As the healthcare industry continues to embrace new technologies, an increasing number of practices across all specialties are turning to cloud-based solutions—including critical EHR and practice management platforms. Eye Care Leaders works exclusively with optometrists and ophthalmologists, and we are seeing this trend in eye care practices, as well.

In fact, we often hear questions from our My Vision Express customers about switching their data storage to the cloud. I’m happy to have the opportunity to share my thoughts about why eye care practices are making the move, and to get you thinking about how the cloud may benefit your practice.

 

Demystifying On-Premise vs Cloud Storage

All computing data is stored somewhere—either on your computer’s hard drive or a server. When it comes to your EHR and PM, the data will include patient records, schedules, visit notes, optical orders, and anything else you are logging. 

When applications like an EHR are hosted on-premise, servers are often located within a practice’s physical location. To access the data, end users must have a way to connect to the company’s network. This can be challenging when trying to access outside of the practice’s physical location.

Cloud storage is the opposite: while the data is still stored on servers, those servers are located offsite and are accessed remotely through the Internet. As you may be able to guess, a cloud-based EHR and PM stores the data you input on offsite, remote servers. 

But just where is the cloud? Cloud storage providers have a series of secure locations where the servers are located, and the data is encrypted and transmitted securely to and from the servers. You’ve likely heard of the cloud provider that Eye Care Leaders has trusted for data storage, Amazon Web Services (AWS). We started utilizing AWS servers for My Vision Express in the middle of 2022, and we’ve forged a strong partnership. Their security practices are second-to-none, meeting the standards of even the Pentagon.

 

Benefits of a Cloud-Based Platform

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how the cloud works, I’d like to discuss some of the key benefits of the cloud, which will help explain why it’s becoming more popular than ever.

1. Increased Security 

 When we talk to customers about cloud vs. on premise, the first question we typically hear is, “is storing data in the cloud as secure as storing data on-premise?” It’s a tricky question because nobody can say with certainty that one is more secure than the other in every instance. What we can say—and what we believe at Eye Care Leaders—is that there are security benefits to the cloud when comparing to on-premise servers.

Cloud service providers and software providers—including Eye Care Leaders—implement advanced security measures such as encryption, access controls, and regular security audits. Cloud providers also have dedicated security teams that specialize in protecting data from cyber threats. On the other hand, an internal IT team or an outside IT consultant is responsible for implementing security protocols for on-premise servers, as well as monitoring against threats and keeping up with security best practices. This makes cloud storage a more secure option for many organizations. 

In addition to the question of how secure, you must also consider the ease of keeping your data secure. With a cloud provider such as AWS, the shared services security model reduces the onus of infrastructure security. Adopting a cloud platform that includes advanced security protocols is significantly easier than implementing the same security features in your on-premise servers.

2.  Cost Savings 

How many doctors do you know who know how to select, implement, and maintain servers? It’s complicated, so you’ll need to pay someone to do this for you. We have seen practices needing to contract with third-party IT vendors or even fund full-time IT staff to manage these on-premise servers. In addition, servers are expensive, and you have no idea how much storage you’ll need in the future, which means there is a pricy upgrade in your future.  Practices that switch to cloud-based systems can save money because they no longer have to fund dedicated resources to set up and maintain their servers. 

3.  Scalability

As your practice grows, your technical infrastructure needs to grow with you. With on-premise applications, practices need to monitor the storage capacity and pay for upgrades when additional storage is needed. These monitoring and hardware costs tend to be expensive for practices. With a cloud-based solution, applications can automatically scale up (or down) depending on the needs of the practice, reducing the need to pay for monitoring and expensive hardware upgrades.

4.  Rapid deployment of upgrades

When on-premise applications like a practice management or EHR system require a software upgrade, such as a new version, these changes often require the practice to schedule time with the vendor for their system upgrade. Help from a third-party IT provider may be required to help complete the upgrade, which can come with additional costs.  

Additionally, healthcare regulations are constantly changing and often require software upgrades to address these changes. If upgrades are not performed fast enough, your system could become non-compliant.  

With cloud-based solutions, software upgrades are easily performed by the vendor, as access to the practice’s server is not required. Cloud-based offerings can also release new features faster, which in turn provide more value to practices and help address their business needs.

5. Data recovery & business continuity 

If you have a server on-premise, think what would happen to your data if you had a flood, fire, or other disastrous event at your office. If not routinely backed up, this data could be lost forever. In most cases, cloud providers include redundant storage, so your data is backed up in multiple locations. 

A cloud-based EHR allows you to retrieve information stored in the cloud, even after outages and natural disasters. In the event of a security breach or other issue, you can safely retrieve your data. 

 

What to Consider for Your Practice 

There is a reason why many optometry practices are moving to a cloud platform for their EHR and PM solutions, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for everyone. I encourage you to consider your options and make the right decision for you. 

For example, if your practice is in a rural location, and you don’t have reliable high speed internet service, the cloud may not be right for you. The same is true if you are a solo practitioner who is not planning to grow your practice, and you have already invested in a reliable on-premise server—it may take too long for you to see the cost savings associated with cloud. 

When you are ready to talk to vendors about a cloud system, it’s important that you find a platform that is both secure and compliant, in addition to meeting your practice’s needs. Vendors should be willing and able to explain their security protocols—including their cloud service provider and encryption practices—as well as the product’s certifications.

The Eye Care Leaders team is always happy to have a conversation with you about My Vision Express and our cloud best practices. More information about My Vision Express is available on our website. 

 

The forward-looking information contained herein, including without limitation Company’s intended strategies, features and functionality, is for informational purposes only and is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any feature or functionality. This information is provided without a warranty of any kind (either express or implied) and is subject to change without notice at any time in the Company’s sole discretion.