What does Cloud-Based EHR Really Mean?

In addition to the ever-common question of which EMR best fits my office, physicians, practice managers and CIOs are asking themselves whether to install EHR software onto servers within your office (called “on-premise”), or to subscribe to an internet-based system which is maintained “in the cloud.”

This method of storage keeps critical applications stored on servers in remote locations which can then be accessed by end users at any time via the internet.

An EMR that is hosted remotely may at first appear perilous but in reality is no different than using web-based email systems such as Gmail or virtually accessing your bank accounts and private financial information. These services live in the cloud and are accessed via secure websites. The data is hosted remotely by the application owner (i.e. Gmail or Wells Fargo.)

There isn’t any software from this company loaded onto your computer.

Your browser acts as the client which reaches out to the web-based EHR and requests a certain function to be performed on your behalf.

Why Consider Cloud Hosted Electronic Health Records?

Think of the first time you needed the Microsoft Suite (Word, Office, Excel) downloaded on your computer and how it required a disk to be installed and perhaps paying $300 or more for the software. This service first required downloading to your computer. Afterwards, it was now considered “hosted” on your computer which meant you were responsible for maintaining updates to the software, adding on features, or paying for newer versions when you got a new computer.

Now think about your Gmail account. Have you ever once updated it? Has it ever flashed an error message that it was out of date and needed to be reinstalled? Probably not.

This is because it is maintained and stored on a secure cloud-based server that eliminates the need to install and run the application on your own computer.

Not only is maintenance and support simplified in a hosted model, the cloud also allows for rapid growth and streamlined expansion of your software.

What this means is when a new physician comes on board and brings their book of patient information this can be added to your existing EMR in the push of a button. No additional expensive hardware purchase or physical storage space is required.

Advantages of Cloud-Based EHR

There’s no doubt that EHR/EMR is one of the top four trends in healthcare cloud computing; in fact, some of the main reasons for this are low up-front cost, this category of storage is typically less complicated to maintain and therefore costly IT staff isn’t required.

Hardware is expensive to purchase, license, and to maintain. On-premise servers require specially secured rooms with additional ventilation and cooling elements.

In case of a physical disaster these would be the most important pieces of the business to save. A cloud-based EHR does not require a special facility at your hospital or medical office. Instead, these are in secure storage facilities. Check out one of the world’s most secure and fascinating Data Centers HERE.

Does fear of losing control over one’s critical data stop you from cloud adoption? Fear not: in many ways cloud computing gives you more access to your data than a traditional server-based EHR.

Cloud environments lower the barriers for innovation and modernization of IT systems. They also offer a collaborative platform that is more universally recognized thus allowing for sharing and dissemination of healthcare knowledge.

As mobile applications, bring your own device, patient wearables and telemedicine become more commonplace in the healthcare system, tethered computers and software will be replaced with mobile medicine.

Recently EMRs have become a vital component of modern Healthcare IT and have been widely adopted as healthcare administration saw the benefit to instantaneous and accessible yet, private health records. To encourage the adaption of electronic medical records over paper records, healthcare legislatures are incentivizing HCP with measurable standards and goals, called Meaningful Use.

One aspect of the Meaningful Use engagement is requesting physicians and nurses adopt the EMR-based programs called Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) and Clinical Decision Support (CDS). These technologies were implemented to grant physicians immediate access to recommended best practices, standard-of-care guidelines, safety alerts, and medication interaction lists.

As these programs are updated and interfaced continuously, they afford physicians real-time evidence-based tools to use in making acute decisions about a patient’s care. The cloud helps afford these systems the real-time data accessibility they require.

Additionally, some cloud services such as intelligent business process management suites (iBPMSs) and case management frameworks (CMFs) can support healthcare provider staff cognitive capabilities, which in turn can mitigate medical mistakes and minimize patient adverse events (PAEs).

Images and Image Handling

Image handling services are at the forefront of the high-value services for healthcare providers utilizing cloud-based services and/or infrastructure. These services allow healthcare organizations to scale storage services at a fraction of the cost that would be required to implement them internally by minimizing the overall TCO (reduced capital expense, reduced staffing costs, geographic distribution).

Disadvantages of Cloud-Based EHR

While the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, there are a few issues which may arise with cloud-based EMRs. Like any solution, your system is only as secure as you make it, meaning integrating security parameters from the beginning is key. Identifying the potential security risks from the outlay, such as outdated security walls and software, and poor employee training programs will mitigate the risk of cloud adoption.

Well-trained employees have a better understanding of how their actions might impact system security. Given that human error is often the root cause of data breaches, educating employees about security policies, credentialing and authorization access helps ensure data protection.

In a rapidly shifting healthcare environment, simply deploying a cloud-based EMR is not enough. Your healthcare organization must maintain updates to your systems frequently enough to ensure smooth operation, as well as ongoing compliance.

Gaps in updates, no matter how small of an inefficiency, can make an entire EMR system vulnerable. Be sure to uphold your maintenance and security plans.

A successful move to the cloud means meeting expectations through proper planning. Before developing any changes or moves, develop and stick to stringent planning procedures that govern any cloud-based projects.

Better Continuity of Care

In the end, any healthcare related change stems from the desire for the betterment of the patient or of the delivery of care from the practitioner. Few industries face more challenges in delivery and continuity. So much rapid-fire change is occurring as healthcare organizations of all sizes acclimate to new security, reporting, compliance and technology requirements.

The first step is to enlist a trusted partner with an exclusive healthcare focus, HIPAA compliance expertise, and be best-in-class cloud and hosting experts. Only with this level of support can your healthcare organization attain desired outcomes and advance IT infrastructures with confidence.