Are Cloud-Based Health Record Banks Better Than HIEs?

Posted on March 22, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

This week a group of researchers published an opinion in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting that cloud-based record banks are a better way to share patient health data than HIEs. I think their view is interesting and sensible, and so here’s a short recap.

The authors argue that cloud-based health record banks are a more logical way to share such data than HIEs, reports MedCityNews. After all, as they note, interoperability challenges make it “inefficient” to share patient data, as every organization has to be able to communicate with every other organization where a patient has been treated.

But cloud-based health record banks wouldn’t pose the same challenges, they note.  These record banks would be more scalable and easier for end institutions to use, according to the authors.  Though local providers could keep copies of a patient’s health record, the electronic health record would be stored in a cloud-based bank in the patient’s community, they say.  When patients moved, their records would travel to a different community health data bank.

This approach isn’t just a theoretical discussion. It’s backed by a group called the Health Record Banking Alliance, which was founded by one of the article’s authors, Dr. William Yasnoff, MD, PhD, FACMI, former senior advisor for the National Health Information Infrastructure. The group has developed white papers outlining a proposed architecture and a business model for community health record banking.

My take on all of this is that the cloud-based community health record bank is a very worthwhile idea. After all, in theory it can greatly reduce the amount of infrastructure build out and interoperability issues providers face in connecting to HIEs.

That being said, the HIE concept is firmly planted in the industry’s mind, and despite all of the issues involved in building out HIE networks, I don’t see providers changing gears to embrace a completely new model. What about you?