Hospitals with EMRs, HIEs Serious About Cloud Possibilities

Posted on March 27, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

For a few years, the notion of cloud-based data sharing has been a least a bit controversial, with questions of security, control, throughput and the like slowing down adoption.  But it seems like those days may be coming to an end. A new survey by Harris Interactive for the Optum Institute found that more than half  of  CIO respondents plan to do some cloud investing.

According to the researchers, almost 60 percent of CIOs with both an HIE and EMR in place plan to invest in “cloud-based open systems.”  More specifically:

* 36 percent plan to use the cloud for both their EMR and HIE
* 12 percent plan to go cloud for their HIE only
* 11 percent plan to implement only cloud-based EMR technology

According to FierceHealthIT, top reasons for going cloud include access to additional apps, at 57 percent, and access to additional functionality, at 56 percent.

While it’s hard to tell whether the group selected by Harris is particularly savvy, it was interesting to hear that 71 percent of respondents participate in an HIE, and that almost two-thirds actually own the exchanges in question.  (OK, I take that back; HIE ownership does seem to me to suggest extra sophistication.)  On the other hand, according to the research firm, the HIEs in question are somewhat limited.

All told, these are interesting findings, though not incredibly surprising given that CIOs have to find a way to get interoperable under Meaningful Use Stage 2.  My question is whether the cloud implementations (especially security) will differ so much that they defeat the purpose. Let’s hope we don’t end up with another layer of opacity.