Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Health + Tech | Are your files safe? - Cloud-stored electronic health records

Published:Thursday | June 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall

If there were to be a disaster at your medical practice, or hospital, such as a fire or, since we are in the midst of the hurricane season, flooding, could you go to a new location, or even work from home and access all your patient and other files anyway?

If the answer to this question is 'no', then you could have a big problem, and so would your patients.

One of the most valuable assets to any medical facility is its patient records and historical information. Let's face it. There is no way to recover these once they are lost.

This is why healthcare digitisation (conversion of paper-based information to digital format) is important. But that's just the beginning. Cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) is trending worldwide, and quickly becoming one of the next big things in health information technology.

The 'cloud' is a revolutionary approach to managing computing resources. It provides a pool of computing resources that can be accessed anytime and anywhere via the Internet. This means small facilities/medical practitioners can readily access computer infrastructure and services without any major upfront investment.


Substantial Benefits


Indeed, the healthcare industry is rapidly embracing the cloud due to the substantial benefits, such as greater access to patients' health records, operational efficiency, and importantly, protection of patient data.

The cloud allows broad access to health information for healthcare providers and patients. Health records can be accessed via a mobile device or a computer anywhere in the world. This means a patient can be treated from anywhere and have access to their critical medical records wherever they may be. In this regard, the cloud changes the operation and quality of healthcare.

With the cloud, medical practices can operate far more efficiently due to faster access to health information. When a doctor can readily access a patient's medical records and lab results on his tablet, it makes diagnosis and treatment much faster. The less time spent with each patient means more patients can be treated in a day.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of the cloud to healthcare providers is data protection. Traditional paper-based patient files are notorious for going missing, stolen, or damaged. When this happens patient care suffers and can end in tragedy. This risk is avoided with the cloud, which typically has strong data-protection controls to safeguard patients' vital medical information.

We have three data centres at which we host information in the cloud. These are located in different countries to facilitate backup and disaster recovery if ever there is an issue such as a hurricane in one site which requires temporary shutdown.

We deal with important health data and so it is imperative for us that this data is always accessible and fully secure, in conformity with banking standards and government regulation.

Our customers do not have to worry about losing files because they can always recover digital copies of their electronic medical records, for example, from any location from which they choose to work and at any time.

The University Hospital of the West Indies is well under way with the process of digitising health records and storing them in the cloud, as part of the overall Hospital Information Management System project, which augurs well for the continuity and improvement in the quality of healthcare in Jamaica.

Digitisation of healthcare data and services can add tremendous value and lead to several benefits for both patient and practitioner. Continuity of care is a major requirement for any healthcare business and essential for patient welfare. Technology facilitates this, among other things.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman & CEO, Advanced Integrated Systems. Feedback: doug.halsall@gmail.com