Electronic Health Records (EHRs) or Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) can usually be categorized as either “installed” or “web-based”/”cloud-based”. An installed software is stored on your agency’s local computers, whereas a web-based software is stored in the cloud. The word “cloud” refers to using online applications which manage and store your data in remote servers spread throughout the country. Another name for cloud computing is Software as a Service (SaaS).

The advantages to web-based EHRs are compelling:

1. Strict Data Security

Storing your data in the cloud in helps protect you from data breaches and natural disasters. The type of cloud computing used by most web-based EHRs could more closely be termed “private cloud computing,” which means that your data is stored in highly secure remote servers spread throughout the country and the entity storing your information knows exactly where the data will be stored. These servers are non-public, and can only be accessed by authorized users. If you’ve banked online, you’ve already  experienced this sort of cloud computing.

These servers have strict security measures guarding access which helps protect you from data breaches. In addition, having the servers spread among remote locations means that a natural disaster can’t destroy your data; it is backed up in multiple locations.

When you use your agency’s own hard drives or servers for data back-up, you put yourself at serious risk of data loss. There may be no way to recover data lost due to break-ins, computer theft, hardware tragedies, computer viruses, fire, flood, and other natural disasters.

2. Real-time Data Access

Agencies, schools, and programs that have more than one location can access the same client record or stored document from any computer, anywhere. This means you can do point-of-care charting or work from home or another remote location and have access to all of your data at all times. Staff members in disparate locations will see the same information, updated in real-time. Reports on the most current data can be pulled by any staff member with appropriate access, regardless of their location.

3. No IT Hassle

Someone has to maintain the servers that store your data. For locally installed software, that means someone at your agency’s location needs to install software and maintain the software. With web-based software, that work is done by your vendor, remotely. A SaaS application is accessed from the web, with a secure log-in. Any application issues are handled by the provider and you can focus on your work, frustration-free.

Another benefit to cloud-computing is that updates and bug fixes can be applied by the vendor in real-time and large updates or fixes can be done after work hours, while you’re at home resting.

4. Alignment with the Future of Public Health

Web-based EHR software brings your public health agency in line with the future of public health. Health Information Exchanges (HIE) are facilitated by cloud-based data. Cloud-based or web-based data is data that can be shared more easily with the right entities.

An example of how HIEs empower public health can be seen in how HIEs have been useful in stemming the opioid epidemic. Healthcare workers could quickly see whether a person was receiving prescriptions from multiple providers, what interventions they’d received, and how long they’d been using opioids. Health Departments could visualize local data on opioid use and compare that data regionally within their county or state and beyond.

This type of data sharing across borders and among providers is vital to the future of public health. Cloud-based data also empowers local health departments to be more interoperable with immunization registries, labs, and other data silos.

In conclusion

Public health workers need EHRs that can offer them strong security, real-time data access, hassle-free IT, and the data agility they need for the future. Not only do web-based EHRs save your staff time but they also save your health department money on IT costs.

The coronavirus pandemic has health departments across the country working at capacity to provide vitally needed services and has necessitated sometimes daily-changes in response efforts to COVID-19. Cloud-based EHR has been vital for the real-time data access, overnight updates as new guidelines and pathways are added, and data sharing needed to address this public health crisis.

Get a web-based software that empowers you to do the work you need to do. Contact us today for more information about our web-based EHR, Nightingale Notes or for a demo.