What Is EHR Storage and How Does it Work?

What Is EHR Storage and How Does it Work?

What Is EHR Storage and How Does it Work?

Electronic health record (EHR) storage is a way to make all types of patient records immediately available to authorized users both within and outside of a healthcare practice.

To fully understand EHR storage, how it works, and why it’s so valuable, let’s first define a few terms.

What’s an electronic health record (EHR)?

An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital version of a patient’s medical history. Although an EHR contains a patient’s medical and treatment history, a typical EHR system provides more than just standard clinical data from a care provider’s office to paint a broader picture of the patient’s overall health.

EHRs typically include:

  • Medical history
  • Diagnoses
  • Medications
  • Treatment plans 
  • Immunization dates
  • Allergies
  • Radiology images
  • Lab results

Because EHRs contain personally identifiable information (PII), they must be stored and secured in accordance with local laws and regulations. One of the biggest challenges of EHR storage is keeping EHRs secure while simultaneously making them easily accessible to the authorized healthcare professionals and patients who need them.

The Difference Between an EMR and an EHR

It’s important to distinguish between an electronic medical record (EMR) and an EHR.

An EMR is a digital version of a patient’s chart and contains the patient's medical and treatment history from a single practice. This digital record typically stays in the doctor's office and doesn’t get shared, even if the patient switches doctors or practices.

An EHR, on the other hand, contains patient records from multiple doctors and practices and provides a more holistic, long-term view of a patient's health. It includes the patient’s demographics, test results, medical history, history of present illness, and medications.

Another way to look at it is that an EHR is a holistic collection of the electronic health information of individual patients or patient populations, while an EMR is the specific patient record created by providers for a specific hospital visit. An EMR can be a source of data for an EHR.

Another type of medical record is a personal health record (PHR), which is personal medical data controlled by the patient that they can make available to health providers if they wish.

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How EHR Storage Works

EHRs are created any time a physician or other type of healthcare provider enters any type of patient information into their on-site system via tables, phones, computers, medical devices, or other types of devices.

Depending on the type of system the provider has, that information then becomes a digital record stored in the cloud or in an on-premises data center so it can be shared through network-connected, enterprise-wide information systems or other information networks and exchanges. As a result, it can be correlated with other data to provide greater context and value.

The Benefits of EHR Storage

A key feature of any EHR system is that the digitally stored records can be easily shared with other providers across various healthcare organizations, enabling quick visibility and collaboration across doctors, time zones, and institutions to improve patient care and outcomes.

The digital nature of EHRs translates to various benefits, including:

  • Improved quality of care, due to better collaboration among healthcare providers. 
  • Improved patient safety, due to a much better understanding of a patient’s medical history and conditions. 
  • Reduction in liability risks, due to much better record-keeping and a much easier system for sharing records.

However, the clear benefits of EHR records need to be weighed against the necessary investments in technology required to safely store these records, which we discuss in the next section.

EHR Storage: Cloud vs. On-Premises

EHR record storage systems generally fall into two categories: cloud-based or on-premises. Cloud-based systems store a healthcare practice’s data on external servers that let physicians, practice managers, and other authorized staff access information via the web with a computer or mobile device and a secure internet connection.

On-premises systems, on the other hand, store data in-house and require a server, hardware, and software installed in the physician’s office. Although on-premises EHR storage has historically been the most popular method, medical practices are increasingly turning to the cloud for EHR storage for a number of reasons.

Advantages of Cloud-Based EHR Storage

In-house or on-premises EHR storage systems may be the most common and familiar method for many healthcare facilities, but cloud-based EHR storage offers many advantages over on-premises EHR storage, including: 

1. Better transparency, access, and collaboration

Cloud-based EHR storage can be accessed from anywhere, as long as the internet connection is secure. As a result, physicians can more quickly and easily access patient records and share them. They can more easily collaborate to improve patient care and get better results. In short, cloud-based EHR storage systems both foster and facilitate data sharing and collaboration.

2. Significant cost savings

On-site hardware is expensive and the cost of EHR system installation remains a major consideration for many medical practices. Setting up an on-premises EHR storage system can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and that’s only for a small practice. You then need to add on the costs of maintenance, licensing fees, updates, and patches.

Cloud-based EHR storage systems, on the other hand, require no hardware or software installation and generally cost much less than on-premises EHR storage solutions. Typically, the healthcare practice will pay a monthly subscription fee to use the storage service.

3. Much lower TCO

In addition to the significant cost savings we just mentioned, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for an EHR storage system is much lower than the TCO for an on-premises EHR storage system when you also factor in maintenance and internal IT requirements. When healthcare providers move their medical records to the cloud, they no longer require their own team of IT experts to install, configure, test, run, secure, and update hardware and software. Instead, these tasks are handled by the cloud-based SaaS provider. These web-based systems also have automatic updates so practices are always running on the most current software version.

4. Easier scalability

Cloud-based EHR storage systems make it much easier for medical providers to scale their businesses without the usual IT growing pains. They can easily add new users, doctors, or locations without adding hardware or requiring more IT work.

How safe are cloud-based EHR storage systems?

The safety of cloud-based EHR storage is a concern to many physicians, healthcare professionals, and patients as health records contain extremely personal and sensitive information.

But the reality is that, thanks to very tight security regulations around electronic healthcare records, cloud-based EHR storage is actually safer than in-house EHR storage. Web-based EHR systems need to meet HIPAA compliance via bank-level security and advanced data encryption techniques that make data unreadable, even in the event of a security breach.

In-house EHR storage systems, on the other hand, are only as secure as the room or closet they’re in. They’re also vulnerable to certain types of events, such as natural disasters, that cloud-based records aren’t.

Optimize Your Cloud-Based EHR Storage with Pure Storage

Cloud-based EHR storage offers huge advantages in savings, security, and data accessibility. But once you’ve decided you want a cloud-based EHR storage system, you’ll need to choose the right one.

EHR-related services go well beyond simply collecting patient data to deliver decision support for evidence-based care initiatives that advance patient care. However, the availability and adoption of these rich, data-enabled services has strained the capacity of legacy IT infrastructure to deliver consistent performance across the healthcare data center.

Very few providers today are satisfied with their EHR functionality, workflows, and performance. In fact, many of them now see fewer patients than they did pre-EHRs and spend twice as much time on documentation as they do on seeing patients. Also, providers generally don’t have the mobility or real-time analytics they need from their point-of-care platform to do their jobs efficiently.

Pure Storage®, which has been ranked a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader for many years running, can optimize your cloud-based EHR storage via smart storage capabilities that make your EHR storage infrastructure powerful, reliable, and simple.

EHR storage through Pure is:

  • Effortless: It’s self-managing and plug-and-play simple. Get up and running quickly and stay running with cloud-based management, predictive analytics, and unrivaled support and protection.
  • Efficient: It’s based on a fully automatable open platform that delivers more. Save money by dramatically reducing floor space and cooling requirements.
  • Safe: Control capacity growth via industry-leading data reduction while lowering risk through built-in encryption, replication, and QoS.

Store your EHRs effortlessly, efficiently, and securely with Pure Storage today.

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