark (enterprise hosting) to build up its lineup.

Verizon now offers secure data sharing on multiple levels:

*  A “medical data exchange” — not unlike the exchange banks use to pass transactions back and forth — allowing any member to share information using Verizon’s security services.

* An exchange “identity layer” which is secure enough to allow Schedule 2 drugs to be prescribed. According to Dr. Tippett, 40 percent of doctors in the U.S. are already using it.

* A global network of highly-secured data centers.

Members of the medical ecosystem who use secure Verizon services can consider their HIPAA compliance and security matters handled, then focus on their core business, Dr. Tippett says. And that can scale to hundreds of millions of users on the network, he notes.

Clearly, this doesn’t sound like the broadband carrier talking — these folks are out to take business from players as diverse as Verisign, IBM and the database giants.  It makes sense to me, on the surface, but in any grand vision there are holes to be picked.

You tell me:  Does Verizon sound like it’s positioned right to become the default secure healthcare backbone?

Wireless 2G, 3G and 4G for Healthcare Applications

Posted on October 19, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I’m attending the Mobile Health Conference (mHealth) conference in Las Vegas. So far it’s been a pretty effective conference for me already. Although, I’ve gotten most of the value from the people and vendors I’ve met and talked with. Although, is that really any surprise at a conference. More about those meetings later.

In this morning’s keynote conversation, they had executives from T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint that spoke and then did a short panel discussion. I must admit that I’d hoped for more from the panel discussion and I probably would have rather just had the whole thing a panel discussion. With that said, the most interesting topic they discussed was the 2G, 3G, and 4G topic.

Of course, they didn’t really dig into the different wireless signals like I would have liked to see. However, the executive from T-mobile said both in his speech and in the panel discussion that they’re committed to supporting 2G for 10 more years. Then, he offered this whopper: that most mHealth applications work perfectly fine on 2G and don’t actually need the higher 3G and 4G speeds.

He’s actually right that most health applications do work fine on 2G. However, I can’t help but wonder if that’s a function of there just not being enough 3G and 4G coverage to make it reasonable for a company to make an app that will only work on those faster networks.

From what I’ve seen in the internet world, applications will grow to use whatever resources they are given. Plus, there’s some applications that never get built until they have the resources to make it a reasonable reality.

So, while it may be true that the health applications of today generally work well on 2G, it’s worth asking what applications would we have if 3G and 4G were more widely available? I think we’re getting close to the point that we’ll find out. I imagine most EMR software would be happy to use whatever bandwidth you give them. Not to mention it would improve the user experience.

A few other quick hits:
-The AT&T executive (I believed) argued that they’re getting 4G speeds with 3G technology. So, why should they move to 4G?
-The Sprint executive nailed it on the head when he said that time is the economy of today. Higher speeds and better applications will save people time and that’s valuable.
-I can’t help but wonder where Verizon is. 3 out of 4 isn’t bad though.

Video Interview About Verizon’s HIE

Posted on March 15, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Well, as you might have noticed, I decided to take the weekend off from the blog. I figured it was reasonable to take a weekend off after the craziness of HIMSS. I still have a ton of content from HIMSS 10 that I’d like to post. So, watch for more of that over the next couple weeks as well.

I thought a nice video to kick off the new week would be nice. This video is of Robin Daigh from MD-IT and Craig Mercure from MxSecure talking about their partnership with Verizon to create a really interesting health information exchange. I talked about this Medical Transcription Service Consortium previously, but it was really neat to talk about it in person with Robin and Craig (Full Disclosure: Both Robin and Craig advertise on EMR and HIPAA). I also talked with the CMO from Verizon about it and so more details on that to come later.

For now, enjoy what I think is an interesting play in the HIE space to bring together all the transcription companies and now anyone who wants to participate and start sharing clinical data.


This video coverage of HIMSS 10 sponsored by Practice Fusion and their Free EMR.

HIMSS 10 Day 3

Posted on March 2, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today was a much more laid back day at HIMSS. I still had pretty much back to back meetings, but I’m learning little by little to manage the day at HIMSS. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting closer to managing this HUGE event.

In kind of a surprise meeting, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Shahid from The Healthcare IT Guy. We had a really good chat and I can see us working on a number of projects together. It’s been really interesting to meet people in person that you’ve only ever known online. A few times I’ve come away disappointed, but the opposite was true with Shahid. I couldn’t be more impressed with Shahid.

I had a number of really interesting interviews today and a meeting with the CMO of Verizon to talk about an interesting medical data exchange that they’re working on. It was really interesting to hear the vision of what Verizon and the group behind it are doing to make healthcare data exchangeable. I’ll be posting a lot more on this in the future, but you can see my original post about this consortium for some initial information. I have a video talking about the consortium and another video talking about the really neat technology behind MModal.

I also had a nice media lunch from HP. The food was great. The content was a little weak, but their talk of the thin clients was pretty useful for me in my day job. Little by little I’ve been getting more and more convinced that thin clients will be the future of desktop management. At least in any reasonably sized implementation.

Oh yes, and I have to mention the most incredibly tacky part of the lunch. While they were speaking, one of the media people’s phone rang. Not only did they not turn off the ringer, but he then proceeded to answer the phone in the middle of the meeting and was talking on the phone while the person was presenting. Then, after the call he got up and left. I was totally shocked that he really did that. Unbelievable!!

However, the event of the day without a doubt was the ONC town hall. It started off with David Blumenthal announcing that the details of accrediting the EHR certifying bodies (officially the NPRM on certification) were just released. You can find the details posted on the HHS website. I’ll be posting a lot more about this soon. ONC did a pretty lengthy question and answer and even a powerpoint on the new accreditation for EHR certifications. I’ll cover those details very soon.

I also met one of the people behind Fierce Health IT and talked about possibly working together on something. They really went all out to kind of make a splash at HIMSS and I must admit that they’ve come along way since they first started.

Lots of other things, but I better get to bed so I can make the Blumenthal keynote tomorrow.