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EHR Meaningful Use to “The Cloud”


Fierce Health IT has published a couple of articles about the movement of healthcare providers to cloud computing.  The articles were spurred by a recent report from KLAS Research.  Here is an excerpt from their editor’s corner:

In a survey that ran the gamut from small clinics to 1,000-bed hospitals, KLAS found that 55 percent of the respondents already had something in the cloud, whether it was clinical applications, storage, e-mail, or picture archiving and communication systems. Nearly a quarter of this group used remotely served electronic health records.

Another group of respondents–58 percent of the total–said they planned to adopt cloud computing. But only 35 percent of that group actually had solid plans to use cloud-based applications, and many were hesitant to place mission-critical applications in the cloud.

KLAS detected a bifurcation between physician practices and hospitals in this area. The clinics were much more open than hospitals  to having their EHRs and billing systems hosted in the cloud.

One reason is that small practices, in particular, lack the IT resources of hospitals, KLAS Senior Research Director Erik Westerlind told FierceHealthIT. Whereas a good-sized hospital typically has a data center and an IT staff, most physician practices don’t. “So they perceive that going to a cloud offering for their EHR is a good move because it extends their IT capabilities,” he said.

Meaningful Use is a motivator for both practices and hospitals to go to the cloud, he noted. For clinics, cloud-based EHRs are less expensive and have smaller upfront costs than onsite systems do. Smaller hospitals are also lured by the cost advantage, and the shorter implementation time for remotely served applications is attractive when hospitals are trying to meet the Meaningful Use deadlines. Westerlind cited one community hospital that got its EHR up and running within a year of signing a vendor contract.

On the other hand, many hospitals are hesitant to move clinical and administrative systems to the cloud, the KLAS study found. KLAS attributed this cautiousness, in large part, to doubts about the reliability and security of cloud computing.

The reliability concern is especially prevalent in rural areas, where broadband connectivity is not as good as it is in metropolitan regions, Westerlind noted.

Major urban and suburban hospitals don’t have that problem, but they’re worried about HIPAA compliance, Westerlind said. That explains why two-thirds of hospitals interested in cloud computing prefer “private clouds” that segregate their data from that of other entities, according to the KLAS report.

Looking over the changes occurring in the market, it appears likely that cloud computing will become the norm in healthcare once some of the technology and security issues are sorted out.  It seems probable that the growth of community health information exchanges and accountable care organizations will accelerate the overall trend toward cloud computing.
Read more: Cloud computing in healthcare: the question is not if, but when – FierceHealthIT