Practice Fusion expands, shows signs of rapid growth

Practice Fusion, a company that provides free online electronic health records to physicians, announced last week it will partner with Physician Services, Inc. (PSI) of California and Azalea Health Innovations, Inc. of Georgia to expand the types of services available to its clients.

According to Ryan Howard, CEO of the San Francisco-based Practice Fusion, the company is on target to be one of the fastest growing electronic medical record (EMR) vendors in the country, with close to 100 physicians signed up since the launch of the service two months ago. Ryan attributes the growth to a special "Live in Five" process, which allows new clients to be provisioned, logged on and charting within five minutes.

"We have changed the experience of EMR selection and made the decision process and start-up much easier, and as a result we are becoming the de facto standard for small to medium sized physician practices," Howard said. Physicians benefit through low total cost of adoption, a simplified start up process and on-demand architecture that makes the whole process low-risk, he added.

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PSI, one of the largest billing services in California, will provide preferred billing services for the Practice Fusion community, while Azalea Health Innovations, serving the independent practitioner community in Georgia and Florida will add the option of technical and billing consulting services to Practice Fusion's offerings, Ryan said.  Earlier this month, Practice Fusion added Zydoc Medical Transcription Services to its partnership, expanding services to include medical dictation.


Though services are technically free, Practice Fusion does charge a nominal $50 a month ongoing support fee. Howard points out itís still the lowest total cost of ownership of any available solution on the marketplace, including open source.

Practice fusion subsidizes its free EMRs by selling de-identified data to insurance groups, clinical researchers and pharmaceutical companies and by placing medically relevant ads within the EMRs, Howard said.

The secondary use of de-identified data has drawn increasing ire from privacy activists who claim patients are unaware of the use of their data. In its November meeting, leaders of the American Health Information Community, the Department of Health and Human Services' premier healthcare IT advisory panel, called for an in-depth look at how to ensure patient protection in the secondary use of healthcare data.

Howard said he does not expect data-sharing will be a concern to physicians who use Practice Fusion's EMRs.  "Every healthcare vendor is selling data. Everyone has this data, but weíll have more of it and it will be real-time and aggregated," Howard said. "We will be able to help drive the patient community toward better care by providing data on the causes and trends of certain conditions over time."

As far as the security of Practice Fusion's medical records, data stored on Practice Fusion has the level of security equal to online banking, he added.

"The reality is that the data is much safer with us - the level of service we offer is much higher than any practice could put in place themselves without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and having full-time staff on-site," Howard said.