Automating your environment with an EMR/EHR system can benefit your business by allowing for greater efficiency, less risk, more control, and higher earnings for work that is already being done. There are scenarios in which having traditional IT services are more appropriate or efficient for a business/practice. However, for some other practices, cloud computing can provide the benefits of EMR/EHR without the large capital investment traditionally associated with automating your workflow. A recent blog post on KevinMD.com covers some basics of Cloud Computing. However, if you are considering this format, here are some other important questions that should be addressed before jumping in:
1. How long has the software provider been around? Is it “in the black” or well-funded? You will be migrating your whole practice to it, so you want to be sure they will be around in 7 years.
2. Does the program provide what you need to stay in compliance with your field of practice? (HIPAA, security measures …etc).
3. What guarantees can the SaaS provider make in regards to updating the software without altering your workflow? Software providers often do product updates, which have the potential to your already established workflow significantly. Nothing is worse than coming in on Monday morning and dealing with an unfamiliar interface or screen.
4. Does the product have practice management built in? Can you choose your own clearing house (billing service)? If you are locked into a specific one, what are the costs?
5. Will the software provider be using any of your (or your patients’) data in any capacity? Your data should remain yours. And your patients’ data should remain confidential.
6. Can you download all of your information? In what formats? There should be inter-operability should you decide to migrate to another system. If the software provider gets bought out or your business becomes big enough for an in-house system, you will want to be able to move that data safely easily to the next system.
7. What happens if internet connection is lost? What is the contingency plan? Who is going to come out to assess the situation? (This is where a good, responsive, IT provider can be crucial).
8. Are you actually ready?
a. Is your infrastructure ready? It may not seem necessary, but you should still have a good company to provide you with IT Services. Even though you are using software as a service, inevitably, you will run into problems that will require IT support. (It’s not a matter of “if.” Rather, it’s a matter of “when.”)
b. Are your computers sufficient? Most computers on your network will work fine if they have been purchased within the past 3 years. These newer computers should have the capacity to handle today’s internet demands.
c. Is your network fast enough? If you’re located somewhere where internet access is slow or intermittent, cloud computing can be very risky, and generally not recommended. And even if you have great internet access, a good IT provider can more accurately assess usage and speed requirements.
Cloud computing is an excellent option for some businesses due to the low cost of entry. Doing your due diligence prior to purchase will help protect your business, your clients, and your sanity.