Keep Your HIPAA-Protected Data Safer with Cloud Computing

hipaa complianceIf you’ve been considering the implications of cloud computing when it comes to HIPAA compliance, a new article in Healthcare IT News is worth a read.

The article, penned by our own general counsel Lee Bendekgey, is entitled “Cloud computing reduces HIPAA compliance risk in managing genomic data.” In it, Lee looks at the massive computational infrastructure required for handling new health data, such as genome sequences. “The resources required to process, analyze, and manage petabytes of genomic information represent a huge burden for even the largest academic research facility or healthcare institution,” Lee writes.

While it may seem counterintuitive, he adds, moving data to a cloud environment can actually improve data security. Lee considers HIPAA requirements and historic breaches of HIPAA-secured data, looking at what factors may have improved security in those situations where personal health information was put at risk.

Breaches tend to occur on items that are portable — flash drives and laptops, for instance — so keeping data in the cloud means that sensitive data never actually lives on one of these easily stolen or lost devices. Cloud computing providers routinely encrypt data while it’s in transit and at rest, adding to high-grade security. Medical organizations considering this route should ensure that a cloud provider guarantees security audits, certifications, and assessments associated with HIPAA compliance.

“By using a cloud-based service with an appropriate security and compliance infrastructure, an organization can significantly reduce its compliance risk,” Lee writes.

Dispelling the Myths of the Cloud

cloud computing in genomicsWhat comes to mind when you hear the word “cloud”? Does the Amazon cloud immediately pop into your head?

Despite the cloud’s widespread recognition in the media, many are still uncertain about the benefits of cloud computing.  In a recent national survey, 95% of respondents who claimed they have never used the cloud actually have. In fact, they do so unwittingly nearly everyday via online banking and shopping, social networking, emailing etc.

Some scientists still seem skeptical of the cloud’s place in next-generation sequencing. If you tend to gravitate to skepticism, please read my article, Dispelling the Myths of the Cloud for the Skeptical Scientist, on BitesizeBio.com.

It provides an overview of how the cloud can be useful to scientists in a multitude of ways, such as infinite scalability, enabling instant and limitless access to storage and compute resources, eliminating up-front commitment to expensive hardware. Another advantage, Data security, is the cloud’s core competency, which cannot be measured up to any other internal infrastructure.

The “cloud” may be generating a lot of buzz in the NGS community, but is it worthy of all the hype? It appears that all signs point to yes.