Software as a Service, or what is known as SaaS, has come on strong over the past few years. The concept of SaaS is that a company hosts their software application on a computer server that is attached to the Internet. The application is accessed by the customer from any other computer connected to the Internet. Many software companies focus their entire business on SaaS. Google’s Gmail is a perfect example of SaaS where a user can access their email from any computer, not knowing or caring the physical location of where their email is stored.
So how will SaaS function in the healthcare industry, specifically medical practices?
As we know, the medical industry will be moving to electronic medical records (EMR) over the next five years due to the adoption of the Stimulus Plan earlier this year which provides physicians with up to $44,000 in reimbursements over a five year period for implementing and using an EMR system. Patient records will be easily accessible by the physicians from within their medical practices, instead of having to find the patient file in the sea of manila folders.
A patient record stores a wide variety of information such as correspondence, x-rays, lab results, EKG readings, and examinations. A single visit to the doctor can generate over 10 to 15 pieces of paper (Blau, 2004). More information will be added to these files as the industry moves to EMR. The amount of information going into a patient record is not slowing down anytime soon.
In addition, much of the existing data that is stored in the patient’s file will need to scanned and attached to the patient’s electronic record. X-rays, for example, will be scanned and stored as an image, increasing the size of the patient record considerably. Any new x-rays that are taken will be received as an image and also stored int he patient’s record. Dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons, reconstructive surgeons, and plastic surgeons all use photography as part of their medical practice. Before and after photos are taken from multiple angles and distances, and are then stored within a the patient record.