If you're shopping around for an EHR (or EMR), you may be hearing vendors talk about an ASP model versus a client/server model. Many of the EHR vendors (such as NextGen, eClinicalWorks, GE Centricity, and others) offer both options. So what are the advantages of an ASP model? What is an ASP model?
Think about e-mail. If you use Outlook on your computer, then that would be analogous of a client/server model. All your messages are kept on your local hard drive and you have quick and easy access to all your old e-mails. An ASP or Application Service Provider model is almost analogous to using Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo for your e-mail services. This may not be the best analogy, but it's close. All the data is stored somewhere else (off-site) and not on your local hard drive.
Here are the major advantages of an ASP model from my perspective:
1. Less cost. Your overall costs will be lower. You don't need to purchase a dedicated server, so you'll need less hardware. Plus, the vendors typically charge less for ASP models compared to server/client models.
2. Less cost. You won't need to invest in backup hard drives and other backup mechanisms to backup all the patient data that is on your server hard drive.
3. Less worry since you don't have to worry about backing up all that important data. No need to worry about off-site backups in case your office burns down. All your data is already off-site and it should be backed up with several layers of redundancy.
4. Access your data anywhere. As long as you have an Internet connection, you should be able to access your data remotely. Think of cloud computing. No need to set up a VPN (virtual private network) or use Remote PC to access those electronic files at the office. Plus, you can easily access your data from mobile devices such as laptops, UMPCs, netbooks, and even iPhones and PDA Smartphones (for certain EHR solutions).
There are clearly many more advantages to an ASP model, but I'm just highlighting some that really stick out to me.
So what are the major disadvantages? Well, you need to ensure that you always have a high-speed Internet connection. If your office is in a rural area and your Internet comes and goes, then you can't rely on an ASP model. You'll need to house all your data on-site. Don't rely on dial-up modems either. You'll be at the mercy of your EHR vendor who is supplying with access to your data. If any of their servers were to suddenly go down, then you'd be without access and you may have to temporarily revert to (gasp) paper.