What cloud EHR connectivity is and why you can't ignore it

Often it is taken for granted that a practice that a cloud-based EHR will contain the necessary connectivity between the practices, any medical devices, and the cloud network’s offsite servers. In fact, practices should consider connectivity as one of the primary concerns when selecting a cloud-based EHR.

The ability to connect and connect reliably serves as the foundation for a usable cloud-based EHR and provides the foundation of a cloud-based EHR’s ability to function without the use of onsite servers. Before discussing some of the aspects of connectivity as it pertains to a cloud-based EHR, it is important to clarify some terminology.

Connectivity and interoperability  

Connectivity is defined generally as “the ability to connect systems or application programs.”  If connectivity is compromised, the software applications and clinical data vital to providing services through an EHR are rendered virtually useless.  

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Connectivity is distinguishable from interoperability but the two concepts overlap to a certain extent. Interoperability is dependent on solid connectivity. Interoperability is defined as “the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged.” Whereby connectivity is defined as the ability for two pieces of technology to communicate, interoperability involves the ability to understand. Thus one can use the analogy that connectivity is akin to the ability to make sounds that another person can hear, whereas interoperability is similar to being able to speak in a language in which the listener can understand.

Different types of connectivity

Cloud EHR connectivity can be divided into two areas. The first and most important to a practice involves the manner in which the hardware and devices within a practice connect with off-site cloud servers. In this case, a reliable internet connection with adequate bandwidth is needed to meet the requirements of data traveling to and from the practice. If there is not adequate connectivity which allows consistent connectivity a cloud-based EHR’s functionality will be limited.

Connectivity can also involve the ability of medical devices used within a practice to electronically communicate with and transfer the diagnostic data to and from the EHR. For example, a medical device, such as a patient monitor will communicate with a cloud based-EHR through Wi-Fi, Wireless Medical Telemetry Service, and Bluetooth or RFID allowing uninterrupted monitoring of patients and in some cases the sharing of information contained in the EHR with the device. If a device is unable to connect to an EHR or vice versa the primary reason for using medical devices in an integrated manner so as to keep a steady flow of information is undermined due to a lack of connectivity.   

Once can view a cloud-based EHR, in the same vein as a network, whereby instead of wires information is shared wirelessly and in some cases in real time. If a practice is not able to provide the necessary conditions for connectivity the usefulness of a cloud-based EHR will be undermined. In this case, it is important for a practice to assess their current capabilities to provide the necessary connectivity before adopting a cloud-based EHR.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green