Many provider benefits are in the cloud

Why should a patient's electronic health record (EHR) be stored on-site, when the records can be cost effectively stored on the Internet at a remote location? This question is posed by Bernard Rosof, MD, MACP, CEO of the Quality in Healthcare Advisory Group, a consulting firm in Huntington, NY.

Using the cloud can circumvent the need to license numerous and expensive software programs, which can be accessed on a relatively inexpensive basis via industry providers in the cloud, he says.

The medical community's growing familiarity with computers and computer records, the Internet, smart phones, tablets, and wireless devices makes the transition to the cloud a logical next step, Rosof says. The demands for electronic transmission of records also have increased as hospitals consolidate, which makes it necessary to exchange patient information between numerous physical locations.

"Computer networks, wired and wireless, have obscured the distinction between local networks and Internet-based networks. At one moment we might be using our computer workstation, then we seamlessly access information on our company's network, and at other times we access information via the Internet; so, too, for healthcare providers," Rosof says. "Medical practices may access their own patients' records locally, using their own in-house computer servers, and they may store other confidential data on servers that are located remotely and operated by third parties."

Storage is not the only benefit offered by the cloud. Actual computing functions — the input and output of information, and the execution of analysis and databases — can be handled on network computers elsewhere in the cloud, Rosof notes. New technology can protect patient records from natural and terrorist disasters. Industry providers can ensure disaster recovery and data protection in ways that an individual practice could never afford on its own. In urban areas and rural settings, patients and their doctors can have access to information instantaneously and seamlessly, Rosof says.