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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.

Hello Health Raises $10 Million in Funding for Patient Management Platform (EHR Built In)

Posted on February 29, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The news recently came out that Hello Health has raised $10 million in funding. For those that aren’t familiar with Hello Health, here’s a pretty good description of what they do from the press release:

For years, physicians have experienced revenue reductions and, more recently, declining patient visits and must now look to ‘market their practices’ beyond quality of care to include: secure online communications that improve information and care team access, and provide greater convenience for patients. Hello Health is a Patient Management Platform that allows independent primary care physicians to transition from paper to electronic medical records and to provide a patient health portal through a subscription-based plan. Patients pay a small fee for the ability to schedule appointments, request lab results, renew prescriptions, share medical information and communicate (via HIPAA-compliant email, instant messaging and video consults) with their doctors and medical health professionals. The Hello Health Patient Management Platform was developed to provide an improved revenue stream for physicians while also enhancing patient engagement and providing better time and workflow management, all of which combine to strengthen the independence and sustainability of a practice.

I think it was a really interesting move for Hello Health to put a full blown EHR on top of their previous product offering. If you’re going to connect doctors with patients, then you really need to tap into the doctors EHR software. What better way to tap into that software than to just give the doctor the EHR software for free.

I also find it interesting that BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners is part of the funding round. While this is the venture arm of BlueCross BlueShield, it’s still interesting to see a health plan get so close to EHR software. There are plenty of health plans getting connected to HIEs, but not as many to EHR software.

I think the model of healthcare that Hello Health is working on is quite interesting and could represent a larger trend in healthcare: technology facilitating lower cost healthcare. I’ll be writing more on this in the future.