Cloud computing has revolutionised the way many businesses access and store their data, servers, software and other online resources, allowing them to minimise upfront IT infrastructure costs and streamline the sharing of resources among employees. While many companies are advocates for the cloud, whether the healthcare industry can safely benefit from cloud solutions has been a topic of debate for many years.
In 2018, it was announced by NHS Digital that they would be taking a cloud-first approach to technology going forward1, and while this step requires careful consideration in terms of security, they stated that “cloud services can mitigate many common risks NHS and social care organisations face”.
As with many forms of technology, cloud computing has benefits and some potential risks. Some of the main concerns around the use of the cloud within the healthcare industry include:
For many years the NHS has faced a range of challenges and constraints on resources and by implementing cloud solutions, they can improve efficiency, deliver new services and cut costs.
On average an NHS employee receives between 100 and 200 emails every day, and as their email service is now stored on the cloud, they can access their emails from any location. NHSmail, the NHS’s secure email service, enables staff to communicate with health and social care colleagues efficiently and safely.
NHS cloud solutions like Carenotes allow staff to view and share patient medical records from a desktop or mobile device anywhere in the UK, allowing them to make faster, well-informed decisions. Carenotes benefits from having one record for each patient, thus helping ensure there is one version of the truth for practitioners to rely on.
At Blue Frontier, we work with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to support the Carenotes system so we know how significant its introduction has been in improving the accessibility and safe management of patient data.
While the cloud offers an array of advantages for NHS staff, it also provides new opportunities for patients to manage their personal health. With cloud apps designed to monitor a variety of condition such as diabetes, NHS patients can manage and track their health. This can help boost the confidence of people with conditions that require careful monitoring and allow them to stay on top of their health between doctors appointments.
NHS Digital published The Health and Social Care Cloud Security Good Practice Guide2 which details the steps necessary to take when handling data on the cloud. The guidance outlined establishes the importance of public cloud use being well-executed. Emphasis is also placed on access to the cloud being known, safe, secure and effective.
An additional publication titled 'NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services guidance' states that NHS organisations must implement 'risk-appropriate and proportionate security measures based on the service level of the system, the type of data [they] are dealing with, how much of it there is, and how long [they] will be retaining the data for.'
There are a number of pieces of relevant legislation and policy to inform the steps taken by NHS organisations to ensure that proportionate security controls are put in place to mitigate security risks, including The Government Security Classification Policy, GDPR and The Data Security and Protection Toolkit.
It's safe to say that the NHS, and the wider healthcare sector, can benefit hugely from cloud implementation, and with stringent security measures in place, they will be able to offer quicker and more streamlined services.
Our expert technical team provide reliable cloud services for a variety of sectors. We can help you identify the best cloud products for your organisation, migrate your existing infrastructure to the cloud, and provide ongoing support to manage your cloud solutions. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please contact our friendly team!