Tailwinds for Web-based Medical Systems

A guest post by Don Fornes, Founder and CEO of Software Advice

Over the past couple of years, we’ve noticed a marked change in medical office’s views on the web-based, or Software as a Service (SaaS), model of using EMR and practice management systems. Among practices looking for new software, we’ve observed:

  • 30% are asking specifically for a SaaS system;
  • 45% are aware of SaaS and considering the model; and,
  • 25% remain adamant about managing software “on premise.”

These numbers are substantially different from what we might have seen a few years ago from buyers of electronic medical records and practice management systems.  Why is that?

The short answer is that SaaS has gone mainstream. It’s not a nascent technology concept any more. People get it, and they use it – to bank, to shop, to email…

In addition to the familiarity users have gained through using web-based applications in other areas of their life, we see three macro drivers that are making SaaS work.

The rising tide of technology lifts all boats

Microsoft, Google, Adobe and other major technology players are all competing aggressively to develop the technology behind rich Internet applications (RIAs). The technology advances made by these big players represents a rising tide for all boats; that is, smaller SaaS vendors – like those in medical – are able to implement those new technologies into their own systems.

The “rich” in RIA refers to the interactivity that we now experience on a web page; we no longer have to wait for a page to refresh for everything we do. We can drag, drop, expand, collapse, sort, update – all without waiting around for our browser to refresh. Most of what we do in a Windows program, we can now do in our web browser.

Broadband has become a utility

Broadband Internet access, or a lack thereof, used to be a big barrier to the adoption of web-based applications. Not any more. Among US web users, over 90% have broadband in their office and over 80% have broadband at home. Very few medical practices are limited by dial-up Internet.

More importantly, broadband Internet has approached “utility-class” service levels. That is, we can depend on the reliability of our broadband Internet to match that of our electricity, water or gas. With that level of confidence, having the “Internet go down” is no longer the concern it was eight years ago.

Data center security

Finally, small and mid-size organizations like physician practices are realizing that a professionally managed data center can do a far better job of securing and backing up their critical data than they could ever do on their own.

The modern data centers that host SaaS systems include massive security, redundancy and back-up technologies such as biometric scanning, N+1 redundant HVAC, air filtration, fire suppression, uninterruptible power supplies and separate-point fiber optic carrier access.

If those terms aren’t familiar to you, that’s the point. These data centers are deploying technology and security best practices that no medical practice could afford to put in place themselves. Medical offices are realizing that their patient data is safer if managed in a professional data center.

What’s next?

SaaS hasn’t completely taken over the medical software market, but its progress is impressive. Going forward, we expect that the percentage of practices that are considering both SaaS and on-premise systems will continue to grow. Meanwhile, those that remain adamant about an on-premise system will likely decline.


Don Fornes is the founder & CEO of Software Advice, a website dedicated to helping physician practices research and select software systems.