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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Jul 24 2011   10:14AM GMT

The next big thing for hospitals: Cloud-based document management

Posted by: RedaChouffani
cloud, cloud computing, DMS, Document management systems, ECM, SaaS

For many health care organizations, going paperless is not simply about adopting electronic health records alone.  Many have discovered that there are additional paper-based documents that simply do not fit inside a patient’s electronic chart.  Within the hospital setting, there are several administrative processes that require paper-based content, which is just one of the key reasons why document management systems (DMS) or content management systems (CMS) continue to see high adoption rates in larger sized institutions.

DMS goes beyond simply scanning documents and organizing them according to folders or departments, however. Many contain advanced functionality and capabilities, such as:

  • Document processing (Content processing, digital signing, versioning)
  • Document access (Security management and remote access)
  • Workflow engine (distribution of documents, approval and review)
  • Document management
  • Indexing documents (OCR, tags)

While the main challenge in terms of DMS is the cost and complexity associated with the implementation of these projects, we are starting to see vendors stepping up to the plate and providing new alternatives. As we continue to see the software vendors shifting toward SaaS, we begin to wonder when we will see a true cloud-based DMS. Currently, there are very few vendors offering hosted document management products.  Some provide basic integration with Google docs (scanDrop), and other simply provide their products and services as a SaaS + HaaS or non-patient centric cloud based product (Spot Documents).

As we continue to overcome bandwidth and connectivity limitations, we’ll continue to see more and more products becoming cloud-based, which will prove to be an attractive alternative to many.  When shopping for a vendor in this space, there several key attributes their products must adhere to:

Simple subscription model: Simple pricing or agreement plan (s) must be available.  It would need to offer different price points based on storage, user count, bandwidth usage, length of contract, etc.

Easy to set up: A cloud based DMS/ECM must be simple and easy to set up.  With just few simple option selections, the end user should be able to get the system up and running fairly quickly, making the product a much more attractive and viable solution.  This would also include easy to use/setup integration or interfacing (HL7, and other healthcare standards).

Scalable:  Whether the organization needs 10 GB of storage with 10 users, or 10 TB with 150 users, the system should be able to scale quickly and easily.  Performance should not be affected by the size of the client.

Accessibility:  For the few vendors available out there, one UI that captured my attention was Spot Document.  While it may not be a good candidate for a large health care organization, they have a number of ways to access and manage documents.  They offer client apps and access from an iPhone, iPad, Mac, as well as native web clients on any platform.

Secure:  Since the information that is being captured and stored is sensitive and often contains patient health related information, it is critical that the vendor offer secure environment that meets HIPAA, PCI and other compliance requirements.

As we continue to see executives working toward reducing operational costs and increasing the value of technology in their organizations, SaaS will continue to gain acceptance, and it is important for CIOs and IT directors to include “Application as a Service” as part of their strategic plan.  With SaaS being a more economical and effective approach to implementing software solutions, a cloud based ECM/DSM might just be what the doctor prescribes as part of the next software purchase.

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