Over the last four weeks, I have visited with roughly 20 of our customers; they vary in size from Critical Access Hospitals to large, multi-facility health systems. It seems that they all debated early on the merits of rolling out a solution that was web-based (cloud computing, on demand, software as a service/SaaS) versus having one that was installed behind their firewall in one of their facilities.
Advantages of a Web-Based Solution
The idea of having their documents hosted within the “cloud” (put simply, hosted on the Web) appears to be uncharted waters for some. Interestingly, cloud computing has been around for more than ten years and for the most part has been viewed positively by the so-called “experts.” Clearly there are advantages to working in this environment as compared to the more traditional hardware and software environment that was dominant in the 1980s and 1990s. One of the points I discuss most often with customers is that in the pure software as a service organization, there is only one code base. In other words, all customers are on just one version of the source code. While this is great for the software vendor, there are equal if not greater advantages to the customers for three reasons:
- Everyone benefits when one customer has a good idea about how to improve the product
- Upgrades are absolutely painless, so customers get features more quickly based on their feedback
- Customers never have to worry about being “out of date” and they never have to make the difficult decision of whether or not they should pay more money to “upgrade” to a new version
From the perspective of the client’s IT department, cloud computing extends IT’s existing capabilities so they don’t need to invest in more people, training or software. Not only does this mean little upfront costs for IT, but it means they can rely on the software provider to take responsibility for maintaining the software and performing feature development updates as needed. At PolicyStat in particular, these developments are closely linked to customer support because customer feedback is the most important way of knowing how to improve the product.
Concern over Implementing Web-Based Software
As I was doing the rounds with some of our customers, I naturally inquired as to how they were feeling towards using the web-based application and if they perceived there to be any advantages or disadvantages as compared to having the solution hosted within their environment. In most cases the feedback was quite positive, and in some cases the users really didn’t even know that the solution was not “on premise.” The only concern I heard was “What if the internet goes down and I don’t have access to my data?” For our solution and I suspect many other pure software as a service providers, PolicyStat gives customers the ability to back up their policies in PDF format in the event that they experience network failure.
It seems that the healthcare world is beginning to embrace web-based applications more willingly. Since many of their capital budgets are frozen or have been slashed because of the state of our economy, using a solution requiring virtually no upfront investment in hardware or software is gaining in popularity. Initial hesitance is quickly turning in to enthusiasm as the advantages of web-based solutions become obvious to more and more organizations. The future is bright for the pairing of healthcare and web-based services.