SaaS solutions: the answer to meeting “meaningful use” requirements in healthcare?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a popular topic on the blog lately.  So, it seems like a great time to piggyback on what Jacqui Conn and Terri Jones had to say about it – but, from a healthcare software perspective.

A hosted software model isn’t new in healthcare, or any industry for that matter.  Providers from community hospitals to physician practices have already seen the benefits. Minimize IT staffing and support. Avoid the costs of equipment, servers and other necessary hardware. Identify budget as an operating expense instead of a larger, capital expense. Accelerate deployment.    

Let’s take a look at faster deployment times. Right now, this is the key to why SaaS is so important to healthcare. And it all comes down to two words: meaningful use.

As part of the HITECH Act in ARRA, healthcare providers are now required to meet certain standards, not just based on what technology they use, but also how they use it. We already discussed why ECM or document management is a critical technology piece in answering this “how they use it” part. But here’s the catch – these “meaningful use” requirements aren’t just about the “what” or the “how” – they’re about the “when.” The federal government has set a deadline for the requirements to be met – 2011.

HIMSS "meaningful use" pumpkin analogy

Photo credited to Neil Versel’s blog with the original source as Pat Wise of HIMSS.

That means that providers must have the people to research, choose and implement a solution, the hardware to support it and the budget to do these things – all within a limited time frame. For an on-premise solution, this would certainly be a challenge to get done, and get right. But not for SaaS.

Because SaaS solutions boast short start-to-finish deployments, they might be the only way for some healthcare organizations to get up and running in time for the deadline.  They also answer the budget, staffing and hardware issues – a rent-like pricing model and outsourced staff and servers to manage the data.

But despite the obvious potential of this deployment option, I have yet to see SaaS mentioned in the same article – let alone the same sentence – as “meaningful use.” At the same time, the major healthcare providers and associations continue to suggest that the deadlines are too restricting to meet. And maybe they are. But one thing is absolutely-without-a-doubt too restricting – limiting software to a single deployment option, and not even considering one that might make more sense – SaaS.

Susan deCathelineau

Susan deCathelineau

With more than 20 years of healthcare technology and operations leadership experience, Susan deCathelineau is a leader in providing management and consultant services for Health Information Management, Revenue Cycle and Electronic Medical Record strategies. Most notably, she was responsible for the successful enterprise-wide OnBase implementation at Allina Health, which included the integration with the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) initiative. In her current role at Hyland, deCathelineau is responsible for developing and implementing a global strategic vision, to ensure that OnBase Healthcare solutions and services earn customer loyalty and deliver operational excellence. Prior to joining Hyland in 2006, deCathelineau was director of corporate information services at Allina Health System and vice president of product management at QuadraMed. She holds a bachelor’s degree in health information management from the College of St. Scholastica, and completed her master’s degree in health services administration at the College of St. Francis. She is currently Hyland’s vice president for global healthcare sales and services.

1 Response

  1. On average, 80% of cost of deploying major ECM / EDRMS software at the enterprise level is not related to initial software licensing or hardware acquisition capital expenses.

    The business analysis including information security, legal and service-level considerations, product configuration, legacy data migration, integration with other systems that need to be considered to complete the delivery, and finally the end-user training are the areas that cost the most and require the longest time to complete.

    With that in mind, the true value of the SaaS model is no longer that super attractive or special if you weight it against the overall project expenditures.

    I do not believe people resist the SaaS model at all; they simply haven’t figured out if they have enough in their recession-era budgets to rollout whatever technology they are going to procure and do the job right.


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