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Considerations for Choosing Public or Private Cloud-based EHRs

Organizations adopting cloud-based EHRs needs to consider their IT resources when choosing a cloud strategy and service provider.

cloud-based EHRs

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are moving different IT infrastructure applications to the cloud. Cloud-based EHRs in particular are examples of applications that are migrating the cloud.

There are several reasons why organizations choose to move their EHRs to the cloud, including budget and IT resources.

Moving any application to the cloud can help organizations save resources. Public cloud solutions host, manage, and maintain datacenters, so provider organizations do not have to produce the resources to host the applications.

Organizations that do not use cloud computing for applications are charged with purchasing the hardware and software to deploy and maintain the application. This requires expensive hardware purchases that need to be updated every three to five years as well as the necessary software. These purchases also require staff to manage and maintain the equipment. As health IT solution become more complex, they require special expertise to run which can be expensive.

Cloud-based EHRs offer healthcare organizations subscription-based fees that cover storage costs and maintenance. While provider IT personnel have control over the EHR application, the bulk of the maintenance falls to the vendor.

While lower costs are enticing, organizations need to choose the right cloud strategy and the right cloud service provider to gain the cost benefits of the cloud.

A recent Black Book survey indicated that a vast majority of providers were drawn to cloud-based EHRs because of their low initial cost. However, half of small physician practices saw migrating to a cloud-based EHR as a financial strain.

Provider organizations need to consider their size and their needs for cloud-based EHRs before jumping head-long into a solution. Organizations of different sizes and specialties require different things. Investing in the wrong solutions can cause organizations to hinder workflow and waste their already limited budgets on solutions that are not going to meet their needs.

Organizations should first consider whether they want a public or private cloud-based EHR. Each has benefits and drawbacks; the size of the organization and the budget are significant factors in determining if a public or private cloud-based EHR solution is the right choice.

Larger organizations typically have a larger budget and a bigger IT department. This gives them more bandwidth to take on private cloud. Private cloud requires more hands-on attention from the organization.

On-premises private cloud offers healthcare organizations security options that are very attractive, especially when it comes to control over the network. This method of private cloud storage works well for larger organizations that have the IT staff and security expertise to add whatever security measures they find appropriate.

The control over on-premises private cloud allows organizations to deploy their own applications and adhere to any compliance issues. Organizations using private cloud deployed in their own datacenter have more control over HIPAA compliance and don’t have to rely on a vendor to ensure the cloud environment is HIPAA compliant.

Pubic cloud may be a better option for smaller healthcare organizations or organization that don’t want to focus their IT talent on managing and maintaining a private cloud solution.

Public cloud is more flexible and scalable than private cloud. Storage space can be added or dropped as the size of an organization changes. This makes public cloud popular for temporary projects as well as data migration.

Public cloud is often paid for by a monthly subscription fee that providers can modify depending on how much space is needed. The fee-for-service model caters to organizations that cannot afford their own on-premises storage space or private cloud platform. Organizations that are expanding their IT infrastructure or testing or migrating applications can benefit greatly from the public cloud’s flexibility.

As healthcare organizations migrate parts of their IT infrastructure to the cloud, applications are often the first solution to make the move. Consulting EHR vendors and exploring the different cloud service models can give organizations a better idea of where their infrastructure is headed in the future. Successfully moving one application to the cloud can help pave the way for organization to make decisions about moving other applications to the cloud.

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