GP software heads for the cloud

Sydney-based health IT firm REND Tech Associates has launched a new service offering general practice clinical and practice management software hosted in the cloud.

REND Tech's technical consultant Rob Khamas said the new service, Cloud for Health, would allow users of clinical software, including commonly used packages such as Medical Director and Best Practice, to access the software through any web browser without having to worry about running servers or doing back-up or updates.

Mr Khamas said Cloud for Health would use a solution from US company OS33, with data hosted in an Australian data centre. While the package is suitable for any general practice, it would be particularly useful for rural GPs to allow them to be completely mobile, Mr Khamas said.

“For doctors who are out say in the middle of the desert, all you need is your laptop and your phone,” he said. “With 3G you can tether the laptop to the phone. Traditionally you needed to be able to log in to your practice database and the performance would be horrible, or if your server was offline then you were unable to do anything.

“With this you can have Medical Director running on your iPad and bring up your patient records, or you can have Best Practice on your laptop and log straight through to a data centre. The best thing about it is that the laptop can be an old machine – hardware specifications don’t matter. All you need is a browser and an internet connection.”

Even for those who don't need to be mobile, cloud-based hosting means practices no longer need a server or to worry if data is regularly backed up. As part of the offering, REND Tech will provide 24/7 maintenance and back-up, and will take care of all software upgrades.

“What we are trying to do is take the IT out of general practice and let them get on with the clinical work,” he said. “You don't need to worry if the practice manager backed up your data today, or when to do the clinical software update. For the rural guys, you can be completely mobile and you don't have to worry about your server failing. If your computer breaks down, just use your mobile phone.”

Most clinical software is designed for Windows and there can be issues when using a Mac, but the OS33 solution is able to overcome this by using a Citrix desktop viewer. “Most software runs on a terminal server, so if it runs on a terminal server, it will run on our solution.,” Mr Khamas said. “It doesn't really matter what browser you use and it doesn't matter what laptop. I can't use certain clinical software on a Mac but I can if it's in the cloud.”

Mr Khamas said he originally thought of running this as a free service, as he comes from a family of doctors and he is keen on creating solutions to make their lives easier. With quite a bit of pre-configuration and on-going maintenance and support required, however, he decided instead to package it on a monthly licence fee basis which covers access to an IT team, hosting, maintenance and licensing.

“If for instance there are four GPs, a practice manager and reception staff, I would buy four licences for the GPs, I'll buy a licence for the practice manager and then I'd buy a generic licence for the receptionists. This licence will include their hosting and our back-ups – that is the GP's back-up protection and risk management solved. We'll do an audit at the beginning and we'll make sure your systems are properly configured.”

For those still wary of the cloud, Mr Khamas is offering free support to get the new service started. “We are that confident. We'll manage the whole service, from changing a password to a full update. The free IT support will also to give you that bit of confidence if you are worried about the cloud.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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