The American healthcare system is moving forward. Thanks to the HITECH Act of 2009, physicians and hospitals are encouraged with $19 billion dollars in spending to convert their old paper charts to new Electronic Health Records (EHR). Medical records and physician charts are essential for the smooth operation and delivery of optimal and continuous healthcare. These records must be available to the doctor or nurse at all times and should be easy to access when needed.
The thought of spending time and money to overhaul a fully-immersed and often entirely adequate paper system can be overwhelming to small medical practices. Smaller practices do not usually have the technological resources to keep up with new standards of protected health information (PHI) storage and delivery. However, it is possible for even small, rural community clinics to join the EHR system without needing to hire a full IT team.
Solo physician clinics and small medical practices may wonder why they need to change their system if they like it, it’s familiar, and – most importantly – it works. Paper charts with patient information offer little to no security or backup in case of physical damage. Insurance may cover the building and most of its’ contents in a fire or flood, but patient charts will be wiped clean and started anew. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of moving to an EHR system is the ability to save, maintain, update, and backup important patient personal health data.
Contrary to popular belief, HITECH compliance does not always require a large capital surplus to ensure your patient’s private data is backed-up and protected. Small medical practices can get away with spending a few thousand dollars to implement technology from a company that offers sizable, on-demand service.
Technological options for healthcare organizations have come a long way from the complex server or appliance based solutions. Several years ago, these were the only options and could cost upwards of $50,000. Even with that cost, these solutions were far from comprehensive and only provided part of the encryption protection required by HIPAA. “Cloud computing” has revolutionized the way we think about spending IT dollars and is quickly replacing former costly solutions.
“Cloud computing” is a term that refers to applications that can be leveraged over the internet. This type of solution eliminates the need for costly and confusing software packages or excessive servers requiring IT maintenance. Typically, the physician or practice will pay a per-user fee for access to a system that is maintained by a third party. This enables the application to be fully customized to fit a big metropolitan hospital or small rural community clinic.