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 –
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.

16 thoughts on “Cool Technology for Pharmacy – Practice Fusion EMR”

  1. Jerry: Thanks for the kind words. The drug-drug and drug-allergy checking functions are required for Meaningful Use. They’ll be available to our users shortly (at no cost, of course). Again, thank you.

    Glenn Laffel, MD, PhD
    Sr. VP Clinical Affairs
    Practice Fusion EMR

  2. Great news, Glenn. Thanks for the updated information. I look forward to seeing the new functionality in action.

  3. Excellent. I don’t know how practical it would be in general, but I could see the usefulness of the mobile platform for generating an e-prescription. You know… physician on call, sitting on the couch watching the game and they get interrupted. Grab their smart phone, check out the patient’s info, send the script and back to the game. Just my two cents.

    Thanks for the additional info Emily. I’m impressed with the current functionality of Practice Fusion. With the additions that you and Dr. Laffel noted, it should be even better. Good luck.

  4. Based on the information received from Emily at Practice Fusion, it looks like the prospects are promising. I don’t think they can ignore the availability and impact of a device like the iPad. I would be surprised if Practice Fusion didn’t have a solution for the [insert device here – iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch/smartphone] soon. Of course, I’m only speculating as I have no knowledge of their plans besides the “mobile strategy” comment from Emily.

  5. Like you mentioned, Jerry, our mobile strategy is focusing on a “light” version of Practice Fusion. A handful of key accessibility and data features that will connect smart phones and the iPad to the larger EHR system for busy doctors on the go.

  6. Thanks Emily. I’m very interested to see the final product as the Practice Fusion EMR appears to be well suited for use on smartphones and other non-Windows based tablets. It’s unfortunate that pharmacy information systems (PhIS) haven’t caught up with companies like yours and Pharmacy OneSource. I’d like to see a PhIS offered as a SaaS / web-based application.

  7. I’m optimistic about Practice Fusion. Once there is a viable mobile solution I may adopt it for my practice (as would many of my colleagues who have small private practices). I do everything on my smartphone (just switched from iphone to android), so it would have to give me access to scheduling/calendar features on my phone in order for it to be useful. Currently I use google everything (mail, calendar, contacts, etc, etc) which is great but obviously completely separate from my medical records which are still paper for this reason.

  8. I am a big fan of the Google/Android platform and use both a Droid smartphone and ‘Google everything’ as well. Practice Fusion has been pushing their way into the market with a vengence. Everytime I turn around they’re adding new features and functionality. I wish them success as I believe web-based healthcare applications are clearly the future secondary to our new found love of mobility. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. It looks like a terrific system for doctors/clinics but it’s too bad once the Rx goes to the pharmacy, the pharmacy can’t print it and the record of the fill made part of the PF patient record.
    Maybe someday.

  10. The system may have improved since then, Robert. That post is nearly 3 years old. I know Practice Fusion has come a long way in that time. They’re a great group to talk with. Give them a call.

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