Cool Technology for Pharmacy – Practice Fusion EMR

Practice Fusion is a company based out of San Francisco that offers a free web-based electronic medical record (EMR), or is it electronic health record (EHR). To the best of my knowledge Practice Fusion was founded in 2005 and has been rapidly expanding ever since. Practice Fusion offers its EMR software free of charge in exchange for putting up with a few advertisements. The advertisements are non-obtrusive and don’t appear to get in the way of any of the application’s functionality. In fact, I didn’t even notice them. The best part of this revenue model is that it makes the software freely accessible to any physician that would like to use it. In addition, users are not required to install any new hardware of software. Very nice.

Following my blog post last Friday where I threatened to take a drive to San Francisco for a demo of their software, Emily from Practice Fusion left this comment:

No need for the road trip. You can get your own free EMR account with Practice Fusion in just a few seconds online here – https://pfws.practicefusion.com/apps/ehr/main.html?signup=true
Have fun testing it out. Feel free to reach out if you want more details.

So I followed the link. The Practice Fusion site claims that any new user can be up and running within five minutes, i.e. “Live in Five”. They weren’t kidding. It only took me couple of minutes to get my login and password, and I off to the races.

The setup was incredibly simple and I found the user interface to be intuative and easy to use. It only took me a moment to get a new patient in the system and start creating a medical history. The Practice Fusion EMR uses a tabbed interface with clearly marked headers for Home, Schedule, Charts, e-Scripts, Messages, Documents, Reports and Admin. Below the primary tabs is a secondary set of tabs that gives the user access to online help videos, the recent activity of users, a “Community” area for additional information and a Marketplace where you can access consultants. However, once you enter the patient information area the secondary tabs disappear and you’re presented with nothing but a clean, unhindered user interface with easy access to your patients.

The medication section is pretty nice as you can easily search for a drug by simply typing in a few letters of the drug name and hitting ‘Enter’. The search works for both brand and generic name. The application even offers the ability to generate and send electronic prescriptions. This is a great feature. Electronic prescribing is a much better way of doing things as paper scripts often get lost, torn or forgotten.

As a pharmacist there are a couple of things I would like to see added to the medication area in Practice Fusion. First, there appears to be no cross checking between allergies and newly entered medications. I added a penicillin allergy to my patient and had no trouble ordering amoxicillin without any warnings. Second, I would like to see some clinical decision support around medication entry. There appears to be no clinical checking against coded diagnosis or the patients active medications. I was able to enter an amiodarone prescription on top of a warfarin prescription without warning. I assume that Practice Fusion expects individual pharmacies to police patient allergies and drug-drug interactions. While that is a reasonable assumption, it would be nice to see some kind of clinical chekcing in the application. Finally, I would like to see a more robust sig area within the prescription writer. I created some cool sigs while playing around with the app. I should say cool for me, but not for the pharmacist receiving them. I would have definitely received a phone call for clarification. With all that said, it is important to remember that the Practice Fusion application is not a pharmacy order entry system, is very robust and is available completely free of charge.

There are other modules available inside the Practice Fusion application, but I didn’t play with those as they had to do with insurances, billing, etc. Just not my cup of tea.

Pharmacists should take note of applications like the Practice Fusion EMR because it is clearly in their best interest. As pharmacists move into the medical home or into clinics to manage anticoagulation, hypertension, heart failure, weight loss and diabetes they will be exposed to EHR/EMR systems like Practice Fusion. They offer several advantages over legacy software systems and paper charting. Web-based medical records are the future of healthcare, so it’s best to just get used to the idea.

Oh, one other thing of note. I couldn’t view the Practice Fusion EMR on either my DROID or my iPhone; Flash issues. The application is easy to use from a desktop computer or a laptop, but it would be nice to use a smartphone to access your patient’s information in a pinch. Froyo, a.k.a. Andorid 2.2, is supposed to rectify issues with Flash. I’m looking forward to giving it another try once I update my DROID.

Throw in all the information above along with the fact that Dell and Practice Fusion have partnered to provide a ready made hardware solution to go with their EMR, and you’ve got a nice setup.

According to the Practice Fusion site:

Advantages of Practice Fusion’s Electronic Health Records System

You’ll immediately appreciate the benefits of using Practice Fusion’s free, web-based solution. Our user-friendly EHR can be activated in less than five minutes, eliminating the difficult conversion process that has become industry standard. Practice Fusion stands out in a marketplace dominated by expensive, complicated and ineffective software systems.

With Practice Fusion’s electronic health record tool, you’ll get:

  • Meaningful use of an electronic health record system. Under the HITECH Act – a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – physicians who implement EHRs and meet HHS “meaningful use” criteria in 2011 may be eligible for HITECH incentives of $44,000 or more.
  • More productive practice management. Improve the way your practice operates while increasing your practice’s security, productivity and quality of care.
  • The highest return on your investment because Practice Fusion is free. All the money you didn’t spend on an expensive electronic health record system can be used for patient care improvements. Join the more than 30,000 members who are using Practice Fusion today.

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