Racing Against Time: Cloud SaaS EHR is Perfect Alternative for Meaningful Use Strategy

The window of opportunity is shortening quickly for hospitals and physicians to comply with meaningful requirements of certified electronic health records. Traditional EHRs typically require 12 to 18 months to implement. This gives hospitals about a year and medical practices 15 months to deploy and learn to use an EHR before their 90-day Stage 1 reporting period begins in early July 2012 and Oct. 2012, respectively.

So with less than 15 months to go, providers considering installing an EHR to meet Stage 1 criteria must all but experience a near trouble-free implementation from beginning to end. But given that an EHR is a highly complex and costly IT undertaking, the likelihood of this happening is small. Problems are certain to crop up, and a provider's ability to overcome them and stay on track depends on the nature and frequency of issues occurring. Facilities and practices encountering setbacks late in the process will have much less wiggle room than early adopters.

To beat the race against time to qualify for federal incentives, a perfect, affordable and sound alternative is a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) EHR model. Cloud solutions can be rapidly deployed in both inpatient and ambulatory facilities in weeks as opposed to months or years, minimizing significant labor, hardware and software investment. A SaaS-based EHR leverages a facility's existing IT infrastructure and requires only a standard Internet browser for easy access, which is entirely maintained and upgraded by the vendor at their data center.

Moreover, SaaS-based EHRs cost about 33 percent less than locally hosted systems requiring large upfront capital outlay. SaaS users pay a reasonable monthly subscription fee to rent or access the application remotely.

Complementing the low costs are powerful clinical performance benefits. The speed of SaaS deployment gives hospitals and physicians fast access to secure patient data. Creation of patient-centric records and real-time clinical integration is instantaneous. What's more, providers can capture and aggregate data for MU reporting requirements. Physicians can exchange interoperable health information via other applications across the care continuum inside and outside their enterprise, enhancing coordination and continuity of a patient’s care with their colleagues. Having availability to up-to-date critical data also minimizes the risk of medical errors.

With time running out with every passing week, exceptional clinical advantages and the stark disparity in deployment time and cost between SaaS and traditional EHRs clearly make the former the superior technology choice for an achievable MU strategy.

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