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Physical Therapy Software – Web Based vs Server Based vs Web-Accessible – What does it all mean?

Seriously, what do all of these terms mean?

We get a lot of questions about how our physical therapy software works, what web based means and how all it impacts a potential clients physical therapy practice. This blog post will help you understand the differences and how they impact your practice.

First - let's define the terms

Web Based/Cloud Based Physical Therapy Software

These terms should be considered synonymous. Some vendors like to use the term web based (we do!) while others like cloud based. Bottom line is that they’re the same thing. When a system is web based it means that the vendor you use is running the entire system on back-end infrastructure (servers, networks, etc) that they run. The vendor is responsible for maintaining those systems, keeping everything up to date, and keeping the system up and running.

Buyer beware, if a system isn’t 100% web based then it’s really not web based at all. Systems like MWTherapy are 100% web based meaning that they operate entirely within any major browser with no overlays, no software installations, no remote desktop kind of things. You can work anywhere/anytime. Not all vendors that call themselves web based truly are (see below about web-accessible systems)

Server-Based Physical Therapy Software

Server-based systems are systems that you are responsible for installing and maintaining on servers that you are responsible for. It also becomes your entire responsibility to maintain security for that server and everyone who accesses it. You’ll also need to ensure that all staff at your practice have access to it. If you choose to offer access for staff when they are not in the physical practice location, you’ll have to maintain network infrastructure that allow for that access.

Web-Accessible Physical Therapy Software

While not an entirely new concept, many vendors now offer what they call “web-accessibility”. This means that typically it is a server-based system with another system overlaid on it for the purposes of allowing access outside of the physical location of the practice. Some vendors that have always been server-based offer this as band-aid

Which one is right for my practice?

Ok, we admit it – we’re a little bit biased as MWTherapy is a purely web based system but that doesn’t mean we can’t give you some objective things to think about.

Web Based – this is by far the easiest type of system to get up and running, to operate, and to have over a long period time. With a proper vendor, you  will have no responsibility for servers, updates, upgrades. Those types of things will be scheduled at off-hours so you can go to bed at night and wake up the next morning with the latest information. A competent vendor will also take serious steps to protect your data including back-ups as well as employ security measures to protect patient and maintain HIPAA compliance. Web based also offers the best of accessibility anywhere/anytime and is the gold standard for multi location practices.

Server-Based – with this type of system, you take on the operation and maintenance of the system. Your vendor will often send you CD’s or you will need to download and install updates. The main benefit is that you’re running the system on your own hardware that resides on your premises. For some this can offer some measure of comfort. However, beware that many server based systems require maintenance contracts, etc, that may be required to access your data even if you’ve moved onto another vendor

Web-Accessible – in some ways this gives some potential cross-over benefits of server-based and web-based (assuming that you run the server yourself). With that being said, this is often the least desirable option because you’ll often be restricted to certain devices (e.g. windows computers) and lose the ability to use any device. These types of systems often also have cumbersome software you have to install to access over the web. They may also work through certain browsers but essentially creating a laggy remote-desktop session.

How to make the decision for your physical therapy practice?

The best way to decide is to take your time and assess your need, your IT resources (internal and external) and then go through the pros and cons before making a decision. A final important thing to consider is not just your IT strategy in picking a system but also HIPAA compliance. Web based systems allow you offload the lion share of HIPAA responsibilities for your software to your vendor. Good vendors (like us) will sign a HIPAA Business Associate Addendum agreement without any issue.

Oh, one other thing, be very wary of using systems that aren’t or weren’t design for protected health information. For example, if you’re using Microsoft Word or Google Docs – just make sure you cover yourself – do you have a way to protect that data, are you backing it up, are you prepared for disaster recovery?

The bottom line

The type of system you utilize should be on the first questions you ask yourself and any vendor you are considering. No matter which option(s) you decide you are OK with, asking the question first will help you save time in your EMR search

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