By Jor-El Godsey, Vice President
If you don't know the difference between EHR and EMR and PHR, HIPAA and HI-TECH, EPM and PMS , PRC and PMC, then stop reading.
If you do, or think you do, you're probably knee-deep in medical clinic regulations and/or clinic practices.
Pregnancy help medical clinics have been growing in number and complexity for the last twenty years. Originally focused on ultrasound services, many life-affirming, medically savvy centers are expanding medical services to include STI testing/treatment, pre-natal care, and more.
Good business systems, important for all pregnancy help organizations, has been a dynamic question for medically focused affiliates with the changing nature of health care regulations.
Life-affirming friends like eKyros and WayCool that specialize in database solutions for pregnancy help organizations have been answering that question with increased security, encrypted records and other HIPAA-necessary implementations. However, some in our community have either opted for, or promoted other software.
One of those is Practice Fusion. And, yes, there has been a fuss about Practice Fusion.
Practice Fusion is presented as being "free" (always attractive to non-profits) and, despite its relative newness (launched in 2007), has been quickly accepted by doctors office across the U.S. There are, however, some troubling findings that ought to give life-affirming pregnancy help organizations pause.
First, is anything really "free"? The article, "What Makes Free EHRs Expensive in the Long Run?" rightly notes, "...hidden expenses, heightened risk and unforeseen liabilities can cost you just as much as any web-based EHR..." So always beware of any Open Source product being offered for FREE.
Second, venture capitalists have invested nearly $200 million in this product. How will they realize their return on investment? It's always good to look a little closer to understand how a free product is able to remain current, supported and adaptable for future innovation. An article from Business Week notes the following:
The company makes money by charging more than 70,000 pharmacies, 300 diagnostics labs, and 21 imaging centers for access to its captive community of medical pros. For example, labs pay for the convenience of transmitting test results rather than faxing them, while drugmakers pay to deliver targeted ads to doctors. For an additional fee, companies can use a Practice Fusion tool to sift through its trove of more than 80 million patient records to identify patterns, such why doctors might be choosing one drug over another. The data is stripped of any information that would reveal the identity of the patients. The company is also working with insurer Aetna (AET) to identify at-risk patients to head off costly trips to the emergency room.
A pregnancy help organization using Practice Fusion apparently becomes part of the "captive community" targeted by those profiting from offering this "free" product.
Third, Practice Fusion's own practices have created significant compliance and confidentiality questions. Some industry watchers have noted, that "[a]ccording to experts, it may have violated the grand poobah of medical privacy laws — HIPAA — potentially getting both the doctors and Practice Fusion — as a "business associate" — into trouble. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission may see what the start-up did as a deceptive business practice."
Along with these three specific points about Practice Fusion (or free EHRs in general), there comes a much more basic question:
Is there value in working within our specialized world of life-affirming pregnancy help to sharpen a good tool for all of us to use?
We think so, and we encourage you to think carefully when considering such important business tools.