EMR startups are poised to disrupt the industry

As hospitals and healthcare systems around the country surrender to the digital age, they each face the momentous choice of which medical software company to partner with – and there is no shortage of options. From the major players like Epic and Cerner, to the ad-funded Practice Fusion, to the notable start-ups like CareCloud, gloStream, and drchrono – each healthcare IT company makes a strong case as to why their EMR solution is best. But ultimately, organizations must decide which EMR is right for them.

For many of the larger hospitals, the safe choice has been to follow the leader. Forbes reports since Kaiser Permanente put its faith in Epic more than a decade ago, a number of other major players have followed suit, including the University of California system hospitals and Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minnesota. The Epic website touts that when all current rollouts are complete, 1 in 4 physicians (about 250,000) will be using Epic systems.

However, some speculate that despite its impressive list of customers, Epic is unlikely to be the future of health information management. Not only are the Epic modules built on the antiquated programming language, MUMPS, but the closed system makes interoperability with other systems difficult if not impossible.  Additionally, for smaller systems and independent practices, Epic and the other big healthcare IT companies aren’t affordable options.

Thus the market is ripe for the next big idea in health information management (HIM), but which company will introduce it? Venture capitalists are enthusiastic about the possibilities, investing over $3 billion dollars in the healthcare IT sector so far in 2014. Rock Health just released the Q3 2014 funding roundup and venture funding is pouring into this sector.

So who are these companies, vying for market share against the likes of Epic, Cerner, and McKesson?  A brief introduction to a few notable players follows.

Practice Fusion

Founded in 2005, ad-funded Practice Fusion is now used by 150,000 healthcare providers, making it the fastest growing EHR community in the US. The free, web-based technology offers a viable solution to practices seeking an easier path to meaningful use. With no software to install or sales contracts to review, the company claims its user-friendly EHR can be up and running in five minutes. Even importing patient data from other systems is supposed to be easy, with the help of the Practice Fusion support team.

Although the system was developed with the needs of smaller practices in mind, the scalable technology now serves a variety of practice sizes and specialties. With an already impressive list of features, including e-prescribing, billing, and lab integration, Practice Fusion’s web-based platform is positioned to lead the way toward the interoperability lacking in today’s EMRs.

drchrono

Founded in 2009, drchrono offers a web-based EMR with a focus on mobile, specifically the iPad. The company capitalized on healthcare’s rapid adoption of the iPad, building the app from the ground up specifically for the Apple device, though it can also be run on Android devices. Like Practice Fusion, drchrono offers a free version; however, plans with enhanced features require a monthly fee ranging from $99 to $399 per month – still a relatively small investment compared to traditional EMR systems.

CareCloud

One of the newest players to enter the game, Miami-based CareCloud, announced its entry into the EHR market in January 2012. The “digital healthcare ecosystem” offers medical practices a cloud-based platform for electronic health records, practice management and patient portals. Utilizing the “cloud” to store and access information is commonplace for technology companies like Salesforce and Dropbox, but in the healthcare industry, the concept is still somewhat groundbreaking.  Concerns about security and HIPPA compliance must be addressed head on, something CareCloud has succeeded in doing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Department of Health and Human Services gives its seal of approval to the cloud. BetaKit reports the HHS recently released data suggesting a HIPPA compliant cloud may be more secure than a localized server or paper documents. Healthcare is changing the way it thinks about the cloud, and companies like CareCloud are benefitting.

ElationEMR

Offering another web-based EMR, ElationEMR was carefully designed after thousands of hours studying how physicians use paper charts. The founders aimed to replicate this process digitally so that their product would be as intuitive as possible for the end users. The resulting EMR allows physicians to view multiple windows at one time and there’s no forced workflow. Also touting a superior search tool, ElationEMR promises to bring data together to help physicians make more informed decisions regarding patient care.

gloStream

This cloud-based EMR differentiates itself by storing data in formats compatible with Microsoft Office. Why is this important? For one, it gives physicians confidence that they are investing in a technology that has been around for over 30 years, and two, it means most users are instantly comfortable with the interface and features. This guaranteed usability gives gloStream a competitive edge.

These notable EMR companies have several things in common: Each one is web-based and relatively low cost (in some cases free), and they all promise to be user-friendly and easily implemented. (They’re also all Meaningful Use Certified.) It’s not a coincidence that all of these companies promise similar benefits; they are responding to the dissatisfaction in the market caused by the antiquated processes of some of the leading EMR’s. Do these newer companies solve all the problems involved with healthcare’s adoption of electronic records? Of course not, but if recent history tells us anything, there will soon be another round of start-ups improving on the latest technology or maybe even introducing the next big idea in healthcare IT. Stay tuned.

Who Will Deliver the Next Big Idea in Healthcare IT? by