Today, many health systems are using cloud-based technologies that are delivered over the Internet. In health care, cloud vendors can provide a range of services, such as storage, remote hosting, and archiving.

Here are some questions to ask before working with a cloud vendor.  

Will the cloud vendor sign a business associate agreement (BAA)? This is important for liability coverage. Cloud vendors that focus on health care should be willing to do this or already have their own BAA ready to sign.

Will the cloud vendor work with your existing application vendors to ensure systems are working properly? A responsible vendor collaborates with other vendors to make sure that systems are configured correctly for the cloud and vice versa. If the cloud vendor does not ensure a successful transition, it costs providers more in time and internal resources.  

What is the cloud vendor’s service level agreement (SLA)? In health care, software applications are downtime intolerant. Seek out an industry-leading SLA and study the recompense structure for downtime specifications and remedies.

Does the cloud vender have a security officer focused on compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)? Vendors that have a security officer designated for health care demonstrate a dedication and commitment to the industry. These vendors are cognizant of the challenges you face as a healthcare provider and may be more likely to offer an appropriate environment to safeguard protected health information (PHI) and mitigate potential risks.

What other related services does the cloud vendor offer? Think about your long-term strategy when selecting a cloud vendor. You will be spending resources to build and privately connect to this cloud. Leverage that connection and scale other services across the network to maximize your ROI and vendor management efficiency. Medical image archiving, cloud storage, enterprise storage equipment, dedicated hosting, and data center colocation are additional services to consider.    


For more information, see Mary Reeves and Rita Bowen's "Developing a Data Governance Model in Health Care," hfm, February 2013.

Publication Date: Friday, February 01, 2013

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