On-Site vs. Hosted/Cloud Applications: Home or Away?

Advances in networking, hardware, and software have created technology options for health information management that are similar to real estate decisions.  For example, investing in a dictation and transcription system might be a huge capital investment, like buying a house, but given the availability of hosted or cloud options, a technology investment could become more of an operational expense, like renting an apartment or paying utilities. As the healthcare documentation industry becomes more virtual and less tied to a physical office (a virtual work “home” away from a physical work “home”), it may be time to rethink how the technology systems we use every day are housed and accessed.

The traditional approach to dictation or transcription is a deployed solution, in which an organization purchases its own hardware, and the software that manages its data and workflow is installed directly on that organization’s hardware.  The software vendor provides support and upgrades for the system, usually for a fee, but routine hardware maintenance, storage, security, and upkeep is the responsibility of the organization.

In recent years, some software vendors have developed a hosted model for providing their products and services to transcription organizations.  In a hosted situation, the server and networking hardware, software applications, data storage, security, etc., are provided by a technology vendor, and the organization arranges with the vendor to use the resources across the internet.

Lately, I have seen many hosted scenarios referred to as “cloud” offerings, but the jury is still out on whether hosted and cloud mean the same thing.  I think that “hosted” means that the software you are using is housed on the vendor’s hardware in a secure data center somewhere, but most likely it is not enabled for data sharing with other applications other than traditional ADT download and document upload integration.  “Cloud” goes a step further in my mind, because it infers that the vendor has designed the software for collaboration and interconnectivity with other systems, a la Facebook or Pinterest.  Eventually, we will see more healthcare technology vendors earn the “cloud” label, but I think right now most systems that are available are more or less hosted with cloud potential.

Over my next few posts, I’ll go into detail on some of the factors you should consider when evaluating potential on-site or cloud applications, such as functionality, cost, accessibility, data security, and support. Stay tuned!

Jill Devrick is a Product Solutions Advisor with 3M Health Information Systems.

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