As a practice manager, you should be familiar with cloud computing technology as it can provide your practice with a range of benefits including reduced IT costs, business continuity in the event of a disaster and greater work flexibility for staff.
Manage your computing resources
Cloud computing provides a way for
your practice to manage your computing resources online; you access and store
your programs and data using an internet connection in a virtual environment.
The term has evolved over recent years and whilst increasingly being used in
the business environment, health has been hesitant to widely adopt the
e.g.: For those of you who use MYOB as your accounting
package, MYOB will move to cloud-based system from mid-2014.
traditional method of operation for a practice would be to have the server
onsite and all the software loaded on that server. Users would log into the
local server and your hardware and software would be maintained by your IT
Cloud computing allows you to access your data and
programs outside of your own computing environment. Rather than storing your
data and software on your personal computer or server, it is stored in 'the
cloud'. Users are able to log into the practice system virtually.
instead of investing in capital equipment – servers, you ‘rent’ space on a
Moving data to the cloud
Before you move your data into the cloud, you will need to consider
which model works best for your practice and data needs. You should discuss
your needs with your IT support personnel. You should also confirm that your
clinical and practice management software vendors support their product in a
Cloud computing has four models in terms of
different access and security options.
A private cloud is
where the services and infrastructure are maintained and managed by you or a
A community cloud exists where several organisations share
access to a private cloud, with similar security considerations.
A public cloud is where the services are
stored off-site and accessed over the internet. The storage is managed by an
external organisation such as Google or Microsoft.
A hybrid cloud model takes advantages of both
public and private cloud services.
How does the cloud work?
There are three
main types of cloud computing service models available, commonly known as:
- software as a service (SaaS)
- infrastructure as a service
- platform as a service (PaaS).
your needs, your practice could use one of, or a mixture of the three service
What are the benefits?
Cloud computing can offer your practice many benefits. These may
Reduced IT costs
Moving to cloud computing may reduce the cost of
managing and maintaining your IT systems. Rather than purchasing expensive
systems and equipment for your business, you can reduce your costs by using the
resources of your cloud computing service provider. You may be able to reduce
your operating costs because:
- the cost of system upgrades, new
hardware and software may be included in your contract
- your level of
IT support may decrease
- of improved access for your remote users
- your energy consumption costs may be reduced there are fewer time
practice can scale up or scale down your operation and storage needs quickly to
suit your situation, allowing flexibility as your needs change. This is
especially relevant around increased storage capacity requirement for data.
experience a natural disaster, power failure or other crisis, having your data
stored in the cloud ensures it is backed up and protected in a secure and safe
location. This provides an integrated solution to your business continuity and
data restoration plan.
Collaboration in a cloud environment gives your practice the
ability to communicate and share more easily outside of the traditional
methods. If you are working on a project across different locations, you could
use cloud computing to give employees, contractors and third parties access to
the same files.
Flexibility of work practices
Cloud computing allows doctors or employees to be
more flexible in their work practices. If you need access to your data while
you are off-site, you can connect to your virtual office, quickly and easily.
This replaces the virtual private network (VPN) set-up many practices currently
on your cloud computing service provider, your system will regularly be updated
with the latest technology. This could include up-to-date versions of software,
as well as upgrades to servers and computer processing power. This may save on
your support costs and ensure all programs are maintained at their current
What are the risks involved?
Before considering cloud computing
technology in your practice, it is important to understand the risks involved
when moving your business into the cloud. You should carry out a risk
assessment process before any control is handed over to a service provider. You
should involve your IT support personnel in this process.
Government has published a comprehensive guide on cloud computing security considerations. Although this is
aimed at government agencies, the guidelines and information are relevant to
practice. You should consider the following issues:
Internet connection: speed and reliability
You should confirm with your internet
and/or telecommunication provider as to the
- cost of the internet service to your practice.
Privacy agreement and service
Be aware of
your obligations under the Privacy Act and 13 APPs. You will need to have
suitable agreements in place with your service providers before services
commence. Make sure that you understand the responsibilities of the service
provider, as well as your own obligations.
Security and data protection
You must consider how your data will be stored and
secured when outsourcing to a third party. This should be outlined in the
agreement with your service provider, and must address mitigations to
governance and security risks. It must cover who has access to the data and the
security measures in place to protect your data. Be sure to have any third
party indemnify the practice for any breach, loss or other event that affects
the practice. Seek advice from your insurer or lawyer in this area
Location of data
Cloud computing service providers are
often located outside Australia. Before committing, you should investigate
where your data is being stored and which privacy and security laws will apply
to the data
Legislation and regulation
You will need to be aware of Australian legislative and regulatory requirements when
storing personal data (e.g. the Privacy Act 1988 and the Archives Act 1983 will apply). If the data is
being stored outside of Australia (e.g. if your business uses an overseas
service provider), you will also need to be aware of the legislation and
regulation requirements in that geographic location
There is no doubt that in the future we will run our
practices with cloud based and virtual computing solutions. At this stage,
there appears to be a number of barriers that may limit the ability of practice
to adopt this technology.
Policy and procedure manuals
- Set policies and procedures
- Improve your practice