It’s been over a year since we last covered Practice Fusion, and that was in the context of Dr. Oz’s 15-minute physical. The company has been up to quite a bit in that time, and recently contacted us to tell us that more than 150,000 physicians use their free, ad-based EHR platform and that these docs serve 65 million patients. We had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Howard, Practice Fusion’s Founder and CEO, about what he and his company have been up to over the past year.
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: Practice Fusion had impressive gains across the board – market share, user base, etc. – this past year. What made the difference?
Ryan Howard, Practice Fusion: It has been a very good year. There are a lot factors at play, we certainly see a rise in physicians switching from one EMR system to another. Increasingly, doctors who initially signed up for expensive legacy systems are realizing not only the limitations of those systems, but that Practice Fusion offers better options—and for free.
We’ve continued to add features to make our EMR system more comprehensive than any other on the market—for instance, just this month we launched a new imaging API to allow imaging centers to connect to our platform easily.
We’ve also broadened our platform to a whole new market—the consumer, who deserves easy access to this information and to doctors who are using the best tools out there. This spring we launched Patient Fusion, a platform that helps patients find a verified doctor in their area who is using technology in their practice, read real patient reviews of that doctor, book an appointment and access medical records online.
Medgadget: How can you continue offering Practice Fusion for free? Are any other EMRs trying to replicate your model?
Ryan Howard: Practice Fusion will always be free. Our unique platform-supported model brings free technology to patients and doctors, and affordable partnerships for labs, pharmacies and other healthcare partners across the country to connect to doctors through our platform.
We’ve seen a few companies come and go who have tried to emulate our free model, but they haven’t gained much traction. The thing is, the key to our success isn’t just the fact that our platform is free to users, it’s that we’re also offering best-in-class, revolutionary technology to what has now become the single largest doctor-patient community in the nation.
Medgadget: Has there been any physician push-back to the ad-supported model?
Ryan Howard: Since the beginning, we’ve offered the opportunity for doctors to opt-out of sponsored messages by paying a small monthly fee. However, the actual number of users who have chosen this option is very small. Our placements are very unobtrusive, and we’ve taken great care in choosing partners whose messages add value to the physician’s experience.
Medgadget: One of the major issues of large-practice EMR providers is the lack of data sharing and interoperability. Where does Practice Fusion stand on allowing third-party developers to mine anonymized data?
Ryan Howard: When it comes to interoperability, we have a unique perspective. Since our software platform is hosted on a private cloud, interoperability is fairly easy for Practice Fusion; unfortunately, it’s going to take some time for the legacy vendors to catch up. We’ve made great progress through our APIs to connect tens of thousands of labs, pharmacies, imaging centers and billers to the platform.
On the research front, our own data scientists draw analysis from our de-identified clinical dataset—the largest in the country—every day to identify disease outbreaks and health trends in real-time. We’ve made portions of our data available to third parties in the form of contests and hack-a-thons, and will continue to do so, and we’ve seen some great things come out of these events. In fact, our AVP of data science, Chris Hogg, was a winner of our 2010 data challenge. We also just launched Practice Fusion Insight, where you can see health trends straight from our platform.
Medgadget: You mentioned that your priority now is billing. What are your thoughts on the recent calls for price transparency?
Ryan Howard: This is an area we’re very interested in, and our data puts us in a unique position to find and share insights on price transparency. We know this is a big issue that patients face, and we’ve already launched drug formulary lookup in the EHR to help doctors make informed decisions when prescribing and a tool within our Patient Fusion platform that allows patients to track their health spending, including what their insurance has covered and what remains of their deductible. We’ll be continuing to develop tools that leverage our unique insights here, so stay tuned.
Medgadget: Can you discuss the decision to acquire 100Plus and how that plays into your broader vision?
Ryan Howard: I’ve worked closely with Chris Hogg as a co-founder of 100Plus, which drew insights from our de-identified patient database to inform their “Hopps,” or health opportunities, each day. We saw real alignment in our companies’ missions, and great potential in bringing in the 100Plus team, and particularly Chris Hogg into the Practice Fusion family as our AVP of data science. Down the road, we see big things on the horizon as Chris and his team continue to leverage their expertise on how to engage people to make healthy choices in their lives.
Medgadget: What do you think about the reports that large clinics/hospitals are purchasing small practices? Is that an opportunity for Practice Fusion to be adopted by larger practices or concern that these small practices will be completely absorbed?
Ryan Howard: We’ve seen examples of Practice Fusion being applied very successfully to large-scale practices, but the independent doctor is the backbone of the American healthcare system. We see it as our duty to help doctors stay independent, even—or especially—in the face of pressure to join larger healthcare groups. We do this by providing these doctors with technology that had previously only been available to hospitals with million-dollar budgets for free, and it’s our commitment as a company to continue to serve the country’s small and solo practice doctors by democratizing the latest and best health technology available. We’re also working with some of these large hospital systems to help them connect with their purchased practices using Practice Fusion.
Medgadget: Where do you see Practice Fusion next year? In 5 years?
Ryan Howard: It’s an incredibly exciting time for us at Practice Fusion. We already have about 4% of all US ambulatory visits happening on out platform and that percentage is growing quickly. Our country’s healthcare system is at a critical point right now. Unprecedented numbers of Americans will soon be seeking medical help, and the country’s doctors are reaching capacity as it is. It’s critical that we continue to work to make each practice safer, more efficient and better-equipped to provide the absolute best care possible. Practice Fusion will continue to do what we’ve always done better than anyone else: offer best-in-class technology to both doctors and patients, free of charge.
Link: Practice Fusion…