The following is an interview with Dr. Seth Flam, Co-Founder and CEO of HealthFusion. If you’d like to hear more from Dr. Flam, he’s doing a Meaningful Use stage 2 webinar today at 9:15 PST (12:15 EST).
Tell us a little bit of the history of HealthFusion.
HealthFusion was founded in San Diego in 1998 by two primary care physicians. The company started out as a clearinghouse, but has since evolved into a fully integrated software suite – including MediTouch EHR (Electronic Health Records and Patient Portal) and MediTouch PM (Practice Management and Claims Clearinghouse).
What differentiates the MediTouch EHR from the other hundreds of EHR software out there?
First of all, even though the iPad has been part of our culture now for over three years, there are still very few pure cloud EHRs that work natively on the iPad browser. Native is important because with MediTouch, every EHR function that can be performed on the desktop can also be performed on the iPad. Our product was developed from the ground up for the iPad, so the interface is not a “retrofit” from an older legacy desktop one. Instead the interface is a set of buttons that are sized perfectly for fingertip and even work well on the iPad mini.
Now if you couple that with Meaningful Use 2014 certification, I challenge you to find more than a handful of products that meet this profile. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. We are consistently rated by users on average at around 4.5 stars out of 5, so our doctors love us. Because we are an early adaptor of new technology we have the time to not just present new technologies such as the ones required in Meaningful Use 2014, but we have the time to hone those new technologies and make them usable.
It seems that HealthFusion’s MediTouch EHR has been designed for every specialty, but are there certain specialties where it really excels?
Primary care is of course a focus. We are poised to release our comprehensive Patient Centered Medical Home module this month. Our commitment to Medical Home is very strong and I don’t know of any software that makes becoming a tier three medical home easier. Speaking of primary care, we do great with OB/Gyn and Pediatrics – in fact, Miami Children’s Hospital has selected MediTouch as their exclusive private label solution for their hundreds of admitting providers. For Pediatrics, that’s the best validation of our product, especially since MCH is known as the technology leader among pediatric hospitals.
We service most all of the internal medicine specialties, many of the surgical specialties and some niche providers such as pain management specialists. We are the exclusive EHR vendor for the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the first cloud-based endorsed by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA ). Needless to say, we are very strong with the Osteopathic doctors from all specialty types and simply the best choice for podiatric physicians. And it’s not just us saying that – we have the endorsement of those associations to back it up.
What’s been HealthFusion’s approach to meaningful use? Are you ready for meaningful use stage 2?
HealthFusion’s MediTouch was actually one of the first 5 pure ambulatory EHRs to achieve Meaningful Use Stage 2 certification. Our whole system was designed with the government standards in mind, which means Meaningful Use is incorporated into the daily workflows of our EHR.
As an additional resource, we recently started hosting webinars on Meaningful Use. The next one is scheduled for November 26th, and will offer a “deep dive” into Meaningful Use Stage 2.
Most EHR vendors that were certified for 2011 have not achieved Meaningful Use 2014 certification. Buyers should be leery of EHRs that cannot meet government compliance standards. We are beginning what I call the “Great American EHR Consolidation.” Simply stated, if your EHR can’t meet Meaningful Use 2014 by the end of this year, you are at a disadvantage heading into 2014. Remember, 2014 is not just about Meaningful Use – ICD- 10 begins in the fourth quarter. Providers need time to prepare for ICD-10, it is even more important than Meaningful Use since it impacts every dollar. Because Meaningful Use 2014 compliance is behind us, we have been able to focus on developing all of the tools providers will require to make their transition to the new diagnosis coding system easier. A simple list of ICD-10 codes just won’t cut it – the tools need to be more sophisticated and we have them today.
How have your doctors and other doctors responded to meaningful use from your experience?
Meaningful Use and other government compliance programs are here to stay. Sticking your head in the sand simply won’t work. In fact, we would not be surprised if the federal government standards that define Meaningful Use spill over to private sector. I think providers liked getting the front loaded incentive dollars but I don’t think they like some of the compliance requirements, and they definitely don’t like the threat of an audit. I am certain that they will find Stage 2 harder, and that is why they need committed technology vendors to help simplify workflows for them. Patient Engagement requirements such as a Meaningful Use compliant patient portal can simplify Meaningful Use, and of course that should be part of the buying decision for physicians.
How are you approaching interoperability? What will be the key to cracking the interoperability challenge?
With interoperability, the problem isn’t with the sophisticated EHRs, instead it is with the lack of mandated standards and the adoption of those standards. MediTouch responds quickly when faced with a new standard, a good example is Direct Secure Messaging. This is the new standard for secure email. It’s crazy, we adopted the standard in June and our providers have secure email addresses but hardly anyone to exchange mail with today. In the coming months we hope that will change as more EHR vendors implement this standard.
The government makes interoperability challenging because as an example they use HL7 standards alone to define a way to exchange data, but HL7 is at best a “suggestion, not a standard.” What I mean is that there is too much room for interpretation within the HL7 guide to permit seamless interoperability across multiple exchange points. A good example is the immunization registries that are run by state or regional entities. I like to say, if you connected to one state you connected to one state. The work required to maintain and manage 50-60 connections and standards is wasted time that could be spent on better projects. It would have been simple for the government to tighten the requirements so that there was less variation between states, or to consider a national immunization registry with a single standard and connection.
Are you getting many requests to incorporate accountable care (ACO) features into the EHR? What’s your thoughts on the future of ACOs in healthcare?
First of all, I hope they work. Sharing savings is not a new concept and there have been failures, occasions where quality was sacrificed for short-term financial gain. With EHR technology, we think that there is enormous promise and it starts with great Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH). It will take a new breed or a transformed primary care doctor to really make PCMH work because it changes the role of the primary care doctor significantly. Managing patient populations is different than managing individual visits. MediTouch software is committed to making PCMH work for primary care practices so we expect to play an important role in the interplay between primary care medical homes and the ACOs they relate to. The truth is that without great EHR software that supports PCMH, the ACO initiative will fail and therefore we understand that the effectiveness of our software will contribute to better population management, and ultimately the success of ACOs.
Where is Health Fusion heading 5-10 years from now?
We have a nimble group of engineers and we have found that meeting government mandated compliance standards has not been an obstacle that we cannot easily overcome. By complying with Meaningful Use 2014 early we now have time to do what we love and that is innovate. Our innovation process is simple – we listen to our users. As a physician I know that it is difficult for engineers to understand the complex workflows required to manage just a single day in a doctor’s office, and our culture is built on listening closely to the end user – the medical practice.
There are times though that we innovate or create new features that were never requested by a medical practice. Remember, we were designing an iPad EHR solution one year before the iPad was released, clearly that was way before any physician would have requested a system like the one we designed. Steve Jobs invented the iPad even though there was no market for the device prior to its release. A great EHR combines features that are a reach (like the example of the invention of the iPad) with more everyday solutions that refine everyday workflows. Remember, each year the practice of medicine requires more attention to administrative and compliance issues – our job is to innovate at a faster rate so that provider workflow is continually enhanced, and to make sure that patient care is still rewarding for our docs.
Full Disclosure: HealthFusion is a sponsor of EMR and EHR.