Small practices getting IT pitch from all angles

Small practices getting IT pitch from all angles

Summary: What I didn't realize is that the doctors' lab is also sending someone after them, selling health IT. Their card may read MedPlus, but they have been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics since 2001.


I knew going into HIMSS that the small practice space was going to be the sweet spot for sales activity in this coming year.

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.

Topics: Cloud, Emerging Tech, Health

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  • Not quite true

    I have worked in health IT for over 16 years.
    First at a hospital (7 years), then at a Software firm, producing Software for the health sector. I live in an european country.

    ?Our sweet spot is to focus on customers using our technology, and letting them add functionality"

    This is weird, unless you are talking about large IT departments at huge hospitals. You don't let average user add functionality without expert consulting.

    "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.?

    This is wrong. The basic needs are the same, although there might be additional needs at larger practices, (lab, X-ray, financial software, etc.)

    Different needs comes from different
    General practitioner need at a small practice is pretty much the same as a general practitioner at a large practice.
    Dermatology has different needs, but a lot of it is in common with GP needs, (which are fare more complex BTW).
    X-ray and lab needs are on the other hand quite different, but pretty much the same at small or large scale.
    The main difference for X-ray though is type of storage medium.

    Larger practices might have more demands regarding electronic messaging (prescriptions, etc). But done the right way it can be economical for small practices also. I know this first hand as that is what we are doing.
    • This is the American market

      You may well be right about the European market, where small practices have to be linked to government-managed formularies in order to get paid, and where chip-based insurance cards have been around for ages.

      But this story focuses on the U.S., where the small practice market is only now starting to take off.

      Thanks for your post, though. I think it's great to get views from other countries.
      • Many thing similar.

        Billing is just a (vital) part of it. And it?s not all government-managed. Plastic surgery
        for example is largely not. I'll agree that billing is much more complicated in the US, because of Health Insurances.

        But the rest is in my opinion similar, where ever you live.
        Government-managed formularies in any other sense than billing or reporting ain't much. Some coding systems (ICD,NANDA), but you should use those anywhere any way.

        What matters is fast, easy interface, that is efficient in registering information, viewing patient history and other info and takes as little as possible from the doctors time, especially when he/she is treating the patient.

        The UI experience doesn't much matter for the doctor, if he's working in a large or small clinic. That's my point.
  • RE: Small practices getting IT pitch from all angles

    I can appreciate the benefit. However, as I just found out after changing dentists. Many vendors have developed proprietary software that (as I am told my new dentist) saves images (of dental X-rays) in formats not interpreted by competing software. Without standardization so data and images can be read and interpreted widely, this effort is a waste of time and money. If the industry cannot come on board and save data in standard files, then they should be kicked in the head and forced to address data portability.
    • I'll agree with you there

      We're past the point where standard formats should be an issue. I see it
      as nothing more than an effort to keep competition out.

      As part of the shift to EHR partially subsidized by taxpayer funds there
      should be clear and consistent format requirements, for imaging to

      And there would also need to be international agreement on these
      standards. There is no excuse for incompatible systems. Not only
      because a lot of international travel goes on each year (in both
      directions), but also because medicine itself is an international
  • It's a tough task...

    It isn't apparent from this article, but certainly MedPlus understands that implementing an EHR is much more complex than targeting current lab customers "and letting them add functionality.? It?s my hope that they aren?t under estimating this effort and the importance of getting it right the first time - especially for the low-end, first-time adopter. Best of Luck