Improve Your Practice

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 technology.

e.g.: For those of you who use MYOB as your accounting package, MYOB will move to cloud-based system from mid-2014.

The 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 support personnel.

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.

So instead of investing in capital equipment – servers, you ‘rent’ space on a monthly basis.

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-based environment.

Cloud computing has four models in terms of different access and security options.

Private cloud

A private cloud is where the services and infrastructure are maintained and managed by you or a third party.

Community cloud

A community cloud exists where several organisations share access to a private cloud, with similar security considerations.

Public cloud

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.

Hybrid cloud

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 (IaaS)
  • platform as a service (PaaS).

Depending on your needs, your practice could use one of, or a mixture of the three service models.

What are the benefits?

Cloud computing can offer your practice many benefits. These may include:

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 delays.


Your 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.

Business continuity

Whether you 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 efficiency

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 adopt.

Access to automatic updates

Depending 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 version.

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.

The Australian 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
- type
- reliability
- cost of the internet service to your practice.

Privacy agreement and service level agreement

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.

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This publication is proudly brought to you by Avant Mutual Group. The content was authored by Brett McPherson, reviewed by Colleen Sullivan and Avant Mutual Group.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2014.

IMPORTANT: Professional indemnity insurance products and Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Policy are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. The information provided here is general advice only. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us. For full details including the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply, please read and consider the policy wording and PDS, which is available at or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability, public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance, and workers compensation and you should contact your insurance broker for more information. Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Any advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the product is appropriate for you before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us.