What exactly is meaningful use and how does it relate to your practice?
It may surprise you that these two things have more in common than you think. Just a deeper look into how meaningful use can save your eyecare practice thousands from the incentive program! Below is a special guest post from our friends at VitalHealth Software giving you all the details of adopting meaningful use at your practice!
According to the latest market research reports, close to 90% of general family medicine physicians have adopted an EHR, or are in the process of doing so. The rapid increase in adoption – up from perhaps 25% no more then four years ago – can mostly be attributed to the promise of meaningful use incentives, and the looming reduction in Medicare reimbursements for those that opt out of the program.
The adoption rate amongst ODs is starting to ramp up as well. Perhaps you haven’t taken the plunge yet, and are taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping that things will become easier as early adopters work out the kinks. But the window of opportunity is not open much longer. ODs that want to benefit from incentive payments will have to start participating no later than 2014. So perhaps we can help alleviate some of the concerns you may have, based on what we have heard in the field.
1. An EHR Will Slow Me Down
This concern is by far the most often voiced concern by medical professionals. And for some solutions, this may be true. Many EHR solutions available today are based on older technologies, and perhaps designed for large practices with dedicated personnel to input data. These solutions offer a myriad of features and functions with complicated screens and workflows that require a lot of experience and simply don’t fit well with more agile practices. So take a little time to research your options. Look for an EHR that can support your workflow, with screen designs optimized for quick and easy data entry. Avoid solutions that tie you down to using a mouse and keyboard only. Once you give it a try, you will find that many consultation types benefit from the ability to directly face your patient, using an unobtrusive tablet device to document the visit.
2. Attestation Seems Complicated
True, it DOES seem complicated. But fortunately, an EHR that has been certified for Meaningful Use should do most of the work for you. When researching your options, look for solutions that can generate the exact reports you will need to submit in an easy to interpret format. All you’ll have to do is simply enter the data generated by that report into an online submission form. And starting 2014, the Clinical Quality Measures (CQMs) will have to be submitted electronically directly from the EHR. No effort required on your part other than initiating that process.
3. Is It Really ‘Meaningful’?
That is a fair question. Does a certified EHR really help improve quality of care? According to ONC, 88% of practices report that EHR adoption produces clinical benefits for them, while 75% of practices report that adoption has led to better overall patient care. These benefits can be attributed to several reasons. The four reasons most often mentioned by our customers are: instant access to patient medical history from anywhere, reminders for preventive care as well as acute care alerts through clinical decision support, improved care coordination through electronic exchange of medical data, and the ability to stimulate patient engagement through patient portal access. Of course some practitioners claim to do all these things without an EHR, but having a meaningful use certified EHR just makes the process easier.
4. Can An EHR Benefit My Practice As A Business?
This is NOT a requirement that ONC uses to qualify meaningful use. But we have yet to meet a practice owner to whom this is not a concern. We have already established that the right EHR should not slow you down in documenting a medical exam. But it should also help you streamline the process of coding your visit for billing purposes, prescribing medication, generating reports, and transferring the appropriate data to your practice management solution for ordering products. So make sure you don’t overlook these concerns when choosing your EHR.
5. How Does This Benefit My Patients?
This question is somewhat related to meaningful use. Studies show that successful EHR implementations help improve quality of care. And based on our experience, it also greatly increases patient satisfaction. Modern EHRs allow patients to directly access select data from their medical record, and interact electronically with their care providers. And MU certified EHRs enable the exchange of data between different care providers, avoiding the need for patients to provide medical history information multiple times, with all its inherent inconsistencies.
We recommend that providers initially focus on getting the correct workflow implemented for optimal use of an EHR within a practice. Once that is done, focus on improving the patient experience by providing direct patient portal access.
6. Are These ‘Cloud-Based’ EHRs Really Safe And Reliable?
We hear this question quite often. Many ODs have probably used a locally installed software product for years, and may be a bit skeptical about moving their private data to the cloud. We recently released an eBook on this subject. Long story short… for small and medium sized practices we recommend a cloud-based solution over locally installed software. Cloud-based solutions are reliable, more secure, easily scalable, and far easier to maintain than any local solution can ever be, with a predictable cost pattern. Cloud is the way to go.
The road to Meaningful Use is not necessarily easy. But it is actually not as hard as you think. With the right EHR, most of the work is done for you. There is still an opportunity to benefit from financial incentives, so the time to act is now!
Ready to get started on the Meaningful Use Incentive Program? Our eBook, A Beginner's Guide to Meaningful Use, will tell you everything you need to know to get started!
Today, we’re here to talk about a popular topic that many of you might be unfamiliar with - Meaningful Use. You might have heard of it, but don’t really know much about it, much less how it applies to your practice. That’s why, we’ve partnered with VitalHealth to tell you everything you need to know about Meaningful Use. And don’t worry; it’s not as hard as you think!
The Meaningful Use Incentive Program is all about promoting the use of electronic health records (EHRs) in an effort to make healthcare more consistent and transparent. Early adopters qualify for an incentive payment from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services.
You are still qualified for incentive payments if you participate in the program this year. Our eBook will tell you how to get started! You’ll learn about:
- Benefits of EHRs
- Financial Incentives and Potential Penalties
- Requirements and Attestation
- Preparing for Audits
- And Much More!
When you succesfully complete the meaningful use program, you'll be able to enhance patient care, get work done easier and faster and make more money in the long run! More than 11,000 ODs have already registered for the program! Get started today!
Check out a preview of the eBook and click the 'Expand' button to view it in full screen.
It’s that time again! The fourth edition of 10 for 10: Ten Questions for VisionWeb’s Tenacious 10 is back and ready for action! Here you’ll meet 10 of VisionWeb’s Directors, Chiefs, and overall amazing individuals. Don’t you want to learn about VisionWeb’s company culture, our experts’ observations and predictions of industry trends, new projects, and much more? Get ready, get set, and read on my friends!
Series 4: Chris Rice, Director of Sales
We can’t wait for you to meet the man in charge of building close relationships with optical suppliers, laboratories, and manufacturers; VisionWeb’s very own Director of Sales, Chris Rice! Chris is a stand-up guy and has an unmatchable personality! Everyone adores his charisma and humor. But, don’t let his comical side fool you, Chris has been working in sales since 1997 and is extremely adept. In fact, his former colleagues describe Chris as having “the ability to drill down to tasks and strategies that help achieve solid results” (Joel Goldstein, MFV Expositions), and regard him as “an asset to any company” (Jacqueline Micucci, Amazon). The positive comments about him go on and on. So come and meet Chris behind the scenes. Spoiler Alert: learn how to boost your sales with his expert recommendations and tips!
1. What exactly do you do here at VisionWeb?
My responsibilities at VisionWeb include overseeing our insurance team and leading efforts to grow the use of our services, like claim clearinghouse solutions, by working with our various partners. These partners include manufactures, laboratories, and associations. While my title says “Sales”, I actually act more as an ambassador to these groups helping them better understand the services that we offer. By better understanding what we do we generate opportunities that lead to greater efficiency for our partners, increased productivity for ECP’s, and more lens and frame ordering flowing through VisionWeb...Win/Win/Win!
2. Do you have any tips for eyecare practices trying to boost sales?
What I have seen as the key to success is to have each member of the staff understand and have ownership of their role. Successful practices understand the value of the optician in particular and the relationship that they have with patients. The optician has an interesting role since they not only need to address the patient’s vision, but also the function and fashion of the eyewear they select. To be able to go about managing eye care tasks effectively, the practice must make sure that their staff keeps up with the latest lens technology and frame styles through continuing education and trade publications.
3. In your opinion, what can opticians use as selling points?
Opticians need to take time to educate the patient about the various products available and new technology that may help them see and look better. The more knowledgeable the optician is, the more comfortable the patient will be investing in better eyewear. The key is not to push, but rather to clearly explain the benefits and the value of the investment to the patient.
4. What qualities should managers look for when hiring a salesperson?
I think integrity is number one. Your sales people are the face of your company to the customer. What they say and how they act is a direct reflection on the company and the product or service you are selling. I also like to have people who are comfortable working as part of a team. While salespeople may have a perception of being very territorial, I believe that if your sales team can support one another and help out even if there is no personal gain, everyone will be more successful. It also doesn’t hurt to be charming and funny too!
5. Obviously with the digitization of the marketplace, many purchases are happening online. How are salespeople adapting to this shift?
The role of the sales person is less of an order taker and more of a trainer/educator/business partner now. To me this makes the sales process much more interesting. I love the opportunity to spend more time with customers discussing their real business issues and what solutions may help them. I may not always have the solution they need, but may know someone who does. I love it when customers reach out to me even when they aren’t looking for frame ordering solutions or opticians practice management software integrations, but want my advice on what they should do. My goal is to be seen as a valued business resource rather than just a salesperson.
6. Do you think salespeople can utilize social media to facilitate sales?
Yes! Social media is a great way to keep in touch and expand your network of resources. One piece of social media advice I have is that this platform is a great way to share information and even connect a current customer with a prospect to share their experience. There is no better sales tool than a happy customer!
7. Do you have any tricks for closing a big sale?
I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you... actually I don’t have any tricks. I was taught to treat each sale the same way. Big or small every customer is important and should get the same level of service from me. Besides, a small customer now may be a big customer tomorrow and they will remember how you treated them!
8. What suggestions do you have when pitching to a hesitant customer?
The best thing to do is be patient and really find out why they are so hesitant. The best tool in this situation is to get them in touch with a current customer. Getting feedback from a peer has much more impact than anything I can say. In addition, I can do what I say I’m going to do... this goes back to building trust.
9. What do you predict to be the biggest trend relating to sales in the upcoming years?
I think you’ll see customers becoming more open to value versus just buying on price. The recent economy has put price pressure on every segment of the supply chain in order to keep prices low and more often than not quality suffers or support resources are cut providing a poor post-sale experience. I think customers will be willing to pay a bit more for products and services to allow sellers to better support them.
10. What do you like most about working at VisionWeb?
Where do I begin... I LOVE the VisionWeb team and the passion they have for the business and thinking of new ways to support the eyecare industry. We have a great mix of people who each bring something different to the table. The diverse backgrounds of our team members create an environment that is very dynamic and creative.
Chris really is an awesome guy with unparalleled work ethic and persistence. Our Director of Sales is as good as they come!
Don’t miss out on the next installment of 10 for 10, where we will interview Scott Kollar, Director of Operations!
Subscribe to the VisionWeb Blog for alerts on the next 10 for 10!
Maintaining an efficient practice is no easy feat. Even though you can’t control everything that goes on at your practice, there are technological advances you can make to boost efficiency. For instance, submitting orders to spectacle lens suppliers online reduces duplicate work and time-wasting phone calls.
But, no matter how many productivity safeguards you have in place, employees inevitably get sidetracked or engage in non-work related matters, resulting in an efficiency nose dive. Our friends at The Optical Vision Site realized the implications of time-wasters and had some great ideas on how to address them. So, are you employing a time thief?
Dealing With Time Thieves
This is one of my pet peeves, people doing personal business at work. So irritating. Back in 2009 we wrote a post on Employee Time Theft and I thought I would run it again, as the issue keeps coming up over and over. So what is a time thief at work?
Time Theft comprises of the following:
- Late arrival, early departure, long lunches
- Sick days when not sick
- Creating Overtime when not needed
- Personal business at work, including personal phone calls, Internet, Facebook, texting
- Over socializing with friends and workers
- Conducting other business at work
What It Costs:
- The Boston Globe and Denver Post reported that US companies lose nearly $400 billion per year in lost productively due to 'time theft' or loafing.
- Robert Half conducted surveys which concluded the average employee steals 4.5 hours/week in time.
- Other surveys say: 64% of respondents report wasting one hour or less each day at work, which is, let’s say “acceptable”. 22% waste approximately 2 hours daily, and 14% waste 3 or more hours each workday.
- The primary-time wasting activity is surfing the Web (48%) followed by socializing with co-workers (33%).
- 30% waste time by conducting personal business
- 19% waste time by personal phone calls
- 15% waste time by taking long lunch breaks.
- 8% of companies have dismissed employees because of time spent on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. See Note to Self Talking About Your Boss on Facebook. (True Story)
How to Resolve:
- Outright costs- Let’s just say the average employee steals an average of 1 hour/week or 50 hours/year. You pay employees $10.00/hour with benefits or other perks. That equates to $5,000 a year x 3 employees or $15,000 a year in lost time and money.
- Loss of patients- Whenever I am in a store and employees are stealing time, I leave without making a purchase. As a consumer you can tell. You can tell when employees are texting and making personal phone calls. You can see employees in a huddle on the sales floor.
- Loss of morale- Nothing is worse when you have a hard working person who has to pick up the slack for a time thief.
- Loss of respect- If you can't control time thieves due to bad management, lack of enforcing policies, staff loses respect. Lack of respect leads to apathetic environment.
- Higher prices- For every consumer.
- Make sure your company policy and employee manual clearly state the rules and policies of personal business, personal phone calls, tardiness, texting, and internet use. If employees are using Facebook and Twitter for company business, make sure that is clearly stated. The policies should be stated and employees should sign off on it.
- Have a staff meeting to review and go over all policies and procedures and the reasons for those rules.
- If you have set up an Internet monitoring or filtering system, let your staff know. This gives them the responsibility to follow the rules. As an employer you have every right to monitor the Internet, voice mail, and phone calls in your office. However under federal law, once an employer knows the call is personal, they cannot monitor the call. The employer has the right to prohibit the dialing and websites of certain phone calls and addresses.
- If you have an employee that is not following the rules- speak to them privately.
- If an employee is wasting time due to not having enough to do- set up areas of responsibilities. One of the key elements in productivity is job satisfaction. Work with the employee for professional growth.
- 25% of employees say they waste time because they are underpaid. OK- Every person is accountable and responsible for their own job satisfaction and growth. If they feel underpaid- then they should address that by increasing job skills or personal growth or rectify that situation with the employer or find a job elsewhere.
- Keep employees motivated by giving praise, thanking them for a job well-done- Reward or bonus them for achievement of goals. It is always better to focus on the positive and reward.
- Nothing working? Consider installing time clocks.
Stop time thieves in their tracks and keep your practice efficiency from plummeting!
Graduation can evoke mixed emotions in many graduating students. While you’re relieved of staying up late to study for a test or rushing out an assignment, you might also be afraid of stepping out into the “real world”. Finding a job is probably one of the most stressful processes and many students get so caught up with their studies, they forget to think about the steps they need to take after graduation.
This optometry eBook is here to guide you through 8 steps you need to take after graduation. We even provide you with resources to find employment!
You’ll learn how to:
- Find the right job
- Get credentialed with payers
- Search for claim filing and ordering solutions
- Code right the first time
- And so much more!
After reading this eBook, you should feel confident about your new life as an optical professional!
Check out a preview of the eBook and click the 'Expand' button to view it in full screen.
Not a graduating student? Check out one of our latest optometry eBooks for your eyecare practice.
We come to you today not to talk about fun codenames to give your patients or how to be the best frame-matchmaker in town, but to discuss a more serious topic: your bottom line. If you’re paying too much for payment services, then that cost directly affects your profits. We know that seeking out ways to maximize net income may not be your number one priority because your time is spent providing great services, preserving employee satisfaction, and maintaining customer relationships. And if we’re all really being honest, researching and comparing payment services is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
But, as CEO of AES Dennis Bakke once said, “Profits are to a corporation much like breathing is to life. Breathing is not the goal of life, but without breath life ends. Similarly, without turning a profit, a corporation, too, will cease to exist.”
Of course we want your practice to “continue breathing” (and really take “deep breaths”), so we did all the boring research and came across a payment service that we believe can be utilized to improve managing eye care practices, NXGEN Payment Services.
What Does NXGEN Do?
NXGEN is a Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Business and has had over 10 years of experience in providing complete payment processing services, including:
- Credit and Debit Card Processing
- ACH/EFT and Check Processing
- Smartphone, Mobile, and Wireless Processing
- Internet Processing
- Merchant Cash Advance
- And More!
Just as a quick overview, this company provides great rates and helps their clientele lower overall processing costs by improving operations. NXGEN can even help integrate your payment processing software with your existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or other accounting systems. If you aren’t convinced that integration is a necessary move, just remember how much more efficient you were when you integrated your opticians practice management software with VisionWeb!
What are the Benefits of NXGEN?
Let’s talk about data breaches: they’re costly, scary, and a pain in the neck. A single breach could even cost you your company. NXGEN helps reduce this risk by making sure every merchant stays Payment Card Industry Council (PCI) Compliant. Did you know that businesses that cannot prove their PCI compliance could be subject to hefty fines ranging from thousands to millions of dollars? Now that’s scary! What’s even better is once you are PCI Compliant, NXGEN will warranty each data breach for up to $100,000 in reimbursed fines and costs! How’s that for a little peace of mind?
No shady or complicated reporting here! Just as ordering ophthalmic products online through VisionWeb is more convenient and efficient, so is online reporting. NXGEN offers an easy-to-understand online reporting system that’s available 24/7. Know your true costs and enjoy “big business advantages” no matter what size your practice is.
VisionWeb’s Director of Customer Relations, Juanita Burke, stressed in her 10 for 10: Keeping Customers Happy at Your Eye Care Practice, how crucial customer service is to any business: she would be happy to learn that NXGEN feels the same way. NXGEN states that “merchants come for the NXGEN clout and stay for the service.” Available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, this company is committed to ensuring its customers are satisfied.
Yes, NXGEN accepts all payment types when it comes to credit and debit card processing (even Canadian PIN networks). Instead of dealing with many confusing statements, you receive one integrated statement. And, there are no funding delays: deposits are available within 24-48 hours.
We know discussing payment services isn’t the most exciting topic, but we want your eyecare practice to be in tip-top shape! And starting with an awesome payment service, like NXGEN, can help you cut costs and improve profits. If you’re interested in learning about this payment service for optical suppliers and eye care practices, visit NXGEN.com.
Want to learn about NXGEN and their services?
When we saw Kmart’s new “Ship My Pants” commercial promoting their free delivery service, we couldn’t help but laugh at the punny innuendo. All the buzz around this viral video got us thinking about the nuisances of everyday life and how even the simplest solutions, like shipping your pants, can make a world of difference.
What's Your Practice Doing That's as Efficient as Shipping Your Pants?
Let’s face it, running any business is difficult, especially one in the healthcare industry. In a world centered around technology, it is imperative to be adaptive and stay with the times. But as many businesses do, they get comfortable with the way things are done and are reluctant to change.
However, it surprises us when eyecare practices make changes and claim to be maximizing efficiency but are still phoning and faxing orders to optical lens suppliers.
“Are You Faxing Kidding Me?!”
It’s hard to believe that “modern” practices are relying on machines that were first invented in 1843. That’s over 170 years ago! Your great great grandmother may have considered this method efficient, but we think otherwise.
Ditch that Faxed Up Machine
We know Fax-y Mama has been with you through thick and thin, but we’re here to remind you of the darker times. Remember when that "good ole" fax machine had a paper jam, an error message, or inconveniently wouldn’t work? We sure do! Don’t fret, there’s other lab ordering methods in the sea. We’d like to introduce you to Miss Online Ordering. She is efficient, reliable, and not to mention all of your optical lens suppliers adore her. Instead of causing you headaches and wasting your time and money, this lab ordering method goes above and beyond to ensure ordering is done properly. How can Fax-y Mama even begin to compete with Miss Online Ordering’s features?
- Automatic Error-Checking
- Order Archiving
- Optometric Practice Management Integration
- Ability to Check and Submit Orders 24/7
- Frames Data Assist Connection
- Quicker Turnaround
There’s no competition. What’s even more convenient is that placing orders through VisionWeb is absolutely free and painless! Not only are you connected with over 400 suppliers, but orders are returned 1-2 days sooner than using other ordering methods. No wonder 93% of practices report that ordering online makes their practice more efficient!
Still Not Convinced?
Check out one of our finest optometry eBooks, Are You Faxing Kidding Me? A Tale of Eyecare Practice Ordering Frustrations. As you're told Stu's riveting tale, you'll learn:
- The Pitfalls of Faxing Orders
- How Much Time is Wasted Phoning and Faxing Labs
- Why Your Patients are Unhappy
- About the Stress-free Online Solution
- Why Orders Placed Online are Returned Quicker
- How Much Time is Saved Checking Order Statuses Online
- How VisionWeb’s Automatic Error-Checking Feature Benefits Practices
- The Next Steps You Should Take
- And Much More!
Will Stu the optician get his happy ending? Find out now!
We love keeping up to date with the latest technology trends. That’s why we’ve been all about cloud computing lately! But more than just a fad, we know that it’s here to stay. We thought that it’d be important for eye care providers like you to be more familiar with the concept as we explore how we can implement cloud computing services in our industry through routine day-to-day tasks and even opticial software.
So far, we’ve written an infographic and eBook about cloud computing, and we thought that it’d be fun to put your knowledge to the test!
As presented by the staff here at VisionWeb, take our quiz below to find out how much you know about the cloud!
Did you ace the quiz? If you did, great job! Looks like you’re already a cloud expert and you're ready to rise up to the next level. Download our eBook to explore the uses of cloud computing in eyecare and see how your practice can benefit from it.
If you didn't do as well as you wanted to, don’t worry! There is a lot of confusion surrounding the cloud. The eBook will also give you an introduction to cloud computing. After reading it, come back to see if your score has improved.
So, how did you do? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
So you have a Facebook Page for your practice, and maybe even a Twitter account, but now you're stuck. You've started to gain a few followers, but you're having a hard time keeping them interested and active on your page. You've hit a social media roadblock. So now what do you do?
Top 10 Social Media Ideas To Engage Your Followers
1. Visual Content
Remember that saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" In this case, it's true! Visual content on social media has proved to be more interactive than just text, and will almost always get your followers interacting with you. According to Zabisco, 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text.
2. Show That You're Human
While autoposting some of your social media content is an efficient way to manage some of your social media strategy, it's important to remember to show your followers your human side too! There are plenty of ways to accomplish this such as, commenting on posts and tweets and posting real-time photos!
3. Link to Content
One of the biggest things your followers are hoping to get out of you on social media is information. So give it to them! If you don't have a ton of your own content to give, that's ok! Link to information from outside sources, it's a great way to show that you aren't always focused on yourself, and that you're willing to share information that your patients want to see. Plus, it might help you build relationships with other professionals in the industry!
4. Look at the Negatives
Some of our most popular content has been from blog posts that have a negative twist to the title. Such as, 3 People Who Destroy Eyecare Practice Efficiency and 5 Things Patients Hate About Getting New Glasses. Think of a trendy topic. Maybe you can find information, or create your own article, that shows a different side to the story. Negative posts definitely get people talking!
5. Use Humor
Just because you're an eyecare practice doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with your patients. People like doing business with people they trust and can relate too, so don't shy away from fun! Some of the ways we have a little fun with our followers is by posting funny animal photos on Fridays, or by re-creating popular memes.
6. Have More Than One Social Media Contributor
Don't have just one person at your practice manage all of your social media. What's interesting to one person might not be interesting to another. Having a couple of different office personalities posting to your social media pages will help appeal to a broader audience. But remember to have some guidelines so that your postings stay on brand with your practice!
7. Speak the Language of Your Audience
You're an eyecare practice, so a lot of the knowledge and information you have can sound pretty technical to your everyday patients. And if you're posting all kinda of technical or medical terminology on social media, there is a good chance your followers are going to get bored. Remember who you're talking to and speak to them!
8. Be Interactive
One of the easiest ways to create interaction on your own page is to be interactive with others! Get familiar with your followers. There will probably be a good handful that are the most interactive with you - treat them well!
9. Ask Questions
This is one of the easiest ways to get feedback through your social media - ask for it! At the beginning of the year we published a survey asking our followers to determine what kind of content they wanted to see on our blog (social media tips and advice was one of the most popular topics)!
As we said before, most people are following you on social media in order to get information from you. How-to's are a great way to build credibility with your audience and there are a variety of ways to present this kind of information. Remember tip #1? Try uploading a how-to video to incorporate more visual content!
So now that you have all these great social media ideas fresh in your mind, put them to use! Want more social media for optometrists tips and advice? Check us out on Twitter!
There's plenty of hype about cloud computing these days, but it's not exactly a new concept. We thought that it would be interesting to explore how cloud computing can be used in new and different ways, especially as a practice management solution for eye care practices.
We asked our friends at VitalHealth, a leader in cloud-based EHR software designed with Mayo Clinic, to give their insight on cloud computing.
Cloud Computing as a Practice Management Solution for Eye Care Practices
Some of our readers may be wondering if the time has arrived to replace their current clinical and practice management software with a more modern solution. There can be any number of reasons for taking that step. Perhaps you’d like to benefit from Meaningful Use reimbursements, and you’re looking for certified EHR technology. Or perhaps your practice management software simply can’t keep up with your desire to embrace mobile technologies. Whatever your reason may be, perhaps you’re wondering if “cloud computing” should be one of these reasons?
In this blog post we’ll try to explain what cloud computing is, and why you should seriously consider going that route. We’ll also try to alleviate some of the concerns you may have, if any. So let’s get started.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing means running some of your IT infrastructure (applications and or data) in a location other than your own physical office. You access this infrastructure remotely via the Internet, but you don’t necessarily know exactly where your applications or data are residing physically. Their location is “fuzzy, indefinite, non-localized”, as if it is inside a “cloud”.
Most of us probably already use some form of cloud computing, even though you may not realize it. For instance, if you access Google’s email service via a browser, you are using a “cloud email” solution. Perhaps you sync your email down to a local device such as your mobile phone. In that case your email application is ‘local’, but your email data is in the cloud.
Some of you may already be more advanced cloud users than you realize. Have you ever used Google Docs, or Microsoft’s Office 365? In that case you are a full-fledged cloud user already! You simply use a browser to run e.g. a word processor or spreadsheet application in the cloud, with no local installations of these applications on your computer required. You don’t know where the applications or your data physically reside. They’re somewhere…in the cloud.
What About Security?
The biggest concern typically voiced by cloud-skeptics is “security”. In reality, security of cloud-based applications usually far exceeds that of local infrastructures. Cloud vendors invest heavily in making sure that applications and data are protected from unauthorized access in the form of hackers, as well as physical access to the servers. They have implemented backup and disaster procedures that exceed anything you can afford to implement in a local infrastructure. While the idea of leaving your sensitive data in the hands of an outside vendor may be unsettling, the reality is that these vendors are extremely qualified to address your security concerns.
What About Cost?
Fair question. Typical monthly fees for cloud solutions may seem high at face value. But if you actually went through the exercise of spreading out local infrastructure costs over its lifespan, you would be surprised to find that cloud computing beats a local infrastructure hands-down. Besides that, a monthly subscription fee is much more predictable in terms of cash flow, compared to the typical high upfront costs and spikes in maintenance costs of a local infrastructure.
What Infrastructure Do You Need Locally?
For most cloud applications, you only need Internet access and wired or wireless devices that run any of the major browsers, like Google Chrome, FireFox, Safari, or Internet Explorer. Your bandwidth requirements will depend on your practice size, as well as the cloud applications you are trying to access. For most scenarios, a connection with about 1 Mbps of bandwidth per user is more than sufficient. Pair that with a small business router of a few hundred dollars to protect your network from external intruders, and you are all set.
Join The Cloud!
If we had to summarize the benefits of Cloud Computing in one short phrase, it would be ‘economies of scale’. By sharing an IT infrastructure, all subscribers share in the predictable costs of using a highly secure and reliable environment. What’s not to like? Time to join the migration to the cloud!
Want to learn more about using the cloud in your practice? Download our eBook, Rise Up to The Cloud: Cloud Computing in Eyecare.