Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Want to acquire an EMR Vendor: Look out for these points:

Considering the Electronic Medical Records space is heating up across the globe, and in India too in the coming 5 years there should be some Big Groups like Reliance entering it, lets look at what a Corporate Biggie looking at entering the EMR space via an acquisition should look for in an EMR Product.

The guys at Software Advice linked me to this very interesting article on their site by Austin on Intuit and a possible acquisition by them in the Health IT segment and requested a few added opinions on the same.

Since Austin has done a fantastic job at listing the qualities Intuit should be looking at in an EMR Product for acquisition, lets list them out before going further:
  • Low price point product -
  • Dead-simple UI -
  • Friendliness for cash-based practices -
  • Web-based deployment -
  • Large market share / brand name -
In case the strategy is to go after Physicians and 1-3 Member clinics as mentioned in the article, most of these points are a given. The price point being low should not be an important factor in case there is a substantial subscriber base of Physicians - the eventual target market.

I'll look more at things to cover which if not looked at can and will lead to issues in the future:

1. Is it just an EMR or does it also help a physician do his job better? 
There must be enough reason for a Phsyician to use this EMR as against pure digitization of records. Here is a list of a few features that help Doctors run their practice more efficiently:
  • What Patient Safety features are provided?
  • Are there Medico Legal Safety features to protect doctors against suits?
  • Does it allow operation for patients as an EHR ?
  • Does it allow Physcians to export Clinical Statistics and Trends which can be used in Presentations, Research papers or simply better planning.
  • Does it offer Administrative advice like a Hospital Information System does?
  • Can it generate Email and Text Messages alerts, Birthday and Anniversary Reminders, have some CRM functionality.
  • Can the doctors, nurses and staff have Intra-Team chats via the product.
(This list is compiled from requests by doctors who have been using an EMR for a minimum of 2 years)
One point which I'd also like to add is Does it interface with 3rd party PHR's or Patient Portals?
2. How does the EMR vendor provide training and after sales support? This is an important factor which directly influences the percentage of Physicians which will stay on with an EMR vendor in the long term. 
  • Does the EMR vendor have a ticketing system?
  • Does the EMR vendor allow issues to be reported via the Phone to a person?
  • Does the EMR vendor provide Live and Online Support?
  • Can the EMR user simply email the issue with possibility of attaching a screen shot?
  • Does the EMR vendor have a Dedicated Training and Help portal with html and audio visual Training Aids?
  • Does the EMR vendor provide a DVD with audio visual aids for Training?

3. How does the EMR vendor collect feedback and feature requests. Health Care IT is still a nascent idea irrespective of the billions being pumped into it. As the user base grows, the improvements and feature ideas that this increasing mass of users provide will change how EMRs are built and function over time. If the EMR vendor you pick does not do it, some one else will.

P.S. Plus91 runs a Pain Point Analysis program for Physicians in India and we get almost half a dozen ideas each month. Every 6 months we go through that list of ideas to evaluate which of them should be the next feature to put in. This program lets us "Help Doctors Help Us Help Them". Look for an EMR vendor who has been listening to the users and has a dedicated process to solicit and collect feature feedback and requests.

4. How consistent is the EMR firm with regards their Business Model?
Different EMR firms have different Business Models. Comparing Practice Fusion vs AdvancedMD on a parameter like Subscriber Base doesn't make sense. Some have short terms models directed at Sales, other look at Recurring Revenue via SaaS and Value Added Offerings, while others look at real long term offerings based on Data Mining and Trend Analysis. Whatever be the model, consistency is important.

5. How future proof is it: The EMR and the Vendor? 
Its important to look for an EMR company which is thinking ahead and is building its products influenced by the future. Look for mobile friendliness and features for a smart phone offered by the EMR, Does it have a smart way of integrating Social Media while following privacy norms.

6. Flexibility ???:  Flexibility may mean ability to modify the UI, enhance the product features, add newer modules. Physicians and small practices usually don't have their requirements clear and these do end up varying over time. A flexible EMR permits additions and modifications to be made quickly in the future. Look for an EMR product which is flexible, modular and offers the scope for improvement. Note, that this is a very tough ask in spite of how simple it sounds. Too much focus on flexibility can easily lead to a non-product.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Slideshare Love & Some Social Media for Doctors

I woke up this morning to the familiar buzz of the phone alarm, and as always, on dismissing it went to check what emails awaited me at the start of the day. I saw a plethora of emails with Slideshare in the subject message. One of my presentations “Facebook for Doctors and Medical Practices” was featured today on Slideshare. :)

An educative presentation which is also available on Wirelysis, it focuses on explaining “the Why and the How” of using Facebook Pages by Medical Practioneers.  I am happy to see that Slideshare’s editors have liked it and they have found the material beneficial for others. Lately there has been a surge in the number of Articles and Presentations being written and shared on topics related to “Using Social Media in Health Care”. Hence I am happy that my 3 month old midnight piece got featured.  

Social media is for everyone. It’s about all people, networking on things they like, whether they are videos, conversations or information.  Doctors are also a subset of this highly engaged group of people.  Tons of them participate in social media; personally, professionally or both.  And as always they have a lot to say

Using Social Media in Health Care has several advantages. It’s a cost effective way to use something you do for fun to help out your patients, by spreading information, providing support as well as in a providing a quick piece of advice.  It’s also a great way to get feedback.  

But take this next bit with a pinch of salt. If you do plan to bring in a professional aspect to your Social Media life, understand that you are now in the public domain. While you will gain publicity, you are now also exposed to being more abused. Don’t be oblivious to the fact that we have a Wall Feed where we will enjoy reading what you post.  With great power, come great responsibilities.  Be responsible and don’t do things which you wouldn’t do in public at a party.

A number of doctors had emailed me today asking me about Twitter and how they can leverage it for themselves. My reply: "Get on it, converse and engage: We'll talk more in a week, hopefully on Twitter".  Well, besides the simple gyan on “the Why and How”, I have something cool coming up.  I have been researching practically and building algorithms and processes related to Twitter as well as other aspects of Social Media, on how they can be leveraged effectively by the Health Care industry. The main onus being on how Social Media can be used to:
  • Help provide accurate information faster
  • Help patients interpret information more effectively
  • How physicians and hospitals can leverage these algorithms to improve patient care, patient safety and patient comfort
  • How physicians and hospitals can bring in more patients as a reward for being concerned about them
A lot of my work has pointed towards “unique forms” of collaboration and creation of information ecosystems.  I feel I will take a few weeks to share my work in the public domain as some of the results have not been vetted and processes finalized due to constraints on my time and pocket. Within a few weeks I should be putting out an effective guide on Twitter use for both Physicians as well as Hospitals. In the meantime, I will recommend this simple yet beautiful post by one of my favorite blog authors Scott Hanselman titled  Subtle but Very Important Twitter Tips and Techniques You Should Know (cause no one will tell you)

Useful Links:

The Facebook Pages presentation on Slideshare

Websites For Doctors  : This is where you must contact to get Social Media profiles made and managed for your self or practice

Follow me on Twitter: @nrip

Follow Plus91 on Twitter: @plus91

A number of doctors in India and a few from the United States have contributed by either sharing the statistics from their Social Media Data and Profiles with me, while some have done so by actually getting on it and trying out what I’ve been asking them to do. 

Any doctor who wishes to help out may simply contact me via emai or Contact me via Plus91  :)