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JTC 1/SC 38 : eHealth Community Clouds

There are numerous Cloud standards initiatives, but obviously the ISO is somewhat the grand master of standards organizations in general, and so their Cloud standards initiative, JTC 1/SC 38, offers the potential to be the “one ring to rule them all”.

The value of this standards framework can be illustrated through a best practice scenario of ‘eHealth Community Clouds’.

eHealth Community Clouds

Recently activity in the Canadian Healthcare market highlights the three distinct tiers involved in eHealth Community Clouds, and also the standards programs applicable at each level.

  1. Shared infrastructure
  2. Federated Identity systems
  3. Inter-Cloud Processes

1. Shared infrastructure

The NIST definition of ‘Community Clouds’ is nicely illustrated through this news piece about Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto. Rather than duplicate lots of hardware across multiple agencies they have collaborated to create a single, shared environment.

2. Federated Identity systems

In a recent RFP the Healthcare shared services unit 3SO published requirements for the internal deployment of a number of VMware virtualized servers for running Sharepoint and Dynamics, to enable an eReferral process between Healthcare organizations.

Once this is complete the stated the next stage of requirements would then be to link these systems up to the ‘ONE ID‘ single sign-on program.

The Government of Canada has also just released an RFP for a government-wide Identity authentication system, so this is a key foundation component of the growth of Cloud systems. The BCeID program is one example of best practices being pioneered at the provincial level.

3. Inter-Cloud Processes

These Identity systems will standardize user authentication across applications, and provide a foundation for cross-enterprise information sharing in general.

This highlights the key value of the JTC 1/SC 38 standards program. Cloud Computing is one component part of the R&D, with the others being Web services, SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and distributed systems.

Improving data sharing between applications, by moving them to Community Cloud environments, will deliver huge organizational improvements, as this is typically the key pain point area. While improved infrastructure can reduce IT costs, it’s the ability to better share information, like patient records, between different organizations that is where the big gains in productivity will be achieved.

For example I wrote a recent blog that highlighted how Canada is slipping behind the USA in terms of EHR adoption, and in that news piece a doctor was quoted that illustrates exactly this:

“So far, Dr Michael Freeman, a cardiologist at St. Michael’s explained, an individual hospitals records are limited in their connectivity to family doctors and local pharmacies. When a patient is discharged, we will provide an electronic letter to the family doctor and a typed out letter to the pharmacy. Those healthcare practitioners would not be able to directly update the patient’s record so that they are in synch with St. Michael’s records.”

The capabilities made possible through SOA Web services will facilitate this securing of patient records between these different application systems. This concept is explained nicely in this Cisco white paper ‘Health Information Sharing Environments‘.

The overlap with Cloud standards is also being advanced within the industry. The DMTF is an industry body led by folks like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco, and recently they published open standards for Cloud service providers that included elements such as Cloud Interoperability, achieved through adoption of these types of Identity ecosystem systems.

As their ’Interoperable Clouds’ white paper (21-page PDF) describes this will enable providers to build “Cloud federations” that act as secured clearinghouses for sharing this linked data, offering service providers a whole new generation of IaaS products to sell and fuelling a huge boom in spending on the technologies.

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