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    Take new practice management technologies to the bank

    Patients push for online services—so should you


    Technology has altered many facets of your personal life, changing how you bank, read books, check-in for flights, and access the Internet. Now it may be time to take advantage of the many advances that allow you to run your practice more efficiently and engage patients more fully.

    The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) 2010-2011 member census shows that nearly 25% of its active members have yet to implement or begin implementation of electronic health record (EHR) systems, with only 62% of active members currently using EHRs.

    Yet EHR systems are just one piece of the technology puzzle in a physician's practice today. Technology advances are transforming many aspects of practice management. Stand-alone practice management software is giving way to integrated EHR/practice management (EHR/PM) systems, and patient check-in products and patient portals are becoming revenue-boosting tools.

    PATIENTS DRIVE TECH UPGRADES


    Mary Pat Whaley
    Consultant Mary Pat Whaley, FACMPE, of Manage My Practice LLC, says EHR incentives have been a catalyst for technology upgrades, but patients are the driving force behind ongoing PM changes.

    "Patients are saying, 'If I can't register for your practice online or ask for an appointment or get a prescription online, I really don't want to work with you,'" she says. "If the convenience isn't there, [they] don't have time in [their] lives for a physician who is not going to offer these things."

    Richard Goldberg, MD, introduced Hello Health into his family medicine practice in Manhattan, New York. He describes the product as a "win-win" for his practice.

    "Most people like not having to come down for medical records, and a lot of people like getting involved in their own care," he says. "The only problem is, the people who don't want to use it upset our flow a little bit."

    Hello Health markets itself as a "PM platform for primary care" by offering a free Web-based EHR/PM system that generates incremental revenue for physicians through patient engagement services such as secure email, instant messaging, online video, and telephone consultations.

    Patients who sign up for the service pay a $36 annual subscription fee, a portion of which goes back to Hello Health, and the physician receives all revenue from virtual visits.

    Stephen Armstrong, Hello Health vice president of marketing, says the platform allows patients to become "stakeholders" in their medical care for the price of a "cup of coffee a month."

    "You layer that with the fact that it's designed to be a revenue-generating opportunity for the practice," he says, "and it becomes very palatable for any practice to say, 'I don't have to worry about whether I can afford technology. Now it's actually going to help me make some money, too.'"

    As Hello Health customers, primary care physicians (PCPs) receive a branded practice Web site that serves as a secure patient portal for scheduling appointments and accessing lab results, prescriptions, and personal health records as well as communicating with their doctors. Hello Health is now used by physicians in 20 states.

    "We think this is where the market needs to go with medical records," Armstrong says. "It is a fundamentally different way of thinking about it."