Friday, June 05, 2009

Benefits of SaaS in Healthcare

SaaS is not just a new software jargon; it radically changes how we buy, use & access software today.

SaaS is short for “Software-as-a-Service”. So first let’s talk about what SaaS really means. SaaS is software solution hosted and supported by a solution provider as a service, and accessed by users via the Internet, without the need to deploy and maintain an on-site IT infrastructure. Generally it also means that you never actually buy the software, you almost always subscribe to it for a small fee.

Some everday examples of SaaS are popular free email services like hotmail, yahoo mail and gmail.

SaaS in healthcare is comparatively a new concept. Most HIT vendors use 90's technology (last century) which they dump onto big servers running on software which require expensive licenses and they sell it to you for a number which isn't for the squeamish. To run & operate these behemoths you need IT staff at your office, special server closets/rooms, and multiple (expensive) T1 lines connecting your various offices.

If your head hasn't started to spin yet, then wait till you hear this. You are also required to protect & backup your data, and when it goes down, your entire office comes to a stand-still, while your HIT vendor works on fixing the problem.

SaaS on the other hand does things entirely differently, allowing healthcare providers, practices, and hospitals to use the application suite without having to invest the upfront capital in implementing the solution. This lets healthcare IT focus on more strategic initiatives, rather than reacting to application availability, maintenance and support issues.

This delivery model offers numerous benefits to healthcare customers:

1) Eliminates the need for costly server hardware, server licenses and network infrastructure at the client location. The client only needs inexpensive internet connectivity to access the application. With no hardware or software to manage you reduce your need to invest in dedicated engineers to support this infrastructure. The SaaS provider is the one with all the headaches.

PS: Most SaaS providers will provide SLA (Service Level Agreements) and in the event of any downtime, you can hold their feet to the fire. For instance Mrecord offers a 99.99% uptime, which roughly translates to under 1 hours of downtime a YEAR.

2) Shorter deployment time lines. No waiting for hardware/software provisioned or need to schedule time for installation, it is as close to plug and play as you can get. You can typically start the same day you decide to go-live (of course you still need training & have to orient your team to changed workflow but I wont go into that here). That is something traditional HIT vendors can ever dream off. Your SaaS provider is ready when you are since the server and network infrastructure is already in place for their other customers. So you only have to focus on your workflow/proceses during the deployment phase, significantly reducing the time and resource requirement from your side to implement.

3) Application is available Anywhere, Anytime, Any place is the true miracle of SaaS. Your healthcare SaaS application can be securely accessed over the internet and used anywhere that an internet connection is available- whether at the facility, over a cellular network, at home, or even the local coffee shop. Traditional HIT providers will tell you that their software can be accessed via VPNs & Internet, but dont tell you that it will cost you thousands in additional licensing costs from third-parties to enable it. SaaS does it right out of the box.

4) Software updates. This is my favorite part. As I have seen with my own healthcare clients, the day a new update is to be done to their HIT software, the office feels like a bomb is being diffused. Fortunately there is no such drama with SaaS. The updates are done by the SaaS provider (they generally middle of the night so their clients don't even have to stop work during working hours) and this comes in the form of frequent, consistent software updates over time. Plus with SaaS you almost never pay for any updates or yearly maintenance fees (yes really!), it is in best interest of the SaaS provider to continually improve the solution experience.

5) Reduce your IT Pains. Let’s face it- traditional client/server software applications require a significant human investment to succeed, but a SaaS solution offloads a great deal of the IT pains incurred by software consumers. This lets your IT resources focus on improving the day-to-day technical operations instead of troubleshooting 3rd party software or maintaining aging infrastructure.

6) Unlocks Return on Investment. With SaaS, you pay as you go. Which means the impact to the bottomline is immediate. You dont have to wait years to see a breakeven on your investment. With SaaS you also limit your exposure to the length of the contract (many SaaS providers are allowing their customers to go month-to-month as well). So if the application isn't right for you, you simply take your data to another provider and start there. With Traditional you are stuck with a white elephant and most people end up having to use it even if they find it just plain unusable.

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