EMR, HIE data continue move to the cloud

EMR, HIE data continue move to the cloud

Retail industries have traditionally made better use of cloud-based services than health care, but that may be changing. Physicians and hospital executives are beginning to see real worth in remotely stored and immediately accessible patient information, and signs indicate that they may be putting funding and project management resources behind a serious push to embrace the cloud.

According to a recent survey from Health Information Management Systems Society Analytics, more health information technology leaders are moving their organizations' computing power to cloud-based systems. Citing several advantages of remote systems over native ones, a majority of health IT executives already plan to expand their cloud services in the future.

Cutting the cord
For months, the lack of security and regulated networks scared health IT executives away from cloud computing. The cloud has improved, though, and health care is circling back to it in a big way.

HIMSS Analytics contacted 150 top ranking health IT executives across the U.S. on their opinions and practices regarding cloud computing. The survey found that 83 percent of respondents use cloud-based services as part of their every day workflows. Also, 94 percent said that they would expand their use of cloud computing in the future with most attention focused on archived data storage, back up and disaster recovery services, and operational app and data hosting.

The current stock of cloud users cited lower maintenance costs, speed of implementation and staffing challenges as the top three reasons for adopting their new computing tactics. When considering cloud-based services, these executives looked for companies that were willing to sign a business associate agreement, as well as firms that offered elite security solutions.

"Cloud services have been long praised as a tool to reduce operating expenses for health care organizations," Lorren Pettit, vice president of market research at HIMSS Analytics, said in a statement. "The data presented in our inaugural survey demonstrates the health care industry's eagerness to leverage this resource."

Pulling back the curtain
Though the vast majority of health IT executives are happy  with their cloud-based computing experiences, some have had rocky starts with the technology. Though 38 percent of respondents reported no challenges with their cloud services, 21 percent cited operation visibility, 20 percent said they received poor customer service and 19 percent said the associated costs and fees to change were too high. Also, 33 percent admitted that they experienced slow performance with cloud-based systems, and 23 percent said they had extended periods of downtime and inaccessibility after switching.

Lisa Gallagher, vice president of technology solutions for HIMSS, explained that while some health IT executives have had problems implementing cloud-based solutions, the industry should work together with vendors to identify areas where both sides can work together toward a viable fix.

Though the future of health care and cloud computing are similarly uncertain, FierceEMR identified three key topics that vendors and providers must focus on so both can move forward:

  1. Move toward fairer contracts: Many health care organizations already push for business associate agreements, but the status quo still demands companies to sign one-sided contracts with vendors that might go so far as to prohibit legal actions after data breaches.
  2. Identify a single regulator agency: Currently, several agencies oversee health care data in the cloud. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services all have a hand in drafting guidelines for cloud computing. Could a centralized source help the industry?
  3. Coordinate on data security: Vendors and providers may approach data security from different angles, but communicating each side's wants and needs may bring everybody together.

Health care news brought to you by Complete HealthCare Solutions, Inc., leaders in health care software solutions, consulting and implementations.

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