Dell, Practice Fusion to Offer Medical Records System

Dell and Practice Fusion will offer smaller medical practices around the country a "technology suite" of both hardware and software for electronic medical records. Once installed, the system would allow those offices to electronically chart, schedule, prescribe and issue lab orders. Dell's contribution, unsurprisingly, will be hardware, paired with Practice Fusion's cloud-based EMR system. Electronic medical records have been attracting a good deal of attention as an efficiency-boosting and cost-saving measure for medical practices.

Dell and Practice Fusion plan on delivering electronic medical record technology to smaller medical practices around the country, as part of a packaged solution that includes both hardware and cloud-based applications, according to a June 3 announcement by both companies.

As part of the package, Dell will supply broadband hardware, desktop and laptop computers, scanners, and printers. That would be paired with Practice Fusion's cloud-based EMR (electronic medical record) system, which in turn would allow those small medical offices to electronically chart, schedule, prescribe and issue lab orders.

"Small medical practices face a unique set of challenges in the U.S.," Scott Jenkins, vice president of Dell Healthcare Solutions, wrote in a statement. "They're small businesses and represent the front line of our health care system. Our goal is to bring leading edge, yet very affordable technology to small practices and simplify how they use and manage it so that doctors can focus their attention on serving patients and delivering the highest levels of medical care."

Practice Fusion offers its EMR system for free, with advertisements, as well as an ad-free version for $100 a month. Given the company's cloud-based nature, it is perhaps unsurprising that holds a minority stake.

"There is no reason for American doctors to continue using paper records," Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, wrote in a statement. "With Dell and Practice Fusion, making the switch to an Electronic Medical Record system is affordable and easy. It is exhilarating to see U.S. healthcare, at both the local and national levels, make the transition to modern, life-saving information technology."

IT spending within the health care industry is expected to increase in 2010, to more than $2.4 trillion, according to research firm Gartner. That number represents a 4.1 increase from 2009, when the global recession forced many businesses to curtail their IT budgets. Health care providers will spend more modestly than government agencies or other groups, however, with Gartner predicting a year-over-year increase of 2.9 percent, to $88.6 billion.

Given the increasing nationwide emphasis on EMRs, some medical offices are seeing grants from the federal government to help transition from paper to digital. In New York, some $48.2 million in federal grants will go to primary care providers to implement electronic records. On Feb. 12, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that nearly a billion dollars would go to furthering EMR technology and the workers capable of managing it, with $225 million of that money going to train 15,000 individuals for occupations involving EHRs; the federal government also plans on spending $375 million setting up 32 regional extension centers to help primary care givers transition to more extensive EMR usage.