The benefits and challenges of a cloud-based electronic health record

archer benefits and challenges of a cloud-based electronic health record
Despite the big number of advantages of electronic medical records for hospitals, owners still should take care of data security. When you choose between server- or cloud-based solutions, you need to weigh the pros and cons before stopping on one of them. In this article, you will know all benefits and challenges of a cloud-based EHR system.

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E-health applications and devices used by patients and doctors are innovative, convenient, and safe. Electronic health records (EHR) systems are just one of the technologies that modern clinics should be used to provide top-notch medical services. In this article, we discuss the concept of EHR and explain why cloud-based EHR solutions are promising and safe.

What is in an electronic health record?

Electronic health record (EHR) systems refer to medical IT solutions that store a patient’s medical data, including the history of diseases and treatment, test results, descriptions of special and chronic conditions, vaccinations, the results of ultrasounds, and x-ray images.

An electronic health record is often confused with an electronic medical record, but they are not the same thing. What is the difference between an electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR)?

An EMR is a patient’s digital record at each hospital or doctor’s office where a patient received medical services, while an EHR combines all the medical data of a patient from various sources and institutions.

EHR market overview and forecasts

Electronic health recording is a common practice in the US and the European Union.

According to the statistics, 96% of hospitals have implemented this solution in Europe, and the figure is similar to American medical establishments. What’s more, this market is forecast to reach $37.13 billion by 2025 compared to $24.82 billion in 2018.

North America is expected to take the greatest share of the electronic health market, and EHR software will be widely accessible in the European Union with a high level of adoption in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

What is cloud-based EHR?

There are several types of electronic health record systems being used to manage patient data, including cloud-based software and server-based/n-premise software.

Cloud-based EHR is defined as a health IT solution using cloud technology to store, exchange, and protect patients’ medical information.

Cloud data storage is one of the most reliable ways to handle sensitive information, reduce the load on servers on the premises, and the costs to maintain the health IT systems in hospitals. There are some pros and cons of electronic health records based in the cloud, however, most of the disadvantages can be eliminated if you are aware of the issues when switching to EHR software.

Advantages of cloud-based EHR

Let’s find out what the benefits are of using the electronic health records powered by cloud solutions.

  • Keep all the medical data in one place. The ability to store and access all the medical data of a single patient with the help of a unified solution is one of the main EHR benefits. What’s more, 63% of practitioners confirmed that EHR systems allowed them to significantly improve the quality of care and medical services delivered.
  • Cost. As with any other cloud solution, cloud-based EHR clinical software allows hospitals to reduce development, installation, and maintenance costs, as well as the amount of hardware and software needed.
  • Security and privacy. Cloud-based solutions are safe by nature. As for using them as a part of a clinical system, they also provide encryption and protection possibilities with the help of digital signs, unique keys, and two-factor authentication.
  • Scalability. Cloud-based EHR software can be easily scalable as it usually comes as Software as a Service (SaaS). According to this concept, the hospital may pay only for the functionality used and switch to advanced features when it is necessary.
  • Advanced search features. Electronic health records are flexible and allow physicians to find the information they need quickly. The same goes for a cloud-based health information system.
  • A fast exchange and sharing. Since all the medical data from different hospitals and laboratories are stored in one place with EHR, cloud technology allows institutions to share and exchange information instantly.

Disadvantages of cloud-based EHR

As for the cons of cloud-based EHR, they are the same as the disadvantages of using any other cloud solution.

  • Fewer customizability opportunities. Since cloud-based EHR are SaaS solutions, they can not be easily customized. A user can switch to a more advanced set of services if customization is needed.
  • Cloud provider dependence. When an enterprise decides to use clouds to store data, this means that the overall efficiency of the system directly depends on the efficiency of the cloud. Also, the backups, data protection, and quick restart of the system after a failure is the cloud provider’s responsibility.
  • The provider also controls and has access to all the medical data, which is very sensitive. EHR data has a high value on the black market, and there are strong reputational risks at stake in the case of a medical data leak. That is why you need to choose cloud and EHR vendors as carefully as deciding which employees will have access to the medical records.
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EHR security and privacy requirements

In order to avoid security threats, there are some requirements for EHR development and implementation as a part of a hospital information system. Before integrating an Electronic Health Record system, a hospital needs to understand that all the patient data is going to be stored in it, and refer to the electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) that should also be protected according to specific rules and protocols.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security rule describes the set of requirements that should be followed by clinics when dealing with health information technology. Here are the most important:

  • Authorized access. Cloud-based software provides a lot of opportunities for safe data storage and authorized access. HIPAA rules also require a healthcare provider to carefully identify employees who will be able to access the medical records and keep their access keys secret.
  • Patient’s consent. A patient should know how his medical data is stored and protected, and who can access it. That is why he or she should always be notified in advance and give his consent for data processing.
  • Archiving. Medical data should be stored for a certain period (it varies by country depending on the laws in place), and then it should be carefully deleted by authorized employees to eliminate the risk that it will be sold on the black market.

What to consider before switching to cloud-based EHR

The issues above are the main things that should be considered before integrating a cloud-based EHR solution. It is necessary to carefully prepare all the data that will be transferred to EHR, appoint employees that will be responsible for this process, carefully check the cloud provider’s reputation and make sure that there is regulatory compliance.

Conclusion

The benefits of electronic health records for hospitals and patients are obvious, however, data safety should always come first. That is why it is necessary to carefully choose the cloud and development vendor to implement this solution for your medical institution. Archer Software has a lot of experience in eHealth solutions development and is well-versed in legislative requirements for such systems and data protection.

Let’s get in touch at info@archer-soft.com to come up with a safe solution for your patients, and an effective one for the doctors in your practice!

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