An electronic health record (EHR) contains a patient’s medical information, including provider visit notes, lab results, medication lists, and communications with the patient and other providers treating that patient. Many independent physicians are now taking advantage of EHRs that help them track their patient’s medical progress and help them remain compliant with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Program.
EHRs are maintained on a server, making them accessible by multiple providers and clinical staff members. They can be kept on a local server in the physician’s office or they can be cloud-based. What does it mean for an independent physician to operate with a cloud-based EHR?
With cloud-based EHR systems, data is stored on external servers and can be accessed with any device that has an internet connection, while server-based EHR systems store data within the practice on a personal server. The EHR system is maintained by a Software as a Service (SAAS) provider, so the independent physician does not have to spend time or money on server installation or upkeep. Updates are handled by the SAAS provider as well, which eliminates a significant headache for the medical practice.
Common benefits of a cloud-based EHR system, as described by The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (IT), include:
- Reduced upfront hardware and software costs
- Reduced ongoing maintenance costs
- Higher levels of IT-service availability than in-house IT services
- Reduced run-time failures
In addition, rather than having to purchase, install, and maintain an entire server system, the independent physician using a cloud-based EHR system can start small and increase the IT allocations as needed.
Security for patient data on a cloud-based EHR is a responsibility shared between the SAAS provider and the independent physician. Information contained in an EHR is considered electronic protected health information (ePHI) and is covered under HIPAA regulations. The ePHI is heavily safeguarded by the cloud-based EHR, ensuring that patient information is both safe and easily accessible by the independent physician.