EHR in the Cloud! Is it Right For You?

Among the more popular advancements in technology in recent years has been the promotion of a style known as “cloud computing.” Developments such as Apple’s iCloud, Google Apps and Microsoft Office were designed to take advantage of the on the go atmosphere of today. Workers and students alike have migrated to a world in which they might need information or data at any time and being away from home or the office is not a reasonable excuse. Cloud computing offers users storage and access to their information, including contacts, calendars, e-mail. The result is a lack of need to store these items on a home computer, which allows them to be quickly accessed from another computer or a smartphone or tablet. It provides two major abilities: to quickly access necessary information while away from home, and eliminating the need to undergo a time wasting data transfer when acquiring new equipment.

It comes as little surprise, then, that Healthcare organizations are getting in on this trend. EHR’s such as AthenaHealth, Practice Fusion, and e-MDs exist as cloud based systems. This means that practices and providers do not need to host servers or storage units in the office to run all the necessary programs and store all records, both old and new. At the same time, providers can access their EHR from anywhere, and all it can require is quickly signing on from any web browser, meaning all doctors can complete their work at home if they need to, or quickly respond to a task, review a lab, or authorize a prescription, even if they happen to be away for the day.

It sounds too good to be true, and in some cases it is. While downside is probably too strong, there are some concerns that keep cloud-based EHRs from being the obvious solution. Foremost, because of the ease of access, these systems need to strongly address security. HIPAA is a major concern. If a provider can easily access  their EHR from any computer, what is to keep them from accidentally leaving it open when others use the same computer? Luckily most cloud-based EHR’s use bank level security in ensuring that patient records stay secure. The other major concern is one of storage. While the biggest advantage to a cloud system is that storage is off site, and offices are not required to buy expensive new equipment, which makes it a good investment for a small practice with a limited number of providers. But in the case of larger practices and hospital systems, sometimes the amount of data needed to be stored in the form of past patient records and images are very large. So the organization needs to determine that the system they are considering does not have a either a limit to storage space or the potential for higher usage fees for practices that need more data space.

If a practice determines that a cloud-based EHR is both secure and cost effective given the size of their practice and their data needs, they should consider cloud-based technology. It is easier to implement, easier to set up access for all providers, and easier to share information. Whether ones system is cloud or server based, it is proper implementation and motivated use which will best allow the provider to reap the benefits.

Further Reading:

“5 Advantages of A Cloud-Based EHR for Small Practices”

AthenaHealth

PracticeFusion

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