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Cloud-Based EMR vs. Server-Based EMR: Pros & Cons

Know the difference to make the best choice for your practice
Read Time: 5 minutes
Jul 16, 2021

When it comes to choosing an electronic medical records (EMR) system, the big question for many is whether to go with cloud-based or server-based. There are advantages and drawbacks to both options. Be sure to thoroughly research your options so that you make the best choice for your company.

What Is the Difference Between Cloud-Based EMR and Server-Based EMR Systems?

Cloud-based EMR systems are hosted in the cloud rather than hosted by an on-site server. This means that all of the data for the system is stored in the cloud and is accessible from anywhere via the internet. This also means that the system is dependent on the vendor’s cloud infrastructure rather than an on-premise environment.

By contrast, a server-based EMR system is hosted on-site by your practice or company. You have more control over its infrastructure, but also bear more of the responsibility for maintaining and managing the system.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of system?

Cloud-Based EMR

Man on computer in server room

The cloud is a major part of our lives. Many people store files in the cloud for convenient access. It’s also becoming more and more common in the business world as more software vendors are offering cloud-based services. But is cloud-based EMR the right choice for your practice?

Pros of a Cloud-Based EMR

The advantages of a cloud-based EMR system include:

  • Cost-effective for small and solo practices
  • Easy to set up
  • No software installation necessary
  • No hardware purchasing necessary
  • No hardware maintenance necessary
  • Better customer support
  • Fewer or lower licensing costs
  • Sophisticated security for data protection
  • Practices don’t have to meet HIPAA requirements if the vendor does
  • Easier transition from one system to another
  • The vendor has more responsibility than the practice does to meet Meaningful Use requirements
  • Accessible from anywhere
  • No in-house IT staff required

Cons of a Cloud-Based EMR

However, cloud-based EMR systems also have their drawbacks:

  • Practices must rely on the vendor for security and backups
  • There may be lag time accessing remote servers
  • Over time, cloud-based systems can be more expensive
  • All patient data is controlled by the host
  • Higher risk of compromised patient data
  • Customization may be limited
  • A steady internet connection is required
  • If a vendor closes, all data could be lost
  • The practice’s bandwidth may limit software speed
  • Your access speed may depend on your location

Server-Based EMR

A server-based EMR hosted on-site can offer some major advantages to practices that have the resources to maintain them. However, smaller practices or solo practices may not find them feasible because of the resources required to install and maintain them.

Pros of a Server-Based EMR

Some advantages of a server-based EMR include:

  • Speed is based only on internal infrastructure
  • Connection is not reliant on external factors
  • High-quality images can be downloaded quickly
  • Full control over all data
  • Data is protected from unforeseen external threats

Cons of a Server-Based EMR

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to server-based EMR systems:

  • Up-front costs can be higher
  • Licensing fees can be expensive
  • Server hardware must be installed
  • IT staff required to install and maintain the system
  • Updates and maintenance are the practice’s responsibility
  • Compliance with regulations is the responsibility of the practice
  • HIPAA compliance is the practice’s responsibility

Is a Cloud-Based or Server-Based EMR Better for My Practice?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of EMR systems. What it comes down to for many practices is size and cost. A cloud-based system often has fewer up-front costs, even though it may cost more in the long run due to monthly or yearly subscription fees. A cloud-based system also doesn’t require IT staff to manage and maintain an on-site server. Larger practices may have the resources to invest in both on-site hardware and the IT staff necessary to maintain a server-based EMR system.

All practices looking for EMR software should research their options in advance and look at what type of system will best meet their needs without impacting how their practice runs.

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