The Data Storage Challenges of the Healthcare Industry
Data is gold. As rehashed as it sounds, data in healthcare is paramount to extend au fait medical care and largely drives preventive healthcare on the whole. Smart hospitals encourage modern technologies to collect, use, and implement patient data. They use IoT-based healthcare devices along with conventional healthcare data collected via CT scans, MRIs, X-Ray reports, and other medical test reports which accumulate huge magnitude of healthcare data. Healthcare data management is inevitably imperative for comprehensive medical care.
But as the need to record and store more and more patient data points grows, it also brings forth the challenges in storing and maintaining a large volume of healthcare data for hospitals and healthcare facilities.
According to a study, the healthcare data will cross 25000 Petabytes in 2020. So, the need to store and manage this data effectively is crucial.
On-Premise Data Storage
Healthcare facilities and hospitals largely prefer on-premise data storage to store and manage patient data. The primary reason for the same is pretty straightforward – they can have more control over the in-house data. Since the on-premise data centers do not need wireless connections, there’s no risk of downtimes. The idea that the healthcare providers can access the data anytime from a secure, native data center appeals to most, making on-premise data storage a popular choice, by and large.
But the principle of ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ stands true for healthcare data storage. On-premise data storage comes with a set of challenges that are critical to be addressed by exploring other vital healthcare data storage options.
Let’s discuss some of the key challenges in the on-premise data storage for healthcare.
Key Challenges of on-premise data storage in healthcare
Need for larger infrastructure
As the amount of healthcare data to be stored and managed escalates, it demands more and more physical storage space. When hospitals and healthcare centers opt for on-premise data storage, they have to arrange for physical space within the premises to host the servers. While it offers the convenience of having the data within reach, in larger cities, the cost of acquiring this physical space is humongous. As more and more data points are added, more storage space is required. If the healthcare organization has opted for dedicated towers over modern rack servers that require more space for hardware, it has to make even more provisions to ensure they do not run out of the real estate for data storage.
Added maintenance costs
The on-premise data storage has evolved drastically over the last few years with Rack servers and flash-based arrays that significantly lower the maintenance costs. But the overall costs of maintaining continuous power supply, ensuring cooling mechanisms are up and operational at all times, troubleshooting server hardware and the dedicated IT resources add up considerably, making on-premise data storage a rather costly option.
From deployment with the appropriate licensed software to continuously maintaining uptime, on-premise storage is expensive. It adds up to the capital as well as the operational costs of the healthcare organization.
The on-premise data infrastructure is connected to the local network, and hence one could consider this as the most secure option for maintaining critical patient data. The highly sensitive data is vulnerable to phishing attacks and malware attacks. In the due process of upkeeping the security of on-premise healthcare data with reliable anti-virus software, firewalls, encryption, and multi-factor authentication, one cannot ignore the loophole brought-in by the human factor. Since the on-premise data security depends largely on the IT resources, there is always room for error.
According to a study, 80% of the IT professionals and healthcare executives expressed concern over awareness in the employees with respect to healthcare data security. Without proper awareness, the stakeholders can often ignore or delay software updates or perforate quicker ways to access the data, which can open it up against threats. One frail decision could result in the data breach of a huge data center, impacting the privacy and security of healthcare data on millions of patients.
Latency and downtime risk
It is argued that the on-premise data has a lower risk of downtimes because of the totalitarian control the healthcare organization has over its data centers. But it is important to consider that any error in the storage infrastructure or regional or geographical disaster can create a catastrophic downtime that can also cost patient life. Since maintaining the uptime of on-premise data servers lies with the hospital’s IT resources, recovering from downtime quickly might not always be achievable. Legacy networks bombarded with a high volume of complicated databases and applications might result in network latency in retrieving on-premise data.
Lack of scalability
On-premise data centers are not agile. Healthcare organizations either end-up investing way too much in infrastructure or very little. The on-premise data storage is not flexible to be scaled as and when needed. The investments are needed upfront, and unless the healthcare organization has a future-proof strategy, the data centers are either insufficient with respect to physical space and performance or excessive, burdening the organization with additional costs. Also, as futuristic applications are deployed for healthcare data, the legacy on-premise environments might not be the best fit.
Mitigating these challenges: The urgency
Healthcare data is critical for ensuring that the patient receives the most accurate medical care. Not having quick access to patient data can significantly impact the quality of care given to the patients. If the healthcare data lies vulnerable, it can result in severe data breaches impacting highly private data of the patients. It can also result in unavailability and inaccessibility to the data at critical times. The lack of scalability and high maintenance costs of on-premise data storage can further impact the operational costs of hospitals and healthcare facilities. As value-based medical care gains momentum, making the healthcare data readily available for improved quality of care while maintaining compliance with data security policies such as HIPPA becomes crucial.
Cloud storage: The way ahead
As healthcare institutions move towards a more holistic data storage option, the one that strikes as the most promising option is cloud storage. The shift more on-premise to cloud data storage for healthcare affirms that the above-mentioned challenges are nullified, along with the added benefits of cloud data storage.
With cloud-based data storage, the handover process of the patient data can be smoothed, making it quick and easy without compromising on the security. Cloud storage is more scalable, pulls in less capital investment for deployment as well as maintenance. Data accessibility also improves tremendously. Healthcare organizations can start with a smaller space and eventually increase more cloud space as the amount of data grows.
With more and more mobile devices being used for healthcare, with complex applications that require remote access to healthcare data, having it stored on the cloud seems a more practical option.
Be it for patient engagement, workforce optimization, disaster recovery, revenue management, or improved healthcare; cloud data storage is now rapidly replacing the conventional on-premise data storage solutions.
Data in healthcare is set to revolutionize the healthcare industry as a whole, positively impacting the medical care and assistance provided to the patients. Is your organization ready to ride the wave of hyper-digitization is a question hospitals and healthcare institutions need to consider!