Most hospitals have made their commitments. Those who have not are far down the sales funnel. Between insurers, the government, and safety experts telling them to automate, and with stimulus cash in the pipeline for a year, you would have to be pretty tone deaf to stay with paper.
This has not been true with small practices. Many are waiting on hospital partners to tell them what to do. Others are more concerned with the post-2015 penalties than the stimulus and are holding off.
SaaS vendors will be telling them not to sit on the fence. The hospitals will be telling them they're coming. The government is singing the stimulus song. Pharmacists want electronic connections. I can see a parade of IT salesmen as deep as that of drug detail men.
What I didn't realize, until last week, is that the doctors' lab is also sending someone after them. Their card may read MedPlus, but they are in fact a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics, the lab company, and have been since 2001.
Millions of people get their labs done by Quest. Full disclosure -- I'm one of them. Doctors, rather than patients, make these choices. My doctor apparently trusts Quest.
At HIMSS MedPlus was showing Care360, a new SaaS-based electronic health record (EHR) system designed for small practices. And the sales pitch is seductive, as I learned in a booth visit.
"Our sweet spot is to focus on customers using our technology, and letting them add functionality," I was told. A clinician getting lab results on paper is encouraged to get them online, and in time the health record arrives as just another upgrade.
"We started in 2004 as a Web-based enhancement to let physicians communicate with Quest." Over time patient credentials and links with other physicians were added to the movement of lab tests. Today Quest has 150,000 physicians online at 17,000 practices. That's a good base from which to work.
Some 80% of MedPlus customers have five or fewer doctors in them. "Our belief is the needs of the small physician practice is entirely different from that of the large practice." It's a good pitch.
It may also be the best way to maintain some degree of independence from insurers or hospitals. Quest is a big dog in the medical world, and its name on the back of MedPlus could prove very compelling.
It's going to be pretty hard for small practice doctors to hide in their paper labyrinths this year.