- As 2014 nears its midpoint, healthcare providers are entering the final push for achieving compliance with meaningful use regulations. It’s important they invest in technology that will support their current electronic medical record (EMR) endeavors and adapt with them as their practice and the healthcare industry move forward. In most cases, the answer is simple: Look to the cloud.
Many hospitals and healthcare centers remain skeptical about cloud-based EMR solutions. But the truth is this: The cloud offers a robust, cost-effective solution that is both highly secure and supremely flexible — this is, if you help make it so. Here’s how to get your EMR system running at real-time cloud pace:
Step 1: Take inventory and understand your assets. Whether you are looking to migrate an existing EMR to the cloud or plan to implement an entirely new solution, it’s vital that you understand your current systems and assets before making adjustments. From servers to applications to the number and types of devices your system is supporting — gain a big picture understanding of key components and how they work together.
Understanding your existing health IT environment will facilitate a smooth cloud-based EMR launch and provide insights on how you can shape your new solution to optimize interaction with existing systems.
Step 2: Know your EMR needs. There are countless EMR systems from which to choose. And each system boasts different applications and infrastructures to support practices of varying size and specialty.
It’s important to architect an EMR system that addresses your unique and individualized circumstances. To do that, healthcare providers must first understand their practice’s requirements. How much flexibility do we need? Will this solution integrate with our existing billing system? What are our major priorities with our system?
Sometimes providers choose a solution that comes close to meeting their needs but falls short in a few areas. It’s important to understand what you’re giving up by selecting an “almost” solution, as customization to many of these systems is a time- and cost-intensive process.
Step 3. Think security from the start. A major concern of healthcare providers moving to cloud-based EMR services has been protecting medical records housed on the public internet. Today, there’s no question that when deployed correctly, cloud-based EMRs are often more secure than paper records or EMRs hosted on a local server. They are also HIPAA compliant.
But like any solution, your system is only as secure as you make it, so integrate with security in mind. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a great example of a cloud-based infrastructure provider that views security as a serious priority, as indicated by their certifications and proactive security approach. Healthcare organizations should look for providers who surround environments with similarly robust security layers, also considering:
• Adding data encryption
• Establishing dedicated connections
• Building secure applications
• Performing security audits
• Conducting security monitoring
Step 4: Train users on functionality and security. The more a user understands the deployed solution, the better he or she can optimize and protect it.
Training employees on system functionality has a two-part benefit. First, when users know how a system works, they are able to operate it more efficiently and effectively. This can improve a healthcare organization’s overall productivity and compliance, resulting in fewer system or reporting errors.
Moreover, well-trained employees have a better understanding of how their actions might impact system security. Human error is often the root cause of data breaches, so educating employees about security policies and best practices also helps ensure data protection, from both internal and external threats.
Step 5: Stay on top of system maintenance and updates. In the rapidly shifting healthcare environment, simply deploying a cloud-based EMR system is not enough. Organizations must tend to and update their systems frequently to ensure smooth, effective operation, as well as ongoing compliance.
All systems are built in layers and rely on multiple software solutions to work effectively. It only takes one inefficiency in one layer to make an entire EMR system vulnerable to security breaches or failure. To prevent update gaps, health organizations should create an ongoing maintenance plan.
Strategy will vary from one practice to the next, but the key to developing a sound maintenance plan is to build alignment and accountability into the process. One way to achieve this is by tasking particular individuals or groups to monitor regulations and implement updates as needed.
EMR systems are not a one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s important to evaluate your needs from the ground up. What assets do you currently have? And how do they all work together? Then determine if cloud deployment is right for you. Demonstrating proven security, flexibility and ultimate convenience, the cloud certainly seems to be the direction in which healthcare organizations are moving — upward.
Eric Dynowski is the cofounder and CEO of Turing Group, a technology partner that helps companies navigate in a complicated world. At Turing Group, Dynowski helps healthcare systems deploy and maintain cloud-based EHR systems