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Back in early 2018, NHS Digital, which is responsible for setting the digital agenda for the NHS, as well as making the rules by which it will work from a digital perspective, ruled that hospitals and GP surgeries could start to store delicate and personal data in the cloud.
Although some concerns were raised about the security of the data kept in the public cloud, NHS Digital was quick to point out that these fears are unfounded. Here, we take a look at the major gains offered to the NHS by this decision to change its data storage policy in favour of the cloud.
Firstly, it’s important to point out that risks to data security were kept to a minimum by the decision that all data should only be stored in cloud servers located within the European Economic Area. Alternatively, it could be stored in the US providing it is covered by the Privacy Shield protection.
This decision is important as it ensures that the security measures in place in the locations in which the information is stored is deemed adequate by the European Commission.
In another move that was intended to reduce the risks associated with moving information to the cloud, NHS Digital warned hospitals and GP surgeries that they would need healthy internet connections to be able to access the data stored in the cloud. It said: "If your internet access is disrupted or is unreliable, you may lose access to your data and services.”
Lastly, risks were also reduced when NHS Digital decided to point out the importance of a change in behaviour and culture to keep data safe. It stated: "Use of the cloud increases the portability of data, meaning data can be distributed across multiple devices both within and without the boundary of your organisation. The right cultural understanding and behaviours need to be in place to manage this portability appropriately mitigate any risks.”
The NHS has enjoyed the savings that come with a move to the cloud at a time when it has needed to cut costs. Moving to the cloud means that the amount of money being spent on hardware and indeed software within hospitals and GP surgeries fell dramatically.
As well as this advantage, the NHS has been able to develop, test and deploy
services quickly without large capital expense.
Remember the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack that hit the NHS is 2017? This led to a great deal of disruption for a number of NHS trusts across the UK. Now that the cloud is being used, and will likely to be used more and more over the coming years, this kind of attack will become far less easy to carry out.
NHS Digital’s guidance on the deployment of the Cloud explained: “Cloud providers have a significant budget to pay for updating, maintaining, patching and securing their infrastructure. This means cloud services can mitigate many common risks NHS and social care organisations often face.”
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