Cloud adoption numbers are up in health care, and dermatology practices are no exception. The number of health care organizations planning to use the cloud for back office, health information exchange and human resource/financial applications more than doubled between 2014 and 2016, according to the HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey.
More organizations are realizing that cloud-based technology offers lower infrastructure and maintenance costs, as well as access to data from almost any location. For maximum cost control and efficiency, practices should integrate their cloud-based solutions—such as electronic medical record (EMR), practice management (PM) and other applications like imaging software and equipment—with each other for seamless information sharing.
A cloud-based, fully integrated solution saves dermatology practices time and improves productivity in numerous ways. For example, integrated systems can capture data from each other, allowing physicians to enter information once while it is automatically input into other systems, such as the billing or claims submittal module. At the same time, the system’s integrated reporting module captures the data so the practice can monitor performance across numerous financial and clinical metrics. In short, integrated cloud solutions give practices a comprehensive business and clinical perspective with less time and effort.
Cloud Advantages Over On-Premise Equipment
The most obvious advantage of cloud-based technology is that it relieves practices from the expense of purchasing server equipment and updating or maintaining the software and equipment themselves. Because cloud-based systems are accessed over an internet connection and do not require special equipment to operate, they have much lower upfront costs than their on-premise counterparts.
When an on-premise server system goes down, the practice usually must call a technical support company or maintain its own dedicated IT staff, both of which can be costly. The downtime caused by server failure often interrupts practice operations. These interruptions could ultimately lead to lost revenue and patient dissatisfaction when an appointment is delayed or needs to be rescheduled.
With cloud-based solutions, these incidents almost never occur because the solution offers server redundancy to ensure fewer interruptions in service. Companies that provide cloud-based solutions can typically resolve software concerns faster and more easily for these products through a dedicated team of support representatives who can remotely log in to a practice’s system to troubleshoot.
In addition, the vendor is responsible for securing the servers from cyberattack and backing up data. Unlike on-premise servers, cloud-based technology and data are protected from catastrophes such as weather events or other natural disasters that may occur at the practice location, further ensuring that the practice operations and patient data will not be compromised.
Integration for Efficiency and Insight
Implementing cloud-based systems in aesthetic practices provides additional benefits beyond cost savings. Cloud-based systems also increase practice efficiency and offer the ability to gain additional insight into practice operations. For example, some dermatologists schedule as many as 100 appointments per day and need data to be easily accessible from the EMR, PM, photo management, labs, inventory and marketing systems from remote locations. The cloud delivers that easy access through a secure internet connection and allows physicians to work from anywhere an internet connection is available—including their home, if they wish. This gives physicians (and patients) the ability to visit any practice location while having needed information readily available. The interoperability provided by on-demand data enhances convenience for the physician and efficiency for the practice.
If a practice wants to open a new location, choosing an integrated cloud-based system rather than an on-premise server system makes the expansion process faster and less expensive, thanks to a smaller overhead cost. The cloud-based solution also allows practices to maximize the real estate within their offices since they are not required to store any additional equipment. Overall, cloud-based EMR and PM solutions can make practice expansion more cost-effective, even if the new locations are only open part-time.
An integrated system also helps the physician work more efficiently because all data is automatically shared between applications.
For example, the physician records information from the patient exam in the EMR. The system then automatically sends any relevant information to the PM system and other integrated applications. This data can then be used in the PM system's billing application and third-party clearinghouse application so claims can be filed faster with less data entry.
The time saved by the integration and data capture between solutions allows practice administrators and staff to focus their efforts on more complex billing and collection activities. In addition, full integration helps practices avoid running out of consumables when used with an inventory module in which the system automatically tracks inventory levels, expirations, lots and serial numbers, and alerts staff to reorder.
Seamless data sharing in cloud-based, integrated technology facilitates streamlined reporting because practices can eliminate the manual data entry that may be required for an unintegrated reporting application. Some integrated reporting solutions even allow practices to easily access pre-made reports or create their own, using filters to specify the data they need, when they need it.
Delivered as analytics dashboards or in-depth reports, these insights can help practices identify financial, clinical or patient satisfaction issues before they get out of hand.
Reporting also delivers guidance on efficacy of marketing programs, performance on clinical quality benchmarks, and other actionable business insights.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Dermatologists need to work more efficiently while still practicing high-quality, patient-centered medicine. Cloud-based technology supports that mission.
Integrating all practice software in the cloud further supports that mission because it offers providers and practice managers all their data and tools when and where they need it. Through more automated billing and inventory management processes and more comprehensive reporting capabilities, a cloud-based, integrated EMR and PM system efficiently and effectively equips practices for long-term success.
Jason Tammaro is Vice President of Sales at Nextech, a complete business solution for medical practices. Tammaro has been at Nextech for eight years and earned his degree in business and sports management from the John H. Sykes College of Business at The University of Tampa. Nextech is the leader in Practice Management and Electronic Medical Record solutions for Dermatology, Plastic Surgery and Ophthalmology. With a team of more than 200 employees, Nextech continues to be a visionary in developing cutting edge products that lead the medical software space. Jason can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.