This Week Health
July 20, 2023

Cloud Security in Health IT: Challenges, Opportunities, and Considerations

The world of healthcare IT is on the brink of a revolution. As health systems accelerate digital transformation, cloud technology has quickly ascended to the forefront, creating an urgent need for robust and efficient cloud security measures. This seismic shift comes with its share of challenges and opportunities, making it imperative for healthcare IT professionals to develop effective strategies for a smooth transition.

To help navigate this emerging landscape, we turn to seasoned industry professionals Robert Cantu, Director of Cybersecurity Operations, Inova Health System, and Todd Felker, Executive Healthcare Strategist at CrowdStrike. Their in-depth knowledge and practical experience offer a wealth of insights into the complexities and possibilities at the intersection of healthcare and cloud security. From understanding the evolving threat landscape to overcoming staffing and budgetary constraints, their perspectives shed light on the crucial steps health systems need to consider in their journey to cloud security.

The Need for Cloud Security in Healthcare ITRobert Cantu

Cloud-based solutions have begun to dominate healthcare IT. Critical systems, like Electronic Health Records (EHR), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), are transitioning to the cloud. This shift prompts the need for robust cloud security.

Cloud technology offers the healthcare sector agility, scalability, and cost efficiency. However, its adoption brings challenges, primarily the constant evolution of cybersecurity threats. As Todd says, "These adversaries are continuing to evolve." This statement underscores the growing necessity for IT professionals to stay ahead of the curve.

Data protection and patient privacy are significant concerns as health systems transition to the cloud. As Todd suggests, half the world's data could be in the cloud within a few years, underlining the need for scalable and adaptable cloud security solutions.

Challenges in Moving to Cloud Security Solutions

Transitioning to cloud-based systems brings obstacles, such as staffing, budgetary pressures, and problems with existing on-premise data centers. As Robert points out, many of these centers are in sub-optimal locations and risk physical damage. "Your data center is sitting in closets. It's getting in a non-conditioned space. You've got water pipes waiting to blow through 2 million worth of network equipment," he explains.

These challenges highlight the pressing need for a shift in strategy towards cloud security solutions. The journey is complex, but the rewards of security, scalability, and operational efficiency make it worthwhile.

Strategies for Implementing Cloud Security Solutions

As we tackle the challenges and embrace the opportunities in the transition to cloud security solutions, it's vital to have a comprehensive and forward-thinking strategy. Two fundamental elements underpin successful strategies: choosing a reliable partner and careful budget considerations.

Todd's perspective on partnership choice brings to light the necessity of adaptability in a landscape where adversaries constantly evolve. "What you're looking for is a partner that's going to help you adapt as the adversary evolves," he explained, underlining the need for a dynamic response to a fast-moving security landscape. "As the cloud usage grows, expanding to the other clouds and having your tools work in both...Azure, but also AWS and Google...is critical."

These insights underline the importance of versatility and flexibility in a cloud security partner. Given the pace at which technology and cybersecurity threats evolve, adapting quickly is essential to a successful cloud security solution.

The element of cost is equally significant in transitioning to cloud-based solutions. Robert provides a pragmatic approach to budget considerations, recommending an in-depth review of the costs associated with current data center operations. He suggests considering "what you're spending for power, what you're spending for cooling, what you're spending for that space. That is your data center."

Highlighting these often-overlooked expenses can be vital in making a persuasive case for the cost-effectiveness of cloud solutions. It also underscores the importance of a holistic view of the budgetary implications, considering the apparent costs of cloud services and the potential savings from moving away from on-premise data centers.

These insights provide a strategic blueprint for health systems transitioning to the cloud. It is clear that selecting the right partners and having a comprehensive understanding of the costs associated with current and future states are integral to implementing effective cloud security solutions.

Achieving Economically Secure Cloud Solutions

While moving to the cloud brings about a transformative change in how healthcare IT functions, it is essential that this transition is both secure and economical. Robert's insights offer a roadmap for achieving this delicate balance, emphasizing the significance of partner selection in the process.

Robert stresses the importance of choosing partners who protect the system and help improve its state. "What I'm doing, what I think anyone in my position would do, is going out and picking the right partners that are going to A, help you protect, B, help you bring your system along and get it to a more secure state," he explains.

This statement speaks to the dual role that a good cloud security partner plays. First, they help bolster the system's defenses against cybersecurity threats. Second, they assist in the overall development of the system, ensuring it is robust, secure, and primed for future growth.

Moreover, Robert emphasizes the value of a partner who can seamlessly integrate into the existing IT ecosystem. "Three, they get along in the ecosystem so that you can maximize your investment," he adds. Such harmonious integration ensures that the chosen cloud solutions align with existing systems and processes, thereby improving overall efficiency and maximizing return on investment.

A crucial point that Robert highlights is the potential for cloud security solutions to limit staffing requirements. By selecting the right cloud security partner, healthcare organizations can reduce the need for extensive in-house IT teams, which is particularly significant in an era of staffing challenges and budget constraints.

"Limit the amount of stuff you have to bring to your premises so that you can achieve this in an economical, secure way," Robert suggests. This strategy allows healthcare IT professionals to tap into the expertise of their cloud security partners, enabling them to maintain robust and secure systems without the need for extensive personnel recruitment.

In essence, achieving economical and secure cloud solutions involves meticulous partner selection, prioritizing those who can offer comprehensive protection, facilitate system improvements, integrate effectively into the existing ecosystem, and help streamline staffing requirements. This approach ensures an optimized, cost-effective, secure transition to the cloud.

Conclusion

Healthcare systems increasingly turn to the cloud, requiring robust cloud security solutions. The insights from Todd and Robert highlight the complex challenges that healthcare IT professionals face and provide a roadmap for navigating this rapidly evolving landscape.

Strategic partner selection emerges as a critical theme. Todd believes the right partner will help health systems adapt to the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape. Robert provides a comprehensive view of what to look for in a cloud security partner, who should protect the system, help its overall growth, and smoothly integrate into the existing ecosystem.

As healthcare organizations migrate more data and systems to the cloud, the cybersecurity landscape in healthcare IT will continue to evolve. The need for reliable, adaptable, and cost-effective cloud security solutions will grow. As we chart the future of cloud security in healthcare IT, success lies in our ability to adapt, choose the right partners, and protect sensitive data. This journey may be challenging, but healthcare IT professionals can securely navigate this new frontier with the right strategies and partnerships.

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