Here is a great interview of Ryan Howard of Practice Fusion, a free cloud based EMR/EHR that is positioned for explosive growth in the marketplace.
Ryan Howard came up with the idea for Practice Fusion in 2005. He wanted to build a new way to manage electronic records. Today, Practice Fusion is a free, ad-supported, fully cloud-based electronic medical records management package with 70,000 users. We asked him about the issues associated with managing this kind of sensitive information in the cloud and using ads to drive revenue.
FCM: This is an unusual business model. Who is going to see the ads–the patients, providers or both? And doesn’t this raise privacy questions in itself serving ads?
RH: It’s the same business model that powers some of the biggest brands out there, like Gmail, Spiceworks, LinkedIn…even Fierce. Ads are shown to providers and tailored toward medical professionals. They’re placed discretely at the bottom of the EHR application and they never pop-up or interrupt the workflow. You can see samples of the Dell and Kareo ads online here. Our ad structure is completely private and HIPAA-compliant.
Users also always have the option to turn off the ads for $100/month. Although, very few choose to do so.
FCM: Speaking of privacy, HIPAA is as strict a set of regulations as you’re likely to find. How does this service pass muster?
RH: Our security far surpasses HIPAA requirements. Firstly, our data centers feature armed guards, biometric security, data back-ups, redundant power supplies and fire deterrent systems. Secondly, many of our engineers come from banking and energy sector backgrounds and leverage that expertise in maintaining system security. We conduct extensive third-party audits of our systems on a regular basis to ensure we’re protecting our users.
In addition, all data transfers between Practice Fusion and our users are bank-level encrypted and protected from malicious parties. Finally, access to data within the EHR is controlled by well-defined user roles and access levels, the enforcement of strong login passwords, stringent user authentication/authorization and user inactivity locks. Doctors, nurses and administrators each have specific permissions for accessing data.
FCM: Why not simply charge practices to use the service?
RH: Ha! Free is a key part of our success at Practice Fusion. It is what has made us the fastest growing EHR community in the United States in just three years. When we first launched the product we did in fact charge for support–$20 per month–but as the majority of our users are family doctors running their practices on very limited budgets, we quickly found even this cost was prohibitive, so we moved to a 100 percent-free model and haven’t looked back. Our business model allows us to monetize in other ways beyond ever having to charge our doctors.
FCM: Most users of cloud services have security concerns, but this audience is going to be even more focused on security. How do you address security concerns?
RH: Cloud computing is a very natural, secure fit for small medical practices. Compare it to what doctors have now–either paper charts that can be destroyed in a disaster, accessed without record, photocopied, stolen, you name it, or a locally installed EHR system that is also susceptible to disaster and theft. We hear horror stories of offices burning down, hard drives failing. New York just had 1.7 million patient records stolen from an unlocked van. Even the U.S. Surgeon General had her practice’s records destroyed twice by hurricanes.
Small medical practices typically don’t have the funds or technology expertise to set up a secure internal system. The cloud alleviates those burdens and lets the doctor focus on practicing medicine.
FCM: What happens to a practice if your service goes offline or they lose Internet connection? Is there an offline backup?
RH: We have a Service Level Agreement with our users, a rarity in health IT, which guarantees three-nines reliability of our system. As an enterprise solution that serves 70,000 users, reliability is key. For Internet access, we recommend that users get a business account with their broadband provider for the best performance and then have a pre-paid 3G wireless card as a backup for emergencies. Larger practices often have failover Internet set-up as well.
Read more: One on One with Ryan Howard of Practice Fusion – FierceContentManagement http://www.fiercecontentmanagement.com/story/one-one-ryan-howard-practice-fusion/2011-02-24?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal#ixzz1FU04ZOhg