Three cloud EHR features you can't ignore during selection

When considering whether a cloud-based solution represents the best fit for a practice’s needs, it is important to consider some of the unique requirements, inherent in cloud-based EHRs that are not found in on-premises systems. Given the fact that a cloud-based EHR is delivered through the cloud, a number of factors come into play that would not be considered with an on-premises system, as such the following are essential to the selection process.

1. Scalability

Cloud EHRs are recognized for their ability to allow a practice scale up, in other words, they allow an expanding practice to add additional hardware or upgrade existing hardware without conducting major alterations to the existing EHR applications. For practices that may include more service lines and more staff, cloud-based systems can be expanded with relatively little effort.

Recommended reading: find cloud EHR vendors to suit your practice’s needs with our comprehensive EHR vendor directory

However, it is important to consider if interoperability will be comprised if additional components are added to an EHR. Scaling up a cloud-based EHR that may present problems in interoperability could cause information silos in an organization, thereby negating any potential scalability-related benefits.  

2. Internet speed and reliability

Cloud EHRs store data and application software in offsite servers (the cloud), thus they use an internet connection to access the EHR software and to retrieve data. Therefore, if the cloud-based system requires significant bandwidth to operate practices that do not have access to a reliable high-speed internet connection may have difficulty using the EHR.  Slower internet speeds or a smaller bandwidth may cause lag time in system functionality or some cases cause system outages, thus preventing both the platform and data from being available.

Providers in remote areas that feasibly cannot be serviced by high-speed networks should ask potential cloud-based EHR vendors what type of bandwidth their systems will require under heavy usage scenarios so as to account for worse case situations.  

3. Privacy and security

Due to the nature of cloud-based systems, which rely on retrieving and accessing information from an offsite location, privacy and security should be a significant concern during the selection process.  A practice can control how it manages onsite data security; the remaining risk arises from how a cloud-based provider manages its security protocols.  

A practice can pre-emptively reduce security risk by selecting a provider whose security measures, regarding when data travels to and from the cloud, meet or exceed government and industry standards. For example, cloud service providers should, at a minimum, should provide role-based access, data encryption, and access monitoring in addition to government and non-government data security certifications.

Cloud-based systems, offer significant value for practices, given the right circumstances. However, practices should conduct the selection process with an eye toward their needs. Determining these needs involves a process of assessing what is needed from a practice and organizational perspective and whether the EHR can fulfil these needs.  For cloud based systems these important considerations rest in reliability, scalability and security.

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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

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