The benefits of electronic medical records (EMRs) are well-documented, but smaller physician practices have been slow to adopt these valuable medical software programs because of the high costs associated with implementing the healthcare technology. But with wider availability of high-speed Internet connections and more sophisticated vendor solutions, physicians are finding they can add an EMR system to their practice without breaking the bank.
You can thank the application service provider (ASP) model for the advent of affordable EMR software programs. In the ASP approach, another organization houses and maintains the application and related computer hardware; physicians simply access it remotely over an Internet connection and pay a monthly or annual fee. The hosting organization assumes responsibility for securely storing patient data and supporting the expensive computer hardware. The model is particularly ideal for small offices with fewer than 9 physicians.
A September 2005 survey by the Medical Group Management Association found the most widely cited barrier to implementing an EHR/EMR was a lack of capital resources. For these physicians, the ASP model gives access to a comprehensive electronic health software system without the enormous capital costs traditionally associated with robust EMR systems.
To be sure, the ASP model is not the best choice for every physician, so you'll want to do your homework. In particular, make sure the software vendor takes the appropriate steps to safeguard patient data, that they regularly backup such information, and that they offer a wide range of user support and service.
One thing is for sure. The ASP model eliminates the many hassles and costs associated with operating medical software. When a doctor uses the ASP model, there is no software to install or expensive hardware to purchase and maintain. All that is required is a computer and a web browser. You simply log onto a secure website and are ready to go.