Practice Fusion Bids for Dominance in the Doctor’s Office with a Free, Ad-Supported Electronic Health Record System
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if it’s done in the context of their practice, that’s better than a drug rep walking into their office on a Tuesday afternoon.”
Howard says future versions of Practice Fusion’s software will apply data analytics in a deeper way, offering what’s known in the field as “clinical decision support.” Already, the built-in e-prescribing system can alert doctors if they’re about to write a prescription that could cause bad drug-drug or drug-allergy interactions. In the near future, the system will also monitor patients’ lab data and alert doctors if values go outside an acceptable range.
And in the longer term, the system might even be able to recommend the best drugs or other treatments based on patients’ unique genomes, or identify lifestyle changes that would help patients improve their health. Just this month, Howard co-founded a new health data analytics company called 100Plus with backing from Founders Fund. The startup says it plans to use de-identified clinical records from Practice Fusion’s growing database to “build predictive models of future health and the impact of personal behavior trends,” and will release a health-oriented consumer app in mid-2012. It’s not clear whether such an app would directly benefit patients whose doctors use Practice Fusion, but it’s an indication of the interesting possibilities that crop up once so much data is gathered in one place.
Word about Practice Fusion is spreading fast in the physician community. The company’s first user conference in 2010 attracted about 90 doctors from small practices; it’s putting on another conference this Friday that’s expected to attract more than 1,300. Douglass, the engineering head, says that a surprising number of those physicians don’t know about the Medicare bonuses available to practices that adopt EHRs, so basic education is still part of the company’s job. (Practice Fusion’s system earned full certification from the Department of Health and Human Services this June, meaning users are eligible for the full $44,000 in payments per practice.)
And while Practice Fusion has a long way to go before it has reached a majority of small physician practices, Howard is already thinking about what’s next. “One way the company could grow—the five- to 10-year plan—would be to go up-market [to larger practices and perhaps hospitals] or go more horizontal. The product would work very well, in theory, in the dental, chiropractic, and veterinary markets, which are all very large.”
But Howard says the real “silver bullet,” once Practice Fusion has data for 100 million human patients or more, would be direct engagement with consumers—-that is, analyzing medical records to offer people personalized health information and advice. “WebMD has been successful, but they don’t own the market,” he says. “If better content came out tomorrow, people would go search on that content.”
Smarter patients would, in theory, be healthier patients. And that ought to please doctors, because as healthcare reform rolls forward, it’s likely that more of the reimbursement dollars they earn will be based on the quality of the care they provide and the health outcomes their patients enjoy.
But the system that enables all this has to start with patient records—not with Google Health-style personal profiles, Howard says. “In today’s market, the doctor controls the flow of data,” he says. “That’s why we think we will be at the epicenter of all this innovation over the next few years.”
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