Health IT is still partying like it is 2009

The Phreesia terminal is also a credit card reader. It takes co-pays. This has the market very excited, but that is not where government wants the market to be going.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

The health IT market until 2009 was about making money. The big plays were companies which, like AthenaHealth, helped doctors or clinics get paid by insurers for the care they delivered.

The government committed big money and spent all its time last year trying to change the terms of debate, away from just getting paid, toward transforming care to a more efficient model under meaningful use guidelines.

But the industry continues to party like it's 2009.

A good example is Phreesia, which just landed a new $16 million round of funding headed by Ascension Health. (The image is a clip from the Phreesia home page.)

Phreesia offers handheld terminals with which patients check-in to the clinic. It can act as the front-end to an electronic health record (EHR) system.

Clinics get this cute handheld terminal (right) they can use to display health information once the patient has finished the form. It keeps the wait from seeming long, and it collects data so the visit may take less time. It eliminates paper.

But look at the upper-right hand corner of the device. Notice the thing that juts out? It's a mag stripe reader. If an insurer put mag stripes on insurance cards, you could swipe it there and, presumably, have a good part of the form filled for you.

But it has another purpose. It's a credit card reader. It takes co-pays. There's some efficiency there, but it's really a moneymaker for the clinic. Collect the money before you perform the service, rather than after.

This has the market very excited, and it's why Phreesia's Chaim Indiq will be welcomed with open arms at the weekend's Health 2.0 conference in Washington.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, as the saying goes. But by this point the goal should be that sweet, sweet stimulus cash. The 2011 fiscal year starts in just four months. The industry is transforming itself toward different goals than just collections.

Well, the people who sell health IT are transforming in that way. What's clear from this example is that buyers aren't, and analysts know it.

Unless there is more to health IT than getting paid, that sweet, sweet stimulus cash is going to be wasted or, worse, won't be paid out at all.

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