Five years ago, independent cardiologist Dr. David Porzio picked the Software as a Service version of his electronic health record vendor's system -- before cloud and SaaS were buzzwords, before the angst began about moving patient data away from the doctor's office, and before General Electric (GE) Co. bought Porzio's EHR vendor and renamed its software Centricity Advance.
Today, many physicians are considering SaaS for achieving compliance with meaningful use criteria and earning incentives under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. SaaS EHR systems make economic and logistical sense for individual or small group practices. Having the vendor manage the data center, servers, security and software upgrades is cheaper and less likely to induce myocardial infarctions over IT issues.
Years ago, Porzio simply was choosing the correct software tool to keep the plates spinning in his Newport Beach, Calif.-based practice. SaaS worked, he said, because he practiced in multiple locations and needed access to patient files at all of them. That, and he didn't want to be encumbered with IT issues between patient visits.
"I had some office space that I could use sort of as a sublease, but I didn't have an office on a Monday-to-Friday schedule," Porzio said. "I had one office I got to use Tuesday and Thursday, another one Monday, -Wednesday and Friday, so I needed to be really portable."
That led him to MedPlexus Inc., which back in the day called itself an application service provider, or ASP, not an SaaS provider. Porzio liked the demo a lot and the economics even more, because he lacked the space and, he estimates, the tens of thousands of dollars he would have needed to host his own server. He's used MedPlexus since, including through the GE Healthcare-MedPlexus merger in March.
He's happy about GE's acquisition of MedPlexus, having already experienced stronger technical support now that his EHR system has a bigger backer, Porzio said. Furthermore, he feels GE Healthcare, with $17 billion in annual revenue, will provide more data center resources to keep his patient records available and stable.
The ability to connect through a centralized system … has to be Web-based, primarily because the different [EHR] vendors don't all talk to each other right now.
Dr. David Porzio, cardiologist
Calling himself "hands-on" when it comes to learning and using technology, Porzio said one key reason he has stayed with this particular SaaS EHR system is that it has enough built-in features that he can add functions as he goes. He started with the basics -- patient information and notes -- and since then has added more complex processes, such as billing and coding.
"As I've gotten busier and more adept at using it, I just go in and add more features into it," Porzio said. "They were always very willing to help train me to do different things I wanted to add."
Data ownership not a concern when using SaaS EHR
Some physicians and health care IT leaders have expressed reservations about SaaS EHR vendors who host hospital data, such as EHR files and medical images. They cite concerns about data ownership, uptime and access in what can be life-or-death situations involving patients.
As a physician who has used an SaaS EHR system for half a decade and who is now confident he'll be eligible for HITECH Act incentives, Porzio is convinced SaaS is the way to go for small physician practices implementing an EHR system, be it GE or a competing SaaS vendor, he said.
It's not just for economic reasons and the convenience of not having to deal with more than basic IT issues in his office, either. Porzio thinks electronic health record software is the fastest, more consistent way physicians will be able to interconnect and share information -- one of the high-priority goals of the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
"The ability to connect through a centralized system that is above us -- not within our own structure -- has to be Web-based, primarily because the different [EHR] vendors don't all talk to each other right now," Porzio said. "We have to come up with a solution where we talk to each other conveniently."
Let us know what you think about the story; email Don Fluckinger, Features Writer.