Security and Scalability in Cloud-Based Health Applications

Cloud computing in healthcare applications plays a growing role in the industry’s quest to provide better, more informed patient care.

The cloud offers many benefits for streamlining communication, enhancing collaboration between healthcare providers, and empowering patients.

Security and scalability are two critical factors underpinning the success of any healthcare solution. This article looks at the benefits that cloud-based health applications bring to the table for these two imperatives.

What does “cloud-based” mean?

In a technology context, “cloud-based” simply refers to anything delivered and accessed over the internet instead of being stored or run on a local server, computer, or similar device. It means the hardware and software used aren’t physically on the premises but on remote servers operated by a cloud provider like Amazon, Microsoft, or Google.

Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects of cloud-based systems:

Location: The software, data, or service isn’t stored on a local device but on remote servers managed by a cloud provider. Users access it through a web browser or a dedicated app.

On-demand availability: Resources like processing power, storage, and software are available on demand, meaning you only pay for what you use, unlike traditional software purchases.

Scalability: Cloud systems can quickly scale up or down to accommodate changes in user demand, making them ideal for healthcare businesses.

Accessibility: Users can access cloud-based services from any device with an internet connection, regardless of location.

Maintenance: The cloud provider handles maintenance and updates, freeing you from these tasks.

Familiar examples of cloud-based applications outside of healthcare include email providers (Gmail,, Yahoo Mail, etc.), file storage services (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox), software applications like Microsoft Office 365 and the Adobe Creative Suite, streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, ad infinitum), and almost every website.

The most recognizable cloud-based solution within the healthcare arena is Epic and their line of EHR applications.

Scalability Benefits of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

Another advantage of cloud computing in healthcare is that it offers greater scalability. In other words, computing power and storage capacity adjusts with demand.

Scalability allows providers to handle growing amounts of data without infrastructure changes and the associated expense and downtime.

Scalability is also a significant advantage in disaster situations. When hospitals are overwhelmed during a natural disaster or disease outbreak, they don’t have time to adjust their data storage and processing needs. Cloud services allow them to handle sudden spikes in information seamlessly. Also, being able to analyze massive amounts of data makes it easier for healthcare providers to handle such crises.

Additionally, scalability enables them to easily handle the exponential growth common to electronic health record (EHR) systems. Healthcare providers must retain old patient data while taking in new patient data daily. HIPAA laws require providers to store patient medical records for six years, and other federal laws mandate them to retain medical records for at least seven years after a medical service is provided. The duration increases to ten years for Medicare patients. This aspect alone makes scalability essential.

The Benefits of Cloud Security in Healthcare

Healthcare software solutions require strong encryption, access controls, and other measures that prevent unauthorized access or breaches of sensitive patient data. Any breach of patient data can have devastating consequences.

Recognizing this fact, governments worldwide have enacted stringent regulations like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Cloud security in healthcare solutions helps organizations comply with these mandates, often offering higher levels of security than required. Because their business relies on data security, cloud providers implement robust encryption protocols at rest and in transit to protect patient information.

Granular Access Controls

Cloud solutions also allow providers to establish granular access controls that ensure only authorized individuals can access specific data. Permissions are not just assigned to broad categories like “users” or “administrators” but rather tailored to specific actions, data elements, or even timeframes.

Granular controls can be adjusted based on factors like user roles, attributes, location, time of day, or even the device used. This allows for dynamic access restrictions while ensuring that only authorized individuals can access specific data.

AI-based Security

Even before the explosion of artificial intelligence, cloud security in healthcare involved advanced security measures to detect and mitigate cyber threats promptly. Cloud solutions leverage machine learning and AI to analyze vast amounts of data and identify subtle patterns indicative of malicious activity. This allows them to detect sophisticated threats that might evade traditional signature-based detection methods.

Real-time Threat Assessment

Cloud providers can access real-time threat intelligence feeds, which they integrate into their solutions to identify and respond to the latest attacks. This keeps healthcare organizations ahead of evolving threats.

Cloud solutions automate the analysis and correlation of events from various sources, allowing for faster and more accurate threat detection. This reduces the burden on security teams and helps them prioritize potential incidents.

Continuous Monitoring and Auditing

Cloud solutions operate 24/7, continuously monitoring their environment for suspicious activity. This level of observation is often difficult to achieve with on-premise solutions due to resource limitations.

Part of this monitoring is conducting regular audits, penetration testing, and other security assessments to identify and address vulnerabilities.

Other Benefits of Cloud-based Health Applications

Cloud computing in healthcare offers other benefits related to scalability and security, including secure data storage and sharing,

Secure Data Storage and Sharing

Before cloud solutions, data was backed up onto portable storage media (removable hard drives or reels of magnetic tape) and sent to an offsite storage facility. If disaster struck and the local data was lost, the stored backups could be retrieved, and most of the data recovered. The only data lost in such a situation was anything created between backups.

The advent of faster internet speeds and cloud-based solutions allowed organizations to securely store vast amounts of up-to-the-minute patient data and access it from anywhere. It also allows providers to seamlessly share information and collaborate on patient care.

Improved Patient Experience

From the patient’s perspective, this information-sharing and collaboration eliminates much of the frustration and repetition of transferring from one specialist to another. Traditionally, patients had to fill out the same forms every time they saw a new provider, even when both specialists were in the same facility. Cloud solutions eliminate this redundancy, improving the patient experience and streamlining care.

Expanded Healthcare Services

Cloud computing in healthcare also enables providers to offer more distance patient service options, such as telehealth visits and remote patient monitoring. These solutions improve the patient experience and extend a provider’s reach to patients outside of their traditional geographic service area. This can benefit both the provider and the patient who lives miles away from the nearest provider.

Greater Interoperability

Cloud solutions also improve interoperability. Interoperability in healthcare refers to the ability of different providers and hospitals to share updated patient data efficiently. It is mandated by both the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) and the ONC 21st Century Cures Act. The cloud architecture and underlying technologies make it easier to achieve compliance with these mandates.

Cost Efficiency

Cost efficiency is another benefit. For a fraction of the price of traditional onsite hardware and the associated maintenance, healthcare organizations can get more storage space and processing capabilities.

Striking the Balance

Achieving optimal security and scalability in cloud-based health applications requires a strategic approach, especially when building a custom solution.

Adopt a security-first mindset. Integrate security throughout the development lifecycle and partner with trusted cloud providers. Look for reputable cloud providers with proven track records in security and healthcare compliance.

Utilize built-in cloud security features and specialized tools for enhanced protection. Regularly monitor performance and security metrics to identify and address potential issues proactively.

Cloud-based health applications can revolutionize healthcare delivery by prioritizing security and scalability, offering a secure, adaptable, and efficient platform for patient care and provider collaboration.

Ashutosh Kumar

Ashutosh is a Senior Technical Architect at Taazaa. He has more than 15 years of experience in .Net Technology, and enjoys learning new technologies in order to provide fresh solutions for our clients.