Storing and Using Health Data in a Virtual Private Cloud
Electronic health records are being adopted at a rapid rate due to increased funding from the US federal government. Health data provide the opportunity to identify possible improvements in health care delivery by applying data mining and statistical methods to the data and will also enable a wide variety of new applications that will be meaningful to patients and medical professionals. Researchers are often granted access to health care data to assist in the data mining process, but HIPAA regulations mandate comprehensive safeguards to protect the data. Often universities (and presumably other research organizations) have an enterprise information technology infrastructure and a research infrastructure. Unfortunately, both of these infrastructures are generally not appropriate for sensitive research data such as HIPAA, as they require special accommodations on the part of the enterprise information technology (or increased security on the part of the research computing environment). Cloud computing, which is a concept that allows organizations to build complex infrastructures on leased resources, is rapidly evolving to the point that it is possible to build sophisticated network architectures with advanced security capabilities. We present a prototype infrastructure in Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud to allow researchers and practitioners to utilize the data in a HIPAA-compliant environment.