“It’s absurd that people won’t go to a restaurant unless they’ve read reviews but they don’t do that for their healthcare.” That’s why top electronic medical records startup Practice Fusion‘s CEO Ryan Howard said his company built Patient Fusion, a site where you can compare reviews of nearby physicians and book appointments as soon as within an hour. You could call it Yelp meets Uber for doctors, but with a big data angle that could ensure you’re seen regularly so you don’t get sick in the first place.
From EMR To $$$ To IPO
Practice Fusion found huge success over the past few years with its free electronic medical records (EMR) platform for doctors. Since Howard founded the company in 2005, it’s raised $70 million up through a Series C, grown to 255 employees, recruited 150,000 medical professionals onto its software, and now hosts records for 60 million patients in the US. That makes it the largest web-based EMR platform, and arguably the biggest overall behind the 27-year-old industry veteran AllScripts that’s slowing down.
Rather than charge doctors or patients, Practice Fusion lets labs, pharmacies, and other healthcare businesses competing for doctors’ referrals to advertise to physicians through the platform. It’s a strong business, as Howard tells me Practice Fusion will be “well into the eight-digits of revenue this year” and it’s “close” to profitable. He confesses that internally there’s been “a lot of dialogues about going public”, and that the company probably will take just one more round of venture funding later this year before that happens.
The core mission of Practice Fusion is to make people healthier. 200,000 people die each year due to allergic reactions to medicine and other complications that could have been prevented if their doctor knew their full medical history. Practice Fusion’s EMR platform lets doctors easily log and track health data of their patients, who can bring the record with them to any medical appointment.
Taking The Hassle Out Of Health
Making those appointments, though, is a big hassle requiring several calls to a doctor’s office. And patients don’t have an easy way of finding high quality, verified doctors. That’s where Patient Fusion comes in.
When Practice Fusion signs up a doctor, it verifies their identity and that they’re a certified physician. Then Practice Fusion emails their patients after appointments and asks them to review their doctor’s overall performance, bedside manner, waiting time, and if the treatment worked. And unlike Yelp where anyone can rate any doctor with having even having seen them, Patient Fusion has 1.5 million reviews based on visits it knows actually happened. This verified review system works similar to ZocDoc, and let Practice Fusion create the local doctor search and review side of Patient Fusion.
Once a user has found a great doctor nearby, they can check the office’s schedule and book an appointment with no phone call required. That’s because Practice Fusion already serves as the calendar system for doctors on its EMR platform. All it had to do was let patients request to fill their doctors’ free slots. You can even search for a certain time slot across all nearby doctors so you can find the next available appointment if you want almost-immediate attention.
The Patient Fusion system could seriously boost efficiency and transparency in healthcare, get people to see their doctors more often, and make everyone live stronger. It’s a boon to doctors’ profitability since a third of all staff time is spent scheduling appointments which can now happen almost automatically, and it assists docs with recruiting new patients. Most doctors have a shoddy web presence and aren’t great at marketing so that’s a big help.
In turn, Howard says Pateint Fusion generates “more prescriptions, more lab tests, and more data we can mine insights from — all channels we monetize today.” Revenue will keep growing as more of Practice Fusion’s EMR customers opt into being listed in Patient Fusion. Howard says most docs love it, except for the tiny percentage who are exposed as quacks by bad reviews. “If the worst doctors ended up not practicing anymore [because of Patient Fusion], that’s a legacy I can live with” Howard jokes.
Big Data, Better Care
The CEO agreed to give me a preview of the roadmap for Patient Fusion, which includes iOS and Android apps for search, appointments, and toting around your medical record. One important thing that’s missing in the launch version is the ability to sort doctors by those covered by your health insurance, but Howard tells me that should be added within a month. And down the road he hinted that you might even be able to pay for your appointments.
As for Practice Fusion, it’s working on an API so quantified self devices can contribute data. That way you could correlate how your running routine or sleeping habits interact with medicines you’re taking. The company is also trying to bring in some rockstar executives and directors to lead its team that’s a bit on the young side.
What’s most exciting is the intel that can emerge as its vault of health data grows richer and richer. The 100Plus team it recently acquired is building out an iPad app that analyzes fluctuations in how frequently different drugs are prescribed, which could blossom into a stock ticker for medicines. And with doctors appointments and medical records in the same system, Practice Fusion could truly advance preventative care. Soon, it could send you an email that says “You’re 40 and have high blood pressure but haven’t seen a doctor for a year. Why don’t you come in for a quick check up?”