Cloud-based EHRs: The Advantages

Cloud-based EHRs are becoming a healthcare industry standard.

Medical practices are noticing the benefits of controlling their practice from the cloud instead of investing in costly servers, hardware, and software designed for on-site maintenance of patient data.

In a recent Black Book Rankings survey, data shows an increasing number of medical practices turning to cloud-based electronic record software systems. Practitioners mention that cloud-based EHRs are the largest trend in medical technology today.

Using “the cloud” means to store and use applications and data on the internet rather than on a hard drive in your office.

Client-server systems vs Cloud-based EHRs

Client-server systems – the traditional, non-cloud setup in which practices need an in-house server, hardware, and software to maintain data – come with costs that “can be hard to swallow,” explained Meditab COO, Kal Patel. “Since cloud-based EHR systems require no hardware installation or licensing fees, implementation is a fraction of the cost. Though practices pay a monthly fee, similar to a utility fee, the overall costs associated with cloud-based servers are minimal in comparison.”

Less effort is involved in the maintenance of cloud-based EHRs, particularly pertaining to IT support, repairs, and expenses. For example, a practice with a web-based EHR platform no longer needs to reach out to IT when it’s time to add doctors, office locations, employees, notes, and more.

In client-server systems servers contain the entire set-up. There are centralized controls and access restrictions, and more resources are allocated to the use and maintenance of these systems.

Advantages of Cloud-based EHRs

Cloud-based EHRs, such as Meditab Cloud Hosting, give providers access to patient data from the cloud instead of limiting data accessibility solely to the servers within the office. Providers can use tablets, PC, and iOS operating systems to pull up patient data from home, the office, or when traveling.

Meditab COO, Kal Patel, discussed the benefits of using a cloud-based EHR with a Healthcare IT (HIT) consultant. Efficiency often surfaced as a leading topic during their discussion. One of the most advantageous aspects resulting from the use of web-based EMR systems is the decrease in operating expenses for practices.

Meditab Cloud Hosting is designed to offer the following advantages:

  • Accessibility – Get more done. Anytime. Anywhere. Employees can access Intelligent Medical Systems in or out of the office by simply logging in from any device.
  • Reliability – Minimum downtime resulting in increased efficiency in the workplace.
  • Cost Reduction – Eliminate unnecessary spending on hardware and server licensing fees., and cut back the spend on ever-increasing IT maintenance fees
  • Flexibility – Meet business demands as they change. Quickly increase server capacity based on your storage needs.
  • Secured Data Management – Eliminate costly disaster recovery plans as our system consistently performs nightly backups of your data for emergency-restoration purposes.

More providers are implementing web-based EHRs every day. As this trend gains momentum, it’s become clear that cloud-based EHRs are the largest breakthrough in the medical software industry. Providers like Meditab are producing, coding, and implementing EHR software and EMR systems with features that surpass those offered by competitors.


Free EHR Software & Understanding the Limitations

Free EMRs are being offered by several EMR & EHR software companies

Several vendors are offering EHR software free of charge. Understanding how these companies are able to provide such an integral, costly part of a healthcare practice is crucial. The limitations and usability of these platforms can often drive patients away from your practice, ultimately reducing the revenue your practice brings in. Take Practice Fusion for example. Their ad-supported EHR platform, offered free of charge, discourages patients as they are counting on their caregivers to focus on the care given in lieu of the advertisements popping up on the screen of the EHR software. As Ken Congdon mentions, “Common reasons why EHRs are replaced include poor usability/flexibility, vendor consolidation, and the inability of an existing platform to continue to meet Meaningful Use requirements. All of these factors must be taken into account when evaluating your EHR options. For example, keeping an EHR platform Meaningful Use certified is an expensive proposition that demands substantial R&D resources. You want to be comfortable that the vendor you choose has a solid business plan to see you through all stages of Meaningful Use while continuing to meet the needs of your practice.”

What’s the takeaway? The implementation of a free EHR system may result in extreme limitations, costly integration expenses, and potentially open up your practice to the risk of HIPAA violations which can result in endless consequences, fines, losses of licensure, and more. The ultimate question: is a free EHR worth the risk of losing your practice?

Another common shortcoming of free medical EHR software include limitations within specialties. Currently, there are no free EHR solutions that offer sufficient features to support specialty practices including psychiatric practices not limited to psychiatry, psychology, and sociology.

One of the largest concerns around free EHR medical software stems from what keeps them free: they are ad supported and collect massive amounts of user-data. What happens with this data? Only the EHR system provider is in control of it. In the healthcare industry, we know how important the privacy of patient information and confidentiality remain; we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to put our patients’ information in the hands of our EHR provider, or if we want complete control over it by using a paid-for EHR solution. Some doctors and healthcare providers mentioned how they are much more trusting in an EHR provider that stores the data in its own data center as opposed to a free (or ad-supported) EHR which stores the information in their server, not allowing you to store it on your own. Again, we need to ask ourselves, do we want control over our patients’ data or do we want it in a free provider’s cloud, on their server, or anywhere else they please?

A common oversight when considering free EHR platforms is the possibility of incurring costly expenses because of mandatory upgrades or when migrating your current server to the server offered by the free provider. Additionally, the hardware you currently use may very-well not be compatible with the hardware requirements of the free EHR so make sure to read all of the fine print!

A final point to note is that many of these platforms are initially free in hopes that you will purchase the full-version at a later date or after a trial period. Buyers beware! The implementation of any EHR platform takes time, training, and knowledge. If you spend time (time=$) implementing a free EHR platform only to find out that you are not granted all of the functions you were initially promised as they were part of a trial period, your practice has wasted time, lost money as a result, and has to go through the implementation process all over again with an EHR solution that maintains their promise to offer the functionality your practice needs.

There are several reasons why you should avoid free EHR platforms at any expense. The most important reason is because these platforms ultimately act as subcontractors and you are primarily responsible for what happens with the data and patient information stored in these systems (even though you have no control over this data). The HIPAA Omnibus Rule has put many practices at risk – at least those practices using the free software available on the net. Make sure you read this ruling which is available here.