The Importance of Cloud EHR on the Road to Meaningful Use Stage 3

According to Politico’s Morning eHealth, 75% of stage 2 Meaningful Use attestations were with cloud-based electronic health record systems. Given this data, one can arrive at the conclusion that a cloud-based EHR system is either integral to achieving Stage 3 meaningful use criteria or is the platform of choice for providers committed to more advanced Meaningful Use compliance. Here, one is presented with the question of whether a cloud-based EHR system is needed to achieve meaningful use standards or it is simply the case that those who already would have completed stage 2 attestations would have reached this level of EHR use without cloud capabilities due to advanced EHR capabilities in areas independent of cloud storage capacity. This question is best answered by the mother of all ambiguous responses - ”it depends on the case.”

Meaningful Use Stage 2

Stage 2 was primarily concerned with structuring and recording data, whereas Stage 3 begins to approach the high order use of patient data including an emphasis on data sharing across care settings and between providers. With these goals in mind, the ability to store and transmit data with ease should flow more smoothly with cloud technology when compared to on-premises systems. However, the answer to the “cloud or not to cloud” question is not as clear-cut as one would assume.

Meaningful Use Stage 3

Stage 3 MU rests considerably on a foundation of interoperable data. With interoperability (or at least better interoperability) it is presumed that patient data can be used more efficiently across settings and providers and for the purposes of patient engagement. However, simply implementing a cloud-based EHR does not imply that all interoperability issues cease to be a concern.

Recommended Reading: EHR Vendor Directory - Find EHR vendors offering cloud EHR

Zach Watson on the blog Health IT Exchange raises a poignant argument concerning the role of cloud technology and data transfer within and outside of healthcare settings. He writes, “In fact, interoperability among different cloud computing applications remains a viable concern in industries outside of health care, albeit in a different manner. Outside of healthcare, businesses are more worried about vendor lock-in, or not being able to transfer their data from one cloud provider to another should they choose to switch. In healthcare, data transfer holds a greater implication: improving the quality of care delivered to patients through improved coordination among providers.”

Given the difficulties involving the transfer of data outside the healthcare context, one can assume that as the calls for interoperability becomes louder, the industry (both providers and vendors) may experience a tipping point in which interoperability among vendors, and by association, providers, will need to be dealt with in a manner that takes into account the need to modernize the health care system and free market forces.

Without addressing this problem, the smooth flow of information between healthcare systems is compromised. This lack of interoperability may increasingly make the business of healthcare, in the present regulatory environment, complicated if not entirely impossible.

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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