Looking for medical software as a method for better managing your practice? It may be time to consider a program hosted in the cloud. By Zach Watson, content manager, TechnologyAdvice
Looking for medical software as a method for better managing your practice? It may be time to consider a program hosted in the cloud.
By Zach Watson, content manager, TechnologyAdvice
Whether you're looking to implement new practice management and billing software or electronic medical records, choosing medical software that's "in the cloud" can be a smart move for a variety of reasons. Before examining the benefits of cloud computing, it's helpful to distinguish between two popular terms: cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS).
Cloud computing, or simply the cloud, is a broader term and refers to computing resources not tied to any one area. You could buy a range of services from a cloud computing vendor, such as data storage, network capacity, and virtual servers. These resources are mainly used by IT departments and larger, enterprise organizations.
Software as a Service strictly refers to applications, like a practice management program, that run on the software vendor's servers rather than your own. Simply sign into the vendor's website and you'll have access to your software account with all your data.
How Practices Can Benefit
What's relevant to medical professionals is the way cloud computing is changing the paradigm in which business technology operates. Where once businesses had to buy physical servers and deal with routine maintenance, you can now purchase most of the resources you need via cloud computing.
For solo and small practices looking to take advantage of health IT software, or for larger providers simply looking for more agile software, SaaS applications can have a number of advantages over on-premise or licensed solutions.
When you pay for a software license, you may own that particular instance of the software, but your purchase has only covered that one narrow layer of the computing environment. Licensing software often doesn't cover the cost of software updates and it doesn't account for the cost of buying, replacing, and maintaining your own servers.
Implementing a SaaS application eliminates the cost of servers. Depending on the terms of your agreement with the software vendor, it can also eliminate the cost of upgrades too. Once a vendor upgrades the software, they do so across the network, and all their clients receive the upgrade as part of their service agreement.
SaaS software is usually paid for on-the-go through monthly or annual subscriptions, so the total cost of ownership may exceed the cost of a license eventually, but you'll have greater control over how you spend your resources. You also won't have to hire any additional in-house IT staff to help you maintain the servers or the software applications.
Because the barrier to entry is lower for SaaS products, it's helping equalize the business playing field. Power technology was once the private property of only the wealthiest businesses, but cloud technology allows businesses to only buy the software they need and only pay for what they use.
This gives all business owners the chance to use new software and try new platforms. If you notice that your scheduling is haywire in your practice, for instance, you can seek out a practice management system and likely implement it within a week (or even the same day).
In medical software specifically, cloud vendors are often newcomers to the industry. This means they've likely designed their software in a different way than the legacy companies that service enterprise groups. This is good news for independent practices, because not only can cloud computing be cheaper, but it can also deliver a better, more innovative product.
Limitations for Healthcare
Security concerns are the most cited obstacle to transitioning to a large cloud environment, though many businesses are beginning to get over those worries. Software vendors almost always have more robust security networks than their customers could support in-house. This means cloud software is nearly always as secure - if not more secure - than on-premise software.
However, special considerations must be made for healthcare. The HIPAA Omnibus Rule has enhanced the penalties for data breaches and widened the blame for responsible parties. This means you should heavily vet any cloud vendor for previous breaches or lawsuits before you enter into a contract with them. Ideally, push for indemnification in the service agreement, though this gold standard may be difficult to negotiate.
Secondly, cloud computing and software as a service applications may be easy to access, but they will only run as fast as your internet connection allows them. In talking about eliminating the need for server infrastructure, it's important to remember that one key piece of technology remains essential: a reliable, fast internet connection.
If you're searching for medical software as a method for better managing your practice, a program hosted in the cloud could very well be your answer. The benefits all line up with the needs of independent practices; now you just have to choose the software.
About The Author
Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, healthcare IT, business intelligence, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.