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Are Cloud-Based Health Record Banks Better Than HIEs?

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?

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 @annezieger on Twitter.

Early Signs Of EMR Consolidation Appearing

Some of you are going to tell me that I’ve jumped the gun, but I’ve got my feeling about this and I’m sticking to it. Though nothing massive has happened yet, I believe we’re officially beginning to see consolidation in the EMR world.

I was struck with this idea today when I came upon the news that physician EMR company Imagine MD was closing. According to MedCityNews.com, the cloud-based EMR company had pulled in $25 million in venture money, $10 million of that in the last 12 months. And until recently, it looked as though it had staying power; Imagine MD had been in business since 2006, well ahead of the pack of competitors pitching small medical practices.

Another sign that we’re seeing consolidation comes in the form of the acquisition of Amazing Charts by Pri-Med, a provider of professional medical education to more than 260,000 clinicians. (I wouldn’t have expected a medical education company to be the one to acquire Amazing, but that’s a story for another time.)

While I admit two examples isn’t exactly a statistical bump, it’s a clear enough sign for me that the market has begun to pull together. After all, with EMR adoption on the rise among medical practices, there’s only so many customers left to compete for, and that can only mean more closings and M&A.

The really important question, if you’re a doctor hoping to avoid a big practice disruption, is whether you can predict which direction your present or future EMR vendor is going.  That is, of course, a pretty tricky game.

But if you’d like some food for thought, you might consider checking out a previous post by John, comparing “fast EMR companies” fueled by venture capital to slower-moving types that grow organically and don’t tend to accept venture capital investments.

While there are exceptions — notably Practice Fusion, which seems to have an extremely solid business — the tech business is rife with examples of fast companies that soared high on venture capital drafts then plummeted to earth.  I’m not suggesting that you should avoid VC-backed EMR firms, physicians, but I am suggesting that you find out as much as you can about the size of their customer base, finances and strategy before you commit your business into their hands.

Otherwise, you could end up like ImagineMD’s EMR-less customers. And if that’s not a bummer I don’t know what is.

November 23, 2012 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 @annezieger on Twitter.