The future is in the cloud: An IT provider’s perspective on Helix
Many practices are switching to cloud-based platforms for flexibility, convenience and greater efficiency. IT Support Technician, Paul Beaver, has been supporting GP practices using MedicalDirector software for more than 10 years. We sat down with him to find out what the experts think about cloud clinical platforms like Helix.
What are the benefits of cloud clinical software for the practices you work with?
The benefit is very simple. It just works. If you’re making house calls or you’re not in your surgery, you can still access all of your data, just as if you were. If you go to a house call, you can see all your patient notes. Basically, you can do everything you could do in your practice, from anywhere in the world.
Are there any disadvantages?
The main disadvantage, if you could call it that, is you need to have a good solid internet connection. Fortunately, in Australia with the national broadband network, pretty much everyone has got that as long as they’re on the NBN. I’ve also seen people use their phone data if they’ve got a good phone plan, so when you’re on a site with a patient, you can use your phone to connect with Helix.
What about security? If you can access it from anywhere does that make it more vulnerable to hacking?
Helix is based on the Microsoft Azure platform and it requires two-factor authentication. In other words, even if someone gets your username and password, a message is sent to your mobile phone with a code to get into the software. Without that code, they can’t get in so you’re actually very well protected.
How does switching to cloud software affect IT costs?
In the long term, you’re reducing the costs because you don’t have to pay for a server. If you’ve got more than one or two computers in your practice, then you need a proper server, not just a PC that you’re using to pretend to be a server. There’s a cost to running the server hardware, as you need to keep it updated to keep things going, so that’s where you will save money.
How easy is it for customers to make the switch from their existing platform to Helix?
Whenever you change to a new system, there are new ways of doing things. Because Helix is part of the MedicalDirector family, switching is pretty easy. You make the choice, sign the order and it’s all migrated to the new platform.
How does IT support differ for practices using cloud?
I don’t have to keep a server patched and up to date and I don’t have to manage the backups – that’s all done in the cloud, which makes the load easier. It’s also more convenient for practitioners because wherever they have an internet connection and a laptop, they have access to all their data.
What is the experience like for practices that have made the switch?
Helix has new ways of doing things, so it takes a while for people who are using MedicalDirector Clinical to get used to Helix. Generally, though, Helix seems to have a better workflow. It makes suggestions and helps you work through the paperwork of a patient visit quicker and more efficiently.
Why do you recommend MedicalDirector Helix to GP practices?
Well, from the people I support, it comes down to something that gives them the results they want and is secure. MedicalDirector Clinical is good, I’ve been supporting it for over 10 years, but it requires a server on-premise and this adds a layer of complexity that a lot of practices don’t have.
Generally, my job is to make sure my practitioners are served with the best IT they can get, and if I can recommend a product which makes my life easier, and makes their life easier, we should make the change.
What do you foresee for the future of clinical software? Cloud, on-premise or a bit of both?
I think it’ll be in the cloud. You’re basically reducing the hardware load you need in the practice, you don’t need to have a server tucked into a cupboard or into the lunchroom. For a little extra on the licensing cost, you save all the money for supporting, maintaining and even purchasing a server.