Even though many providers are switching over to cloud-based EHR systems, there are still a number of risks and problems with cloud vendors and their contracts. All of these vendors are not created equally, and that can put medical professionals at risk from information and financial standpoints, which can also affect patient care. Before any medical provider chooses a cloud-based vendor for EHR, he or she should carefully consider not only the value but the safety and security of the company and its methods. Among the issues pointed out are:
- The contracts for most cloud-based EHR systems available today are written to be heavily in favor of the vendors, not the medical providers who are their clients. Some of these contracts even have a cap on damages that is arbitrary, and that at least one attorney has called “ridiculous.” The vendor’s contract should be the starting point for negotiations, not the final word as to what the agreement will be. Medical providers don’t have to accept the first contract they are handed, and negotiations are possible.
- The payment structure and pricing can vary significantly between vendors. It is highly important that the medical professional understand that structure and be accepting of it before signing a contract. Shopping around can be an excellent idea, because a higher-priced vendor does not always mean one that has better data protection or that will provide the medical professional with a better experience.
- Licenses to use the cloud-based EHR system can be perpetual or term in nature, and medical providers should carefully read their contract to see which of these options they are being offered. It is vital that they get what they are really paying for, so they don’t end up with an expensive bill they have to keep paying every term. How long the term is can also factor into the equation in a big way.
- Data sharing is an important part of the process, since health information exchanges can allow doctors and other medical professionals to move patient information more easily. It’s highly beneficial to patients, but not all cloud-based EHR systems allow for it. It’s important to make sure it’s offered before signing up, because not having it can make things more difficult for the medical providers and the patients.
- There should be guarantees on uptime and downtime for the system, since excessive downtime can lead to delays in care and other serious problems. Medical providers don’t want to pay for systems that are not going to be up and available to them the vast majority of the time.
- Patient information needs to be protected. Since the system is cloud-based, there is the potential for data breaches. The better protected the information is, the safer patients and medical professionals really are. Cloud-based EHR systems should be carefully compared by any provider considering signing up with one, to make sure it has an excellent record and a strong plan in place for safety.
In the future, there will likely be increased scrutiny for cloud vendors. The Office of the Inspector General has plans to take a closer look at vendors and how they protect the data of their customers. This has never been examined before, and has the potential to lead to numerous changes regarding how patient data is handled and which cloud vendors are used by medical providers who need their services.
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