EHR Perspectives 12-16-09

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Category: EHR Perspectives, Uncategorized
Date: December 28, 2009
Views:13,201 views

*While the term ‘Cloud Computing’ is not new, the use of it in Health Information Technology is a fairly new topic being explored more and more as the EHR market continues to grow.

“Cloud computing” is a term that describes how electronic data is provided. The ‘cloud’ provides on-demand resources over the Internet as compared to software-based programs. The major benefit of the ‘cloud’ is that it requires hardly any additional software on a local computer beyond the operating system of the computer or device and an internet browser. Cloud services can be offered for free with sign-up, while others are offered as a recurring, monthly subscription. Cloud systems include Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) and Application Service Providers (ASP).

*Those EHRs first to the market traditionally developed a software program that must be downloaded onto a practice’s computers. Once the vendor installs the program, the practice was responsible for all maintenance, updates, and problem solving. With Cloud Computing, much the burden for this IT work is shifted away from the practice and into the ‘cloud,’ or public Internet. Many new EHR software applications, services and data - once secluded in a local computer or local server are now in this open domain.

*Operating an EHR system in the cloud can be beneficial for physicians who are not tech savvy since users do not need to have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure in the “cloud” that supports them. This is because the Internet site providing the service handles all of the technical and security issues of an EHR system. Some of the major barriers to successful EHR adoption include cost and poor usability. Cloud computing can help eliminate this cost, along with the IT maintenance burdens that are often taxing on small medical practices.

*Many EHR companies have emerged that offer cloud EHR services. In addition, big players such as Google and Microsoft are also heavily invested in the cloud with their new medical records services, such as Microsoft’s HealthVault and Google Health. While still in beta testing, these industry leaders have partnered with large healthcare providers for their programs: Microsoft with Kaiser Permanente and Google with The Cleveland Clinic.

*Most solo, small, and medium practices considering EHR adoption should ask an important question: Do I invest up front and build my local computing infrastructure and keep my data local; or do I reduce my initial investment on IT infrastructure in exchange for recurring monthly charges, and keep my EHR data in the cloud? Both choices have their own benefits and challenges, but you will need to analyze all of your options and choose the one that works to meet the needs of your practice.

*For traditional local EHR software, you will have to consider how to backup data, recover after a disaster, and how to manage system upgrades and IT maintenance. For an EHR that is internet-based, you will have to determine what you will do if your internet goes down, and consider HIPAA compliance of these services and applications offered both as local and in the cloud.

*As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) continues to motivate practices to adopt EHRs, the demand for successful EHR programs will grow, and it seems as if many are growing in the field of cloud computing. According to the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), there are over 300 vendors that currently offer some variance of Electronic Health Records — some “in the cloud,” some locally, and some in both.

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