Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, small, independent health care practices have changed workflows to accommodate telemedicine visits with patients. Some physicians, providers, and staff may also work from home occasionally. Although a hectic time, telemedicine has helped practices cope with quarantines and social distancing requirements, while also adapting to changing patient needs. With a provider’s ability to treat patients remotely comes a necessary workflow requirement of continuing the ability to access patient health records quickly and securely. Implementing an appropriate electronic health records system for your practice delivers to your providers and staff the tools to work safely outside the confines of your practice’s walls.
Health care practices can choose from multiple technologies to access EHR remotely, although a server-based system requires an additional remote access infrastructure. The difference between a cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) system and a server-based EHR system is mostly in where the programming and data reside. Both methods are similar in that functionality and essential features attempt to accomplish the same processes. Both systems collect patient information, maintain accurate health records, organize and compile data into informative and sharable formats, and facilitate effective communication with medical providers, payers, and patients. The health care practice controls and manages all aspects of a server-based system. EHR system developers manage cloud EHRs programming and data. The cloud system eliminates the practice’s need to maintain internal servers, monitor backup procedures, or to develop redundancy and resiliency protocols that ensure continuity of service and reliable access to stored data.
Cloud systems have the advantage here. EHR is much more complicated than simple practice management or billing system. For a server-based system to work correctly and speedily requires a practice purchasing one or more servers. Keep in mind, the premise of our discussion includes your ability to work from a remote location. Don’t ask a single computer to act as an application server, data server, and remote access server, and also work well. A cloud-based system eliminates the server(s) requirement.
Both types of EHR systems have ongoing monthly or annual costs for services, support, and software updates. For a cloud-based system, you’re still paying for server infrastructure hosted by the software developer, just monthly instead of upfront. You may see a more substantial monthly cost with cloud systems than server systems, especially for practices with more physicians, providers, and users.
TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP (TCO)
TCO is tricky. For larger practices, especially, you may experience a lower TCO over three to five years with a server-based system. But that assumes the need for only basic maintenance requirements and no major server failures during the period. Any major networking and server issues can quickly eat into the savings. Plus, what many models don’t figure in is the need to replace your server(s) after four or five years, adding a new expense. The edge for the total cost of ownership costs usually goes to server-based systems, but only barely, and not without risks.
CASH FLOW IMPLICATIONS
You may have heard the expression “cash flow is king.” Despite a possible advantage in TCO, a server-based system still requires a tremendous up-front cash outlay. Cloud systems provide the benefit of predicting and knowing your monthly cash flow needs in advance.
DATA AND SYSTEM CONTROL
A server-based system provides you complete control over your systems and data. With that control is the requirement to secure your data and protect your systems adequately. If the Internet is down, a server-based system still works in the location where the server resides. If you have people working remotely from the server, they are unable to work on the network. With a cloud-system, anyone without Internet is down, but not all locations are necessarily offline. Plus, you have backup options available in instances where Internet access is temporarily lost.
Revenue cycle management companies that perform billing, coding, collection, and other services on behalf of health care practices can leverage a cloud-based EHR to accommodate a provider’s clinical record keeping needs and the RCMs billing needs. All users can access integrated clinical and billing data from various remote locations with a cloud-based EHR. Cloud-based systems give RCM companies an opportunity to continue supporting practices when the transition toward electronic health records.
The crisis facing independent health care practices is leading more practices to adopt EHR. No one solution meets the needs of every healthcare-related company. Sunrise Services can help you with figuring out the best options for your office, and the associated costs to meet your needs and goals. Reach out to Sunrise with your questions, concerns, and goals. We’ll help create a plan suitable for your practice.