After the great telehealth rush of 2020, healthcare providers who could offer HIPAA-compliant services while also being able to access their patients’ complete healthcare information remotely, came out ahead of the game. The practices that continued operating their organizations in a way that met the healthcare needs of their patients in a ‘no-beats-missed’ fashion achieved greater patient satisfaction and outcomes due to the continuity of care.
But across the country, this scenario was the exception more than the rule. Most independent practices didn’t have the right software in place to meet rapidly shifting demands and ensure a unified data experience. Providers found they could perform certain tasks, but due to data siloes, their workflow and business continuity was significantly hindered. And patients ultimately suffered.
Staying Ahead of the Viral Virtual Care
Coming out on the other side of the pandemic, successful healthcare models are virtual in a viral fashion. Prepared providers thrived and since then, patients have enjoyed the convenience, ease, and cost savings telemedicine brings, while physicians have become more flexible and accessible. It’s a win-win, and there’s no going back.
Online reputation research, payments, and scheduling, robust patient portals, electronic intake, lab results, and text-based communications and reminders are all time-saving conveniences patients now expect. But none of these capabilities would be easy or affordable to manage within a core practice management and EHR ecosystem without a cloud backbone.
That’s why interoperability must be built into the cloud’s DNA, providing unfettered access to all clinical and financial information from anywhere. Platforms supported by major players like Amazon Web Services (AWS), will enable the highest standards of performance, reliability, and security and allows the private practice to say ahead of the consolidation curve. Further, they can remain competitive with a cutting-edge technology bundle and the ability to continuously scale software with minimal impact — efficiencies that help keep costs down.
A Private Practice Should Have its Head in the Cloud
Typical client-server systems require third parties, which often results in hidden costs for installation and upgrades and associated downtime. In contrast, cloud platforms include a single, predictable monthly subscription fee — a huge budgeting advantage because it allows practices to avoid unexpected and unbudgeted operating costs, which in turn allows the practice to dedicate resources to new revenue-generating technologies like marketing, analytics, and business intelligence. Additionally, using a cloud-based platform allows for high levels of operational agility, scalability, and seamless transitions to remote care. Another benefit of using a unified suite of fully integrated solutions is that doing so automates many of the mundane and manual workflow tasks — which are both error-prone and tend to impede employee satisfaction.
Further, cloud-based solutions make practice growth simple — all that’s needed is a Wifi connection and a computer. Compare that to the old legacy client-server environments that require significant modifications each time a new partner, employee, or practice location is added. These old client-server systems also restrict group practices when it comes to mergers and acquisitions as it’s difficult to integrate a new practice when the clinical, billing and A/R software systems are disparate, and data isn’t congruent with a modern infrastructure that can be pulled into a cloud environment.
Not in the Cloud? You’re Behind.
Healthcare moving to the cloud is not a new topic, yet many small practices remain behind the curve compared to other industries. Those who are resistant to changing to cloud-based software are probably losing patients, and definitely losing money. It’s comparable to the mindset of keeping cash under your mattress rather than using a bank because that’s where you can see it.
One reason some physicians resist the move is because they serve an older patient population and believe their patients aren’t interested in telehealth or won’t be able to access it. But this is a misnomer. U.S. demographic researchers suggest most people in the country have access to broadband internet. And while not everyone has a computer, statistics show that at least one person in a household has a smartphone. Another fun fact? The highest growth of online healthcare users over the past 18 months has been from the 65+ demographic. They used social media, kept up with the kids and grandkids via FaceTime, and learned to access healthcare using their devices.
The Shift in Demand
One thing the Covid era made abundantly clear to the private practice healthcare is the shift in demand. It spawned from patients spanning all demographics and socioeconomic classes needing remote care. As patients and physicians experienced the convenience, cost savings, consistency, and quality of care telemedicine provides — we all got hooked.
As a result, many practices migrated to cloud-based solutions capable of supporting patient engagement, practice management, clinical workflow, billing, and more. Today’s medical office technology consumer is looking for a cloud platform, especially one that is focused on patient engagement, with the expectation of increasing operational agility and fostering greater patient-provider relationships in a virtual setting.
About Stephen Dart
Stephen H. Dart is the vice president of engineering at AdvancedMD, based in South Jordan, Utah. He has 25 years of medical software engineering and product development, including inventing and successfully patenting healthcare technology innovations. His skills range from designing and improving EHR software functionality to driving enterprise-wide post-merger and post-acquisition harmonization. The development projects have won several industry awards, including KLAS, Gartner Group, EHR In Practice, MedGadget, and most recently, the MedTech Breakthrough Award for a new refreshed EHR. Dart holds a master’s degree in business administration from Washington State University.