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Introduction

With the rapid advancement of technology, cloud-based EHR (Electronic Health Record) systems are becoming a much more common sight. In terms of organizational usage, selecting an EHR system that best suits an organization’s setting, budget, client list, and even practice type can make for a hard choice. Both of these systems have pros and cons in their own right even with advancements in security and tech, the decision to choose either system all depends on the client’s needs. Within this article, we will cover everything you need to know about these systems and will help you find which of these systems best suits you and your organization.

What are EHR Systems

EHR (Electronic Health Record) software systems allow medical professionals to log information of new patients- effectively creating a digital record that updates with each subsequent visit from that particular patient. These records are of paramount importance to both the patient, as well as the medical practice: they include medical prescriptions, laboratory results, x-rays, family medical history, and many more vital details- each specific to every individual patient.

As such, there has been a surge of popularity for EHRs within recent years. This surge is primarily due to secure patient data and convenience (in comparison to paper-based records and excel spreadsheets).

To further delve into the topic, we must first differentiate between on-site (traditional) and cloud-based systems.

Cloud-Based:

The concept of a cloud-based EHR system is simple: think of the traditional server-based EHR system, but more flexibility, accessibility, and off-site access and storage. To further delve into this topic, the ability to maintain the health files of a patient via the cloud (as opposed to the traditional means of server storage) is essentially what makes cloud-based EHR a more cost-effective, as well as scalable solution. Cloud-based electronic health records are simply one of the better options, given the multiple benefits of cloud-based EHR systems and multiple SaaS cloud-based software vendors to choose from.

Also, administrators are enabled by data mining capabilities to examine patient data in order to identify a variety of potential factors for patients. As such, the majority of native web solutions are designed by input from industry professionals, therefore allowing the features to match the needs of those working within the industry.

On-Site:

On-site systems demand an orthodox tech infrastructure and an on-site team of IT specialists. Preparation for the installation and implementation of the system may vary, and the duration may even be longer, based on the complexity of record keeping for that specific hospital.

In terms of costing, initial costs for the installation and administration of traditional systems include a large number of expenditures: licensing fees, updates, hardware and software costs, IT payroll, etc.

Benefits of Using a Cloud-Based EHR System

  • Resource Reduction and Cost: Resources would be greatly reduced if a practice opts for cloud-based software. Rather than using IT resources for configurations and setup, the SaaS provider will do this for you- internally of course. Updates are also automatic, so there’s no need to worry about falling behind with your systems. A small-scale medical practice may readily implement a cloud-based system because it is much cheaper to maintain and run. Cloud-based EHR systems are much cheaper to run in terms of costs- something that cloud-based EHR software systems can provide, and on-site systems lack.
  • Ability to Scale Effectively: Cloud-based systems enable small-scale medical practices to expand without the need for a massive IT department. This software enables users to add new users, physicians, and even locations for easier accessibility. Due to the flexibility of this software, they allow for a stable expansion without high investment costs.
  • Ease of Implementation: Cloud-based systems operate via the web (as opposed to traditional solutions which run on servers). As such, there is no installation of software or hardware, therefore allowing practices to receive a faster rate of ROI, and the prevention of any interruption to their cash flows and processes.
  • Security and Access: Since this is a web-based software, users are able to access information remotely- without physically needing to be on-premise. Authorized users are allowed to securely access vital information that allows for a continuation of patient monitoring and care. Cloud-based EHR security utilizes the full capabilities of cloud computing- with the cloud provider implementing their own security policies and guaranteeing the safety of your data.

Cost

Regarding cost, it is safe to say that opting for cloud-based EHR solutions would be much cheaper than the cost of on-site systems- especially since cloud-based EHRs require less hardware than their counterpart. As software and hardware licensing is not required by cloud-based systems, implementation cost is greatly reduced. Also, because these systems fall within the SaaS (software as a service) category, practices who opt for these systems will only need to pay a monthly fee.

It is estimated that an on-site system costs around $40,000 and does not include all of the extra costs (maintenance, licensing, etc.). In comparison, a study conducted by healthit.gov showed that the upfront cost for a cloud-based system was $33,000, with the total cost of ownership over a 5 year period costing a total of $58,000.

Pros and Cons: Cloud-Based vs. On-Site EHR systems

Cloud-Based:

Advantages of using a cloud-based EHR include enabling many different practitioners to monitor their patient records- even chiropractic EHR systems linked via the cloud allow for such measures. Also, with the advancement and capabilities of cloud computing, cloud-based EHR security has become more and more secure.

One of the larger disadvantages of cloud-based EHRs would be the fact that they lack on-site data storage capabilities, as cloud-based EHRs options store their data remotely. Another possible disadvantage would be that the vendor retains control over how client data is stored.

Pros

Cons

Easy setup and less up-front costs

Potential lag or latency when accessing info

Scalable and sophisticated security measures

The danger of losing data if the vendor closes

HIPAA-compliant and ease of use

Security and backup options are controlled by the vendor


On-Site:

On-site systems may be suitable for larger premises, or even premises that lack a high-speed internet connection. Even though a premise may lack high-speed internet, the client may customize the on-site solution so that it allows offline usage- albeit at an extra charge. Implementation is very customizable, but that also makes for a higher-cost option.

Pros

Cons

Servers and data are all stored on-site

The cost of implementation is relatively high, especially for smaller practices

Information and data are securely stored on-site

Data may be damaged or compromised in the event of an accident or disaster on-site

Complete control over how and when data is stored

Software updates usually come at an additional cost

Verdict

It’s safe to say that cloud-based EHR software is the way to go. Systems such as Epic, a cloud-based EHR, are HIPAA compliant - something that web-based EHRs are in abundance of. Remember, the best cloud-based EHRs are the ones that suit you and your organization’s needs- just refer back to our EHR cloud vs server comparison.

Finally, cloud-based EHR solutions offer more accessibility, savings, and security to a variety of users. Medical practices must now start shifting towards cloud-based tech and understand the benefits that they bring.

What is a cloud-based EHR?

The concept of a cloud-based EHR system is simple: think of the traditional server-based EHR system, but more accessible with off-site access and storage.

What is the difference between EHR and EMR?

EMR is essentially a digitized version of a patient's chart, whereas EHR provides a full view of a patient's full medical record.

What are the benefits of cloud computing in the healthcare industry?

Cost efficiency, scalability, accessibility, ease of implementation, and reduction of IT resources. You may read more here

Is Epic EHR cloud based?

Yes.

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