Last week, the Government took a crucial step in providing clarity to the NHS on storing patient information in the cloud.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has signed off guidance that helps public health organisation move data from on-site serves to cloud services in data centres run by 3rd parties.
Although some NHS organisations already use cloud services, this is the first time they have been given official guidance to embrace the technology. It is hoped the NHS will save money and benefit from greater security as well as allowing staff to be more productive as they can access the cloud anytime from any location.
Migrating highly sensitive patient data to the cloud and maintaining the stringent security parameters around this is no small undertaking. Staying secure while adopting cloud technologies requires careful planning and ongoing security efforts to ensure that the NHS can reap the benefits of new technology, while keeping their most valuable data safe and complying with regulatory requirements.
Storing patient data in the cloud will enable doctors and other healthcare professionals to access patient data from anywhere in the world, enabling specialist consultants in other countries to view patient results and offer expertise that may otherwise not have been available. Crucially, the storing of patient data in the cloud could be used to integrate all phases of health-care treatment in the near future, from assisted living to primary and secondary healthcare.
While we welcome the news that the Government is encouraging NHS trusts to move to the cloud, it will be a challenging journey. So here are our top 5 tips for preparing to move data to the cloud.
1. Get your whole IT Team onboard
This point can’t be stressed enough. No matter how wary or resistant you may be, Cloud computing is inevitably the next step in IT evolution. It represents a transformative leap forward for today’s NHS, promising to facilitate collaboration and idea sharing while delivering an agile, data-driven service for patients but your entire IT team must be bought in to this.
2. Banish the security myths
The cloud is getting more secure by the day, but with myths plaguing the minds of NHS IT decision-makers across the UK, it’s understandable many are reluctant to make the move, having been haunted by the tales that proclaim cloud is considerably less secure than on premises infrastructure.
In actual fact, you might be surprised to hear that on-premises instillations actually experience around 69% more security incidents per customer than organisations relying strictly on public cloud services just proving that security in the cloud far exceeds its on-premises ancestors.
3. Set credible expectations
Before you begin moving sensitive patient data to the cloud, it’s essential to consider all possibilities – both good and bad. Cloud migration issues, such as unexpected costs, interoperability, security gaps and unanticipated application rework, can create significant obstacles. So to help smooth a frequently bumpy path, you need to craft a well-thought-out migration strategy with an experienced Cloud provider.
4. Engage with a Cloud Provider you trust and that has experience working with other NHS Trusts.
Don’t attempt to go it alone! The skills you need are hard to come by so it’s crucial that you ensure you have access to a partner with a wider pool of skills and expertise. This can be absolutely instrumental to the success of your migration and the ongoing management.
This might sound obvious, but research various cloud providers and particularly look out for those who have a history of migrating and managing public cloud environments within the NHS. Look out for testimonials from other Trusts and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask them directly about their experiences in the cloud.