Electronic Health Record for Income
Do Not Lose Profits in the Cloud
by Paul B. Bindell, D.C.
The sales people make cloud computing sound like the greatest thing.
For your practice to stay alive, you must have profit from your practice. It must do more than just pay your food and mortgage. Electronic Health Record (EHR) is the tool that maximizes your profit margin, empowering you to collect and keep the greatest amount of your income in your own pocket. EHR enables you to keep up with all the legal requirements (State and Federal) and insurance company demands while continuing to treat a significant number of patients without getting bogged down in bureaucratic paperwork.
A true EHR system combines office management (scheduling, billing, e-claims, marketing, statistics, etc.) with documentation (SOAP notes and narratives) providing a single system in which your notes generate your fees and single data entries place the information everywhere it is needed. Full integration makes your office paperless. And a complete EHR system offers both audit and collection protection.
Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware) is the key, because not all EHR systems are the same. And if you get something for free, you will end up paying for it by some other indirect method. Companies that produce EHR must make a profit or disappear, so if you are getting the EHR software for free, what are the hidden costs that you will have to pay later? Free is a nice hook to get you in the door, but what will the cost be by the end of the year?
Some companies have decided to take control of your patient data away from you. They accomplish this by charging you an assortment of fees for placing your data on their computers, which are located far away from your office. If the internet goes down there is no access to your patient data. This is called “Cloud Computing”. By contrast, a system that stores your patient data in your office is not dependant on the internet. Down time or interruptions in internet service have no effect on your ability to access your patient files.
The newest techno hype is to use cloud computing. The sales people make cloud computing sound like the greatest thing. But they do not tell you about its risks or downsides. In other words, take your patient data, your financial records, and everything you consider personal and confidential, and put it out on a cloud. The “cloud” is some massive bank of computers spread around the country and possibly the world. Your data could be in several different places, each with its own risks.
How the cloud maintains security of the data while providing you with accessibility to it in this era of hackers and frequently interrupted internet service is a huge question. It is common knowledge in the technology world that people with the right technical skills and tools are able to break into supposedly secure data as long as there is an internet connection.
In your office, you can shut off the internet, shut down the computer and install both hard and soft firewalls in addition to using strong passwords to protect your data. Once the data is floating around in the cloud, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week it is available and open to attack. Imagine how easy it would be for a high level hacker to steal the identities of all your patients. In the cloud, your data can be found much more easily than when it is stored on a local computer in your office.
Keep in mind that with each new generation of computers we are told that the data is safe and that the newest security measures make it impossible for anyone to get at the data. A short time later when the next generation of computers arrives we discover that the new machines provide the tools that enable a hacker to break into the older machines and the data that was created on them. Storing your patient information in your office means that your data will not be as easily found as when it is in the cloud.
When we pay attention to companies such as Norton and McAfee and others that provide “soft” security for computers we discover that the malicious individuals are working overtime to break into even the newest programs and “secure” data. Those companies now provide daily updates due to the quantity and frequency of hacking attacks. On a daily basis computer security is compromised, data is stolen and used for nefarious purposes.
So the question boils down to WHY SHOULD WE PUT CRITICAL PATIENT DATA IN A LOCATION WHERE IT IS MORE AT RISK?
Then there are other concerns. How will you access your data if the internet service goes down? If the internet goes down for as little as one second, how long will it take you and your staff to reconnect to your data and be functional again? Some one second internet service interruptions require an hour or more of your valuable time to get your programs up and running again.
Data that is stored on a computer in your office is more reliable. If and when the internet goes down, you still are 100% functional. Your office computers are more protected and less likely to be hacked than data floating in a cloud. In your office you have the advantages of both a hard and soft firewall, and the ability to disconnect at will. In your own office, you have more control over who has access to your system and can provide multiple levels of security. For data in the cloud, you trust someone else to protect you and your data. So how much of a risk are you willing to take with your protected patient information?
Keeping your patient information local, that is, on a computer in your office, provides several benefits. First, you are not dependant on the internet. Second, you have full access to your patient data at any time you want it. Third, there is better security for your protected patient information.
EHR streamlines your office, contributing to office efficiency and freeing staff from mundane tasks that the computer does faster and more reliably. It eliminates 90% or more of paper filing so your staff can devote itself to productive things like recalls, collections and practice building. Travel cards and fee slips become relics of history, and the system never forgets resulting in better collections. And the documentation provided makes sure that you have all the material you need to successfully get through an audit.
The bottom line is that EHR is critical to you having a successful practice, and it needs to be reliable and functioning regardless of internet problems. So get the benefit from an EHR system that keeps you and your practice on solid ground, and do not get lost in the cloud.
Dr. Paul Bindell, a 1975 Palmer graduate, is in practice in Rockaway, NJ since 1976. He lectured on Chiropractic in Brazil and Israel and is a past Chairman of Public Relations for the Northern (NJ) Counties Chiropractic Society. In 1991 Dr. Bindell and his family began Life Systems Software so Chiropractors would have computer programs based on real practice. Dr. Bindell is available to speak to your group or organization and can be reached by email at [email protected] or you can call Life Systems Software at 800-543-3001.