Free EMRs for Physician Offices

| March 7, 2008

Docs Can Get Free EMRs—But They Come with Advertising!

Reposted from Dark Daily posting

One barrier to adoption of EMR (Electronic Medical Records) in physicians’ offices is the cost. Doctors in smaller groups have demonstrated their unwillingness to invest the substantial funds and time necessary to acquire and deploy an EMR system. Surveys have even shown that many physicians feel that, if they must use EMRs, they are entitled to get EMR systems for free.

Recognizing that a free EMR could be a big hit with a substantial number of doctors, several companies with EMR products are working on a strategy to incorporate advertising into the EMR system. Revenue from this advertising would allow the vendors to place and maintain “free” EMRs in physicians’ offices. There would be dynamically-linked advertisements on the EMR screen. One EMR also plans to sell patient data.

Several of these free EMRs are being delivered by application service providers, or ASPs. Under the ASP model, a provider hosts, manages and delivers applications from a data center over a wide-are-network (WAN). ASP-based systems make acquiring, upgrading, and maintaining software systems easier and more affordable. IT observers suggest that ASPs are probably the only way that EMRs will ever be viable in small physicians’ offices.

Practice Fusion, a 2-year-old San Francisco-based developer of ASP-based practice management and EMR systems plans to offset physicians’ costs by the sale of their patients’ data (aggregated and de-identified) and by advertising that would appear on a portion of their EMR computer screen. Sales Director Even Walser says Practice Fusion has about 1,000 physicians using the system, “and a couple of [health insurance] plans that are really interested” in buying the system offering it to physicians. The companies buying the patient data and advertisements can be pharmaceutical companies, health insurance plans, and other businesses interesting in communicating directly with physicians at work. When the EMR system boots up, a graphic-rich horizontal banner is displayed at the bottom of the entry page. Once the EMR is loaded, only text ads are allowed in 4 stacked boxes on the right side of the screen.

Glenwood Systems in Waterbury, Connecticut began providing a free EMR system, GlaceEMR , to physicians who purchased its billing service in 2003. Starting in July 2007, the company began offering its EMR free to non-billing service customers. Ad space in its EMR system is being used for house ads promoting the billing service. The company hopes to one day sell those ad spaces to advertisers when enough physicians sign up. The company has 800 customers for its billing service, but less than 10% use the free EMR.

Once cost is removed as an inhibitor to the adoption of EMRs for physicians, the usage of EMRs by physicians should pick up rapidly across the U.S. Laboratories should be well-prepared for the EMR age. The ability of the laboratory to support laboratory test ordering and lab test results reporting directly with the physicians’ EMR system will be a critical success factor in the next few years. Further, use of dynamically-placed advertisements in the physicians’ EMR systems may open up a new marketing channel for laboratories. Imagine, as the physician works up a patient, a series of dynamically-linked advertisements pops up on part of the screen advertising a specific laboratory provider as the best source for the specific tests needed by that patient!

This example shows how diverse an environment healthcare sales and marketing will become as the Internet-based software applications gain acceptance. Laboratories and pathology groups should keep a watchful eye on these unfolding developments.

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Category: Electronic Medical Records

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