At a conference of heath care executives on Monday, the scion of IT and pharmaceutical giants showed off the latest version of its practice and clinical management system, specifically geared toward small physician offices.
The next-generation system from Amicore—founded in 2001 by Microsoft Corp., IBM and Pfizer Inc.—employs Microsofts .Net tools, is designed specifically for the Tablet PC, and combines functions for both practice and clinical management into one database. The current rollout is for the clinical side, with the practice side coming early next year.
The key advantage is ease of use, said Ray Desrochers, vice president of development for Amicore. The product is a combination of a client-side server and an application service provider. While "headless" servers physically store information at physician offices, periodic updates and regular backups are controlled remotely by Amicore.
"Thats a very familiar solution," said Manuel Lowenhaupt, a physician and national practice leader for clinical transformation at CapGemini Health. "The typical physician office has no interest in maintaining any hardware and has no infrastructure to support IT."
Lowenhaupt also is seeing an increase in systems that integrate claims processing and patient visits. "Im seeing more and more of the successful solutions embracing both the clinical and business aspects of the office. Wouldnt it be nice when I was submitting a claim, if I could easily attach the clinical documentation of support?"
However, the vision of a product often lags behind execution, he said, so small physician practices should interview others about the vendors they use. Even if those practices are not using the vendors latest product, such queries can still be valuable.
He said that in a recent analysis, the cost of acquiring a fully functioning EMR (electronic medical records) system for an ambulatory system was $75,000 per physician, and maintenance would be around $30,000 per physician per year including devices. However, he said, low-cost systems could be a tenth of that.
Excluding hardware, a group of 20 physicians should be able to get the system running for $7,000 to $10,000 per physician per year, said Amicores Desrochers, adding that ballpark pricing is difficult because the number of front-office staff per physician as well as software configurations vary widely. Currently, about 1,200 physicians are using the product.
Amicores president, Rich Noffsinger, declined to discuss any projections for future sales, saying only that he had high expectations.
Noffsinger said that his company had very consciously gone after the small-group market because that would reach the majority of physicians. "You cant have a meaningful impact on the marketplace if you ignore that big group. So we made sure [the products] cost was very low and easy to support."
Small physician offices have been reluctant to adopt health care IT.
Desrochers said the software is both intuitive and highly customizable, modeled on the Outlook interface. For example, individual physicians can select the order in which information is entered into the system based on the way they prefer to conduct patient interviews.
Like other EMR systems, Amicores can communicate with systems for payers (using ANSI standards) and laboratories (using HL-7). Desrochers said Amicores alliance with Microsoft means it can react to changes in standards more quickly than other companies.
For example, Amicore uses Microsofts BizTalk 2004 with health accelerators, an HL-7 accelerator and a HIPAA accelerator. So "the exchange comes out of the box without tons and tons of hand-coding." Other companies with EMR offerings, such as NextGen and Greenway, also use BizTalk.
Still, Desrochers said Amicores parents give it a special advantage. "Client/server solutions dont have the ability to quickly adapt to changing standards. We have built from the ground up a program that has a lot of flexibility from a data exchange system. We knew that those standards would be important going forward."
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