Allscripts EHR on the iPad? A Game Changer

It doesn't exist yet, but it can't be far away. In April of 2009 when Allscripts announced their new iPhone App called "Allscripts Remote" designed to allow mobile access to records stored in their EHR products, it was clear that the only thing holding the smart phone back from being the preferred device for clinical data capture was the lack of screen real estate. iPhone users everywhere knows that with few exceptions, iPhone Apps are some of the easiest to use programs available across all operating systems on all sorts of hardware.

So what happens when you take away the limitations that a small screen puts on mobile electronic health record apps? I'd hate to see a product like Allscripts Remote continue to function as if it still only had a 3.5" screen to work with. A 9.7" screen in a thin, lightweight 1.6 lb case, the iPad is just a big iPod touch with a comical name to most consumers, but in healthcare, it could be a killer piece of hardware that blows all those tablets and laptops out of the water. Integrate Dragon Medically Speaking and the addition of the rumored built-in camera, and this might be where EHR vendors start focusing a heavy chunk of their R&D.

If the focus shifts to the iPad for companies like Allscripts, eClinicalWorks, and others, is it possible that physicians might be able to say that their EHR makes them faster?

Vermont Gov. Leahy Secures Funds to bring ePrescribing to Vermont

This is very exciting news for Vermont physicians looking to take the next step towards electronic health records. Allscripts and VITL (Vermont Information Technology Leaders) are putting together a very comprehensive plan to roll out EHR and eRx systems within the State.

Allscripts plus Medfusion minus Medem's iHealth= Allscripts Patient Portal

Big news today on the patient portal front. Not only has Medfusion announced their acquisition of Medem's iHealth, but Allscripts has finally announced their partnership with Medfusion (which has been developing for the past least) to deliver the Allscripts Patient Portal. Allscripts has known that their partner, Medem, hasn't exactly kept their iHealth product as "fresh" as it could've been. As an iHealth user, I have always been a little (very) disappointed in the user interface and complexity of what could be an extremely easy solution. I stopped using my iHealth account years ago and marked all iHealth email reminders as SPAM simply because every time I logged in, I remembered how difficult it was to use.

The Medfusion relationship is much more important here. It means that Allscripts has decided to develop a partnership with a company with a strong patient portal offering rather than attempting to develop it in-house. Over a year ago, we worked up a relationship with Medfusion to offer MBA HealthGroup clients their services. It doesn't surprise me at all that they have partnered with Allscripts. Allscripts desperately needed a stronger offering than iHealth for patient portal functionality. Especially with some competitors delivering their own patient portal functionality.

What is unique about Medfusion is their approach. They've recognized that the best way to sell this solution is to offer a full web development solution for practices with the patient communication features built right in. I'm not sure how Allscripts plans to resell this patient portal, but Medfusion sells it by charging a monthly fee per provider depending on which features a practice wants in their portal. You get the choice of features like: online bill pay, "ask a biller", patient registration, PHR, patient history forms (integrated with some EHRs but more integrations are in the works), appointment requests, virtual office visits, prescription renewals, online scheduling, etc. They break their solution down by front office, back office, and clinical solutions, but again, one of their main differentiators is that they can develop your website from scratch, or just integrate the portal login into your existing site.

SureScripts: Vermont most improved for e-Prescribing, MBA HealthGroup recognized

At a ceremony in Washington D.C. this afternoon, Vermont was announced by SureScripts as the most improved State for e-Prescribing activity in 2008. Alongside Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, MBA HealthGroup founders Sandra Bechtel and Lauren Parker were recognized as one of two organizations responsible for this dramatic increase in e-Prescribing. We're excited to accept this recognition and proud to be playing such an important role in decreasing costs, and improving patient safety and care in Vermont. We've been helping to roll out e-Prescribing solutions since 2005, and we process roughly 6,000 scripts monthly from Vermont physicians through our hosted EHR.

Vermont law restricts vendor gifts to physicians

In Vermont, almost $900,000 was spent in 2008 on meals alone provided to physicians from drug companies and medical equipment vendors. Drug reps are going to have to get more creative with their sales techniques now that it will be against the law to bring in those free sandwich platters and take-out. Not only that, but companies will also be required to disclose the payments made to healthcare professionals. The penalty? Up to $10,000 per incident.

Apple shows new iPhone Apps for Healthcare

As Apple unveils their new iPhone 3.0 features today at their World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, I'm excited to see them demonstrating some uses in healthcare. As you can see, the screenshots are of the iPhone being used for monitoring patient heart rates from anywhere you have cell coverage. The company that developed this software is Airstrip Technologies who first announced their Airstrip OB software at HIMSS. Apparently you can define the parameters you want to see on your iPhone, and the vitals are displayed.
It won't be long until physicians are able to document entire visits on their iPhone through the mobile version of their electronic health record. Allscripts Remote EHR is a product that I've been able to play with and while it doesn't allow you to get every piece of documentation in for a visit, it's certainly a great start. It will take more applications like this to really increase EHR adoption.

Starting a Medical Practice: 4 Reasons to Start a Practice in a Struggling Economy

How often are you encouraged to start a business in one of the worst economic downturns in the history of the United States?  While healthcare hasn't been hit as hard by this economic downturn as other industries (travel, auto, etc.), we're certainly not immune to the economic fluxuations in healthcare.  When patients have high deductible health savings accounts (HSA) or copays, they may choose to just wait out that fever they've had until it goes away rather than going in to see their doctor.  So while there are some reasons for not starting a practice when the economy is in turmoil, I believe there are more benefits than most people know.

  1. Interest rates are at historic lows.  It may not be as easy to get startup financing from a bank as it was a few years ago, but if you do, you'll be paying less interest.  If you're looking for capital from the SBA (Small Business Association), you'll find that their loan fees have been reduced dramatically due to their access to stimulus funding.
  2. Real estate is inexpensive and easy to find. Not only have the costs of leasing space dropped, but if you were looking to buy that dream office across the street a year ago and it wasn't an option, there's a good chance the owner would consider it now. There is an abundance of office space on the market.
  3. Good help isn't as hard to find. There is a silver lining to a high unemployment rate.  The employment market is competitive.  You can find good people at a reasonable salary everywhere you look.  The key to a successful business (that includes medical practices) is to employ only the best people.  Hold out for the most qualified candidate at the most reasonable wage.
  4. Hospitals may foot the bill. It used to be common for hospitals to offer an income guarantee for physicians to start a medical practice in the hospital's community.  While that still happens, it's more likely now that rather than income guarantees, that the hospital will pay for you to start a practice including all of your setup costs and consulting fees if you choose to hire a consulting firm like MBA HealthGroup.
If you didn't read my post "Starting a Medical Practices: Top 5 Mistakes Physicians Make", that will be a good starting point for getting the ball rolling.