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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Jul 30 2012   10:45PM GMT

Why cloud based EHR is on its way to medical organizations



Posted by: RedaChouffani
cloud computing, cloud EHR, EMR

There has been a significant interest in cloud computing in the past few years.  This area continues to help many adopters reduce operational costs by moving many of the business applications to the cloud.  And as more end users begin to use cloud based Apps for day-to-day work (Google Docs, Office 365, SalesForce.com and many more), it becomes clearer that the cloud will one day host most of today’s business applications.  For healthcare, EHR vendors have been providing a hosted or cloud based model.  Most of them technically provision servers in a private cloud, configuration databases and then install the application in the different desktops and stations needed.  With the exception of pure cloud based systems such as AthenaHealth or Practice Fusion, there isn’t a truly quick and easy process to get up and running on a EMR like many can get started on Microsoft Office 365 and other cloud based Applications.

However with the new pressures from users demanding mobility, and the fact that end users are doing more with mobile devices, it becomes a great driving force to push EHR vendors to eliminate the complexity of the server side components and configurations needed and just allow new EHR users to download the App from the internet, and simply login and start using the product. Of course this would require some preliminary work, however I truly envision that the EHR of the future (if not some today), that you will sign up on a portal, enter practice information (NPI, UPIN, Contracted Payers, and other basic info), then the system will provide you a special ID that can be entered in the mobile App once downloaded.

Some of the reasons why it makes complete sense why more EHR vendors should and will adapt their applications to be cloud based and support stronger mobility:

End users are asking for it:

Clinicians today are looking for systems that are easier to use, and available on any device.   Even medical students are now using tablets as learning tools and expecting the availability of mHealth Apps when they enter the professional field.

Scalability:

Many practices are looking to add more physicians and or merge with other practices.  In some cases this can be a costly project from the IT prospective, but with a cloud-based product, scaling out is simply a built-in benefit of the having these services in the cloud.  This would mean that the organization will simply pay for additional computing power and storage and they are done.

Data Integrity:

For some small practices, having a highly available system can be costly, and some may just rely on traditional backup methodology to protect their data.  This can mean that the practice has the potential of loosing data, or being down for extended periods of time during a recovery process.  With a cloud based EHR solution in almost all cases there is a much higher fault tolerance and data protection.  With many of today’s data centers replicating to different data centers in different geographical areas.

Easy to setup:

In many of the traditional EHR systems, getting the system configured and set up can be daunting tasks for any physician and or practice administrator.  In most cases the system was not design with the premise of new users signing up and configuring the system themselves.  However, with a cloud based application, it is expected for an App vendor to ensure that the end user could easily sign up online, configure and begin to use the system quickly.

Lower total cost of ownership:

For many small to mid size medical organizations having hardware on premise is requirement for an EHR.  This simply means that the practices are exposed to additional costs associated with having servers on site that need to be maintained and refreshed after so many years.  With a cloud based solution these groups would simply not be required to make this capital purchase.  By eliminating the up front costs of servers and other hardware, many can see that as a significant value add the cloud brings to the table.

Better Integration:

With many of the current practices continuously struggling with complex interfacing and integrating set ups, Cloud based EHR will most likely have ready to go interfaces that simply connect to one or more HIEs, as well as other Lab companies.

With more users being exposed and using cloud based applications, many are recognizing the values it brings and are beginning to ask for more business apps like some of the existing ones to be cloud based.  Some vendors have recognized this trend and began moving toward that, and others are simply ignoring the realities of end users demands and competition.

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