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Will We See More Free EMRs?

Posted on September 24, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Wondering what’s up in the free EMR world? In a recent article in the redoubtable KevinMD.com, an author described three current EMRs which are free to physician users:

* Hello Health, which collects fees from patients ranging from $36-$120 per year but charges no fees to physicians. (Patients who pay for Hello Health get various privileges, including online appointment scheduling with blocked out periods of time reserved for Hello Health patients, the article reports.)

* Kareo, which gives away its EMR in hopes that medical offices will buy its other products, including practice management and billing services.

* Practice Fusion, whose business model allows physicians to use its EMR for free in exchange for tolerating ads on screen.

To me, what’s interesting about these models is that there are so few of them. When Practice Fusion first emerged years ago I assumed that there would be tons of other free EMR plays emerging to compete with it. That has not been the case.

To me, this fits in with John’s observation that the Golden Age of EMR Adoption is over, or as he puts it, that “we’re now getting ready to enter the nasty, ugly, dirty, swamp – filled waters of EMR adoption.”

Five years ago or so, free EMRs were just one of the neat new EMR business models emerging as vendors went after Meaningful Use money. Fast forward, to today, and you find that things have gotten a lot simpler and clearer. While early players like Practice Fusion may have seen good adoption of their free EMR, I don’t think they’re going to have much competition for that business model in the future. The market just isn’t as open to new ideas as it was.

While there may be other viable free EMRs not mentioned in the blog item, I think the industry has concluded that at best, pay-for-play EMRs are more viable over the long run than most free EMR models floating around the vendorsphere. Although, Practice Fusion’s new $70 million round of funding will keep them in the game for a while to come. What do you think?

Primary Docs See Hope For Stronger Financials With EMR

Posted on September 21, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Apparently, some primary care physicians are optimistic about the financial impact EMRs will have on their practice, according to a new survey.

Vendor Hello Health recently completed a survey of 100 practicing physicians without EMRs to discuss their attitudes about key business issues.  Not surprisingly, 37 percent of respondents said EMR adoption was their number one challenge at present; an equal percentage said that financial issues were their biggest worry.

Here’s what, to me, is the most interesting part of the study.  Among doctors for whom practice financial health was a primary concern, 51 percent felt that implementing an EMR would help solve their problems.

Their theory was that EMRs would help by improving coding and documentation to substantiate claims, as well as improving efficiencies and reducing costs.

Of doctors who didn’t think EMRs would help their financial situation, 46 percent felt that the systems would lead higher costs and overhead, and 15 percent felt productivity would decrease.

Now, I’m going to go all cynical on y’all.

I was pretty surprised to read that some doctors feel EMRs will actually improve their financial situation. Sure, improving coding and documentation itself is certainly a worthy financial goal.  The thing is, that’s not exactly what EMRs are designed to deliver.

As for improved efficiencies and reduced costs, well, I don’t find that very credible at all.  Not that some practices don’t achieve this goal,  but if the respondents  had anything near-term in mind they’re likely to be quite disappointed.

Realistically, if I wanted to invest in technology that improved my coding, I’d go with a computer-assisted coding or souped-up billing system. And I’d begin gunning my ICD-10 engines right away. Getting psyched about my pending EMR is nice, but probably setting oneself up for a letdown.