Government regulation on cloud security may spur SaaS use in health care

The SaaS industry can also help increase adoption by designing products with better user interfaces

Governments may need to tighten the regulatory screws on SaaS vendors to make them be more transparent and forthcoming about their security practices.

Until then, it will be hard for health care companies in particular to fully trust cloud software vendors, according to speakers at the EU-U.S. ehealth Marketplace and Conference in Boston on Wednesday.

Depending on customers to audit cloud vendors to ensure that their security and privacy measures comply with U.S. government regulations on protecting sensitive data is inadequate, one of the speakers said.

"The best we can do right now is a checklist," said Chris Davis, a Verizon senior architect whose job entails ensuring that the company's cloud services meet the data security regulations of various national governments. Technology, however, changes rapidly and checklists soon become dated, he said.

To properly gauge the effectiveness of a cloud vendor's security policies, customers should be able to examine the company's risk management practices. However, cloud vendors lack a reason to be this transparent. Instead, said Davis, they sign documents saying they comply with laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the U.S., which governs the sharing and protecting of people's health information. The government could pass laws that encourage the exchange of cloud security practices by vendors, he said.

Companies from various industries are already collecting reams of information for projects related to big data analysis, but aren't sharing and studying this data for security matters.

"It's a threat to all industries, not just health care," said Davis. "Security should be transparent and operate in the background."

Most of the cloud products are so new there aren't government regulations for specific use cases, said Charles Beyrouthy, CEO of LabCloud, a Boston company that develops SaaS (software as service) products for small and medium-size research laboratories. The government could help by developing standards for different data uses, such as in a laboratory or for data related to ehealth.

The same method of financial penalties and rewards that compelled hospitals to adopt electronic health records for meaningful use in patient care could be used to get cloud vendors onboard with sharing security data, said Davis.

"The role of government is to move toward that transparency and data sharing," he said.

Governments could also pass legislation that gives people more access to the data companies have collected on them and the ability to control it, such as correcting wrong information, said Ralph Zottola, CTO of the research computing division at the University of Massachusetts.

"People are smart and are willing to participate but they need to feel they're not being abused," he said. This applies to all industries, not just health care, he said.

But government laws alone won't increase cloud computing use in the health-care space. The SaaS industry could do more to make its services intuitive to use and better suited to the needs of specific health researchers, like those who work in labs.

Giving people the ability to control their data in the cloud is a design issue, not a security problem, said Davis, who added that some user interface designs are clunky.

"There's still a significant percent of the population that aren't technologically literate and can't use these services," he said.

Cloud software developers may not realize that health researchers need applications that have audit functions to ensure that workers are complying with regulations, said Beyrouthy.

"The software has been designed by software professionals" and that can prove problematic in the highly regulated health-care industry, he said.

Instead of using industry-specific services consolidated onto one platform, scientists use Microsoft Word and Excel for document management and multiple platforms for storing data.

"Fifty to 70 percent of the time scientists are managing stats instead of doing actual work," said Beyrouthy.

As for how much of the health-care industry has taken to using cloud services, the answer varies depending on the definition of cloud computing. Hospitals haven't been eager to roll out SaaS services, said Davis. Among individual care providers, however, adoption rates are higher, especially with consumer-focused services like Dropbox.

"I talk to a number of doctors who unknowingly use iCloud," he said, referring to Apple's storage and backup cloud service.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityhealth carecloud computingindustry verticalsinternetVerizon Communications

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?