Scott Mace offered this interesting intro to his article “Cloud Adoption Gains Traction” in Health Leaders Magazine:
While no cloud-based electronic health record software of note for hospitals has yet to emerge on the scene, cloud-based ambulatory EHRs continue to gain traction, storage remains a strong cloud option, and intriguing new analytics options are tapping the versatility of cloud technology.
A look at hospital EHR market share and the main EHR companies (Epic, Cerner, MEDITECH, etc) are not cloud based EHR systems. Sure, some of them might have their client server installs hosted in the cloud, but that’s not a true single database EHR cloud.
What’s fascinating to me is why cloud EHR hasn’t taken off in hospitals like it’s taken off in the rest of the world (even ambulatory EHR as the article notes). It’s worth noting that athenahealth is working on a cloud based hospital EHR. However, there still at least a couple years out from even being in the conversation when a hospital considers selecting an EHR. The small SaaS Hospital EHR vendors don’t even make a dent in the market share.
Here’s why I think cloud EHR hasn’t taken off in hospitals:
Early Adopters – Many hospitals adopted some form of EHR really early on. They made the investment before cloud was really a decent option to consider (ie. before high speed internet was ubiquitous). Now they’re stuck with a legacy investment and they’re still paying off that investment
Switching Costs are High – Switching EHR in the ambulatory world is hard. Doing so in a hospital is infinitely more difficult. If I’m a CIO at a hospital, do I want to put my organization through that process? It takes a really visionary CIO and a supportive CEO to make the change.
No Great SaaS Hospital Alternatives – Once hospitals decided they needed one all in one system, that narrowed the number of EHR options to very few. We still have yet to see a SaaS software expand their offerings to cover the full gamut of software that’s required by a hospital. For example, even Epic which has been around forever (and is not a cloud EHR for the record), still gets complaints from hospitals about their lab software. Now apply that to 100 departments in a hospital and SaaS software just hasn’t been able to provide the full suite of software a hospital requires.
Fear – I think most hospitals are still afraid of the cloud. There are plenty of reasons why they should be less afraid of cloud than their current set up, but there’s still very much fear surrounding cloud. Somehow having the servers in my data center, on site where I can touch them and feel them makes me feel more safe. Reality or not, this fear has prevented most hospitals from even considering a cloud based EHR. I think they’re starting to get past it since every hospital now has something in the cloud, but that wasn’t true even 5 years ago in many organizations.
I’m sure there are other reasons you can offer in the comments. Of course, Scott Mace’s article linked above goes into a number of the benefits of a cloud EHR. However, that’s not yet a realistic option for hospitals. I’m sure one day it will be.