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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Aug 28 2011   9:03AM GMT

Top 7 reasons why health systems are hosting their EHR with vendors

Posted by: RedaChouffani
EHR integration, EHR vendor, IaaS, Infrastructure, Infrastructure as a service, IT department, IT staffing

For the majority of hospital executives and health IT leaders, implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) is a complex and taunting task from both an organizational and technical prospective. Not only are there major hardware investments required up front, but there are also new resources and skills needed to be able to support and maintain the new system, and these may be completely different from what is currently in place.

This is where a hosted model, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), becomes a more attractive alternative for hospital and health systems currently taking the steps toward EHR implementation. However, this framework will change the role of the IT department in-house, and this is an important distinction to make. With this model, the IT department will no longer be in the business of IT, but will instead be tasked with supporting the organization’s enterprise IT goals and objectives and ensuring that technology is there to improve efficiency within the IaaS model.

Top 7 reasons why hospitals why would consider IaaS for EHR implementation:

Faster resolution and support:

For many of the larger hospitals and health care systems, when implementing an EHR system across the different departments, the IT team spends a tremendous amount of time upgrading, troubleshooting and communicating with the EHR vendor to support the product and resolve technical issues. This creates a tremendous amount of additional work for the IT department. With a hosted or IaaS model, the vendor is fully responsible for maintaining the system, supporting it and ensuring uptime. This means that the hospital IT team spends less time troubleshooting and more time with end-users.

Less upfront capital:

Imagine you are a 500 bed hospital getting ready to implement a system like EPIC or Cerner. There are significant amount of capital investments that need to be made up-front, not only during the upgrade of the infrastructure that will support the system, but also with the additional resources needed to support it. Essentially, when a hospital decides to implement the IaaS model, they are changing the cost from a capital expense to an operational expense, where they are paying the vendors a monthly fee for the services and access to the system and support, which becomes a much more attractive option for many institutions.


As the natural disasters that we have experienced in the recent months help to illustrate (i.e. tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes), it is critical to have system redundancy and continuous availability in case of system failure. This would mean that a hospital system will have to invest in a data center located in a different geographic area, which will allow them to switch systems quickly in the event they need to protect the hospital records and electronic patient data.

Focus on healthcare informatics:

Getting away from the business of learning and troubleshooting issues with a new EHR system and moving to providing business value through technology is what healthcare IT should be all about. With the quick availability of IaaS services, infrastructure delivered as a service, it enables IT to leverage and focus their time and resources in bringing innovations, solutions and improvements to the healthcare system.


IaaS providers offer a service model where you pay as you go, or as you grow. You can easily scale out the system as needed without any hardware upgrades, which can sometimes be as simple as submitting a request online for additional computing power or storage. And voila! The system can now accommodate additional users from a new hospital acquisition or outpatient practice.


Security is in the mind of every cloud computing adopter. Whether it is protecting sensitive intellectual property or patient medical information, many IaaS providers have implemented strong security practices and have been granted certifications such as ISO/..IEC 27001 and PCI. These have helped their customers meet the different regulatory and compliance requirements from HIPAA.

Less downtime during major upgrades:

Major upgrades have caused of a lot of headaches for IT folks. Requiring downtime during back-ups, coordinating with the vendors, scheduling onsite visits from vendors — these are all things that can easily be handled, more efficiently, by an EHR vendor in an offsite data center. The hosted model eliminates many of the challenges experienced during a local upgrade and shifts the responsibility and work from the organization and back to the EHR vendor.

Many health care executives and decision makers are beginning to see the benefits of the IaaS model and are starting to carefully evaluate what their IT departments could look like in the future. Employing the technologies and solutions that can help improve efficiency and cut operational costs, while transitioning IT from reactive support to a more proactive business/vendor partnership model.

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