Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why Can You / Can't You Use The Cloud?

FAQ Wednesday is here again. Today's question: what about the Cloud and clinical labs?

This question has two variants:

  1. You can't use the Cloud for heath care data, can you--HIPAA, etc?
  2. Why can't you use the Cloud for my clinical lab interface?
Can You Use the Cloud?
The first question, which I take to mean, "is it within law and regulation to use the Cloud for PHI," is actually pretty easy to answer: yes. Does HIPAA restrict the options? Yes. Does HIPAA prohibit use of the Cloud? No.

We currently use Amazon Web Services as our Cloud vendor and they claim to be certified and everything. From


HIPAAAWS enables covered entities and their business associates subject to the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to leverage the secure AWS environment to process, maintain, and store protected health information and AWS will be signing business associate agreements with such customers. AWS also offers a HIPAA-focused whitepaper for customers interested in learning more about how they can leverage AWS for the processing and storage of health information. The Creating HIPAA-Compliant Medical Data Applications with AWS whitepaper outlines how companies can use AWS to process systems that facilitate HIPAA and HITECH compliance. For more information on the AWS HIPAA compliance program please contact AWS Sales and Business Development.

But I expect that Google will keep up and this reference implies that they are:

In fact, we are counting on growing acceptance of Cloud implementations in health care, which is why we are currently developing Direct Interfaces.

Why Can't You Use the Cloud?
This is a slightly difference question, which I take to mean "in practical terms, what are the obstacles to Cloud-based interfacing?" The short answer is "the conservative nature of hospital and clinical lab IT culture." This is very linked to why lab interfacing in general is so hard: our industry punishes mistakes and does not reward innovation. So often, doing nothing is rewarded and thus fighting innovation tooth-and-nail is the norm.

(Since this is legal and low overhead and effective, we plan to step around the hospital and clinical lab IT organizations with our new Cloud-based lab connectivity venture, but that is another story.)

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