Clouded Definitions: The Very Real Difference between Hosted and SaaS Software Solutions
Why All Cloud MPI Solutions Are Not Created Equal
Over the last 5 years, the healthcare IT industry has begun a massive shift to the cloud. A confluence of factors has triggered this move, including the availability of secure, scalable, and affordable cloud computing resources such as Amazon Web Services (AWS); the increase in health information exchange activity, which is greatly facilitated by cloud technologies; and the proven success of a handful of cloud-based EMR offerings.
However, there is often a misunderstanding of what it means for a software solution to be “cloud-based.” There are two very different categories of cloud-based technologies, and picking the right one can save your organization significant money, time, and effort. It can also give your organization access to revolutionary software features that are only possible when that software has been developed from the ground up for the cloud.
Let’s examine these two very different categories of cloud technologies.
The first category consists of cloud-hosted versions of software that would otherwise sit on-premises. In other words, the technology is exactly the same, but instead of the software sitting on an organization’s premises, it sits in the cloud. Examples in this category of “hosted” technologies include the cloud-based EMR offerings available from Epic® and Cerner®. Organizations that utilize hosted offerings see benefits primarily through a reduction in some installation and operations management activities. But hosted technologies can be much more cumbersome to use since they aren’t on an organization’s premises.
The second category consists of offerings that are more transformative and provide significantly differentiated capabilities—features that are only possible because the software is cloud-based. These “Software as a Service” (SaaS) technologies are built from the ground up to operate in the cloud, and thus the technology is designed to take full advantage of cloud architectures and management techniques. These SaaS solutions deliver far greater value and far lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than hosted solutions while providing features that are only possible with SaaS software.
The difference between hosted versus SaaS solutions is like the difference between an internet company that will send mail on your behalf versus email. In the first case, you’re still using physical mail, but the internet company handles the purchasing of paper and stamps and the sending of the mail, saving you some time and money. However, the mail is still being sent via the postal service, still takes days to arrive, and there is still some hassle in having to deal with the company in the first place. Email, on the other hand, is a service that was designed specifically to take advantage of the full power of the internet. It is instantaneous to deliver, easy to manage, and has features not available with physical mail like the ability to “CC” someone, to forward a message, and to send thousands or millions of messages at once.
How does this translate to hosted versus SaaS healthcare solutions? Let’s take a concrete example by considering the master patient index (MPI) space.
Recently, a few MPI vendors have announced “cloud” MPI offerings. However, these vendors’ cloud offerings are no different than their old on-premises MPI technologies except that they are hosted in the cloud. This means these cloud-based MPIs still have huge upfront costs, take months to implement, require lengthy and expensive algorithm tuning exercises when they’re implemented, require even more tuning exercises with each newly connected data source, need periodic clean-up services to improve their data quality, need database administration efforts, and require enormously expensive software upgrades every few years. And even with all that, their patient matching efforts will still need to be augmented by data stewards who will have to manually review thousands or millions of potential matches that the MPI cannot automatically match on its own.
Contrast that with the Verato Universal™ MPI, a SaaS MPI offering. The Verato Universal MPI is a revolutionary master patient index that any organization—from the smallest clinic to the largest HIE—can simply “plug into” to match all of its patient records. And because we built it for the cloud as a SaaS solution, it has some innovative and never-before-seen features that would be impossible in hosted or on-premises solutions:
- It is the first and only MPI to be pre-populated with pre-mastered and continuously-updated demographic data spanning the entire US population. This means organizations that use the Verato Universal MPI don’t need to spend money on periodic data clean-up services—saving time and money.
- It is the first and only MPI that incorporates a powerful new matching technology called “Referential Matching.” Referential Matching leverages this pre-mastered database as an “answer key” to match and link patient identities that the algorithms found in conventional MPIs could never match. This means that organizations that use the Verato Universal MPI don’t need to tune algorithms to improve matching because their MPI is already pre-tuned to the entire US population—saving time and money.
- It is the first and only MPI that dramatically reduces the amount of manual review needed to augment matching. Referential Matching is so accurate that it can automatically resolve 50-75% of the difficult potential matches that conventional MPIs flag for manual review by a data steward—saving time and money.
- And it is the first and only master patient index that any organization can simply “plug into” in just a few weeks—saving time and money.
Better data. Better matching. No tuning. Less data stewardship. No software upgrades. No maintenance. Fast to deploy. Easy to implement. Dramatically lower total cost of ownership.
That’s the power of SaaS. And that’s the difference between the Verato Universal MPI and other vendors’ “cloud” MPI solutions.