With cloud computing, medical facilities have compelling reasons to change how electronic health records are kept.
Cloud computing has transformed a number of industries, and healthcare is no exception. Medical facilities of all types have introduced cloud-based electronic health records (EHRs) as a way to reduce costs, secure data, and streamline operations. Read on to learn more about the implementation of cloud-based EHRs. The migration to cloud-based EHRs is driven primarily by three key factors: cost, convenience, and security.
Cloud-based solutions provide cost savings in several ways. Up-front costs tend to be lower for cloud options versus on-site, server-based systems. The Go Practice Blog reports that the average initial cost of a cloud-based system is $3,600, whereas a server-based system costs over $40,000. Cloud options also eliminate the need to purchase, store and maintain hardware; this, in turn, reduces or eliminates the need for on-site IT support.
Cost savings are especially pronounced (and important) for small practices and rural facilities. Both the Go Practice Blog and Practice Fusion report that cloud options are more cost effective for solo or small group practices. A recent Healthcare Finance piece reports on the drastic impact of cloud-based EHRs on rural hospitals: some rural providers say that transitioning to a cloud-based EHR “not only saved their organizations from closing their doors, but it yielded financial gains and a new wave of quality and patient satisfaction improvements.”
Convenience is a second key driver of the shift to cloud-based EHR systems. Go Practice points to a number of convenience factors: easier transitions and implementation; better support; ease of use for off-site staff; speed and ease of access due to high-speed internet options; and the inherent mobility of cloud-based systems. In its series about advantages of cloud-based health IT, NueMD notes the additional benefits of improved outcomes, patient support, and scalability.
Security is the third major factor in cloud-based EHR migration. Cloud solutions can help to address concerns about both information security and regulatory compliance. The Go Practice piece points out that cloud solutions shift some compliance onus onto vendors: cloud systems are capable of high levels of security and encryption, which enable them to meet HIPAA regulations more easily than individual practices, and vendors also shoulder some of the burden of Meaningful Use requirements. NueMD explores security benefits including data safety, ease of recovery, and secure communications both among providers and between providers and patients. AJMC.com compares security pros and cons for cloud-based and traditional systems, while CareCloud’s Continuum blog explores four common security myths about cloud-based EHRs.
In some cases, changes to the healthcare environment itself warrant an EHR migration. Peak 10 reports that hospital consolidation has helped to fuel the shift to cloud-based models. Mergers and acquisitions, profit loss in smaller hospitals, and general merger/consolidation deals all result in changes to the technology delivery model, and cloud options are a common solution.
In other cases, the technology dictates the terms. As more effective cloud solutions become available, medical practices have even greater motivation to make the transition. A recent Healthcare IT News piece, for example, profiles the cloud-based, software-as-a-service version of Medsphere’s OpenVista EHR. This program incorporates acute-care deployment, outpatient EHR, practice management, and patient portal technology, and enables inpatient and ambulatory facilities to transition to cloud computing.
Cloud computing is not without drawbacks, of course. EHR in Practice cautions that cloud-based EHRs are not always cheaper than office-based systems, as both upfront and ongoing costs for each option may vary and may depend on the availability of competitive pricing. Reliability is also a concern, since cloud platforms rely on a third-party servers. Connectivity on the practice side and potential downtime on the cloud side may hinder access and disrupt service.
Though healthcare IT moves and changes rapidly, all of this advancement takes place within the confines of rigid privacy, security, and compliance regulations, alongside constant pressure to provide superior patient care and reduce costs. Cloud-based EHR systems enable providers to address many of these concerns economically and efficiently.
With such clear advantages for both large, urban medical centers and small, rural hospitals, adoption of cloud computing for EHR has something to offer any medical facility. Cloud does have many of the same inherent risks across industries - potential unplanned downtime and loss of connectivity. Nevertheless, security, convenience, cost, compliance and technological advancements make a strong case for deploying EHR in the cloud.
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