A comment posted by reader Marc Riley on Friday got me to thinking – is Practice Fusion an idea to shy away from? FierceHealthcareIT, an e-newsletter, has named Practice Fusion as a Health IT Innovator of the Year for 2007. The innovation? The company is developing an electronic medical records system for physicians. In return for allowing ads to be displayed as the physician uses the system, the practice gets to use the system for free. The company got a lot of press when they announced this, as they portrayed the advertising arrangement as partnering with Google. Which was news to Google – all Practice Fusions did was to sign up for Google’s AdSense program, which is not that difficult to do. Strike One. The company also plans to sell anonymized data to Big Pharma and other companies – thanks, but swing and a miss. Maybe a foul ball. Then we have the whole financial underpinnings of this company – if the strategy fails, and your patient records reside on Practice Fusion servers – who owns them? How can you get at them?
In his comments after my first post on this company, Massachusetts attorney David Harlow noted that privacy and anti-kickback issues may arise here. Harlow is a former Deputy General Counsel of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, so he knows something about these things. (See his blog as well). For a good summary and discussion of all this, hop over to the blog from Micky Tripathi, Executive Directtor of the Massachusetts e-Healthcare Collaborative.
Electronic health records are coming. There is still some debate out there, but within a year you will need to be moving aggresively to install a system – a process that will easily take several months. If you have a quieter time of the year, plan now for implementation then – or, at least avoid the busiest times. Hospitals which are going to offer EHR systems to their physicians will likely have made their moves by then, and any tax issues will be resolved. Your job – build up your file of product information. See some vendors to get a feel for what’s out there. Talk to your hospitals – what are their plans, if any? As you develop your business plans for 2008 and 2009, include budget lines, whether cash, debt funded or leased, for acquiring am EHR system and – most importantly – operating it on an ongoing basis.