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1/13/2014
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Practice Fusion, Practice iQ Team To Support ACOs

Combination of EHR, analytics will support independent physicians who want to participate in accountable care organizations.

The Practice iQ service that helps independent physicians participate in new, value-based business models will recommend Practice Fusion as a complementary electronic health records (EHRs) service under a deal announced Monday.

Practice iQ is a product of Healthagen, a business unit Aetna established last year, and offers a suite of payer-neutral care management technology and business services to help independent physician groups operate in value-based reimbursement models such as accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient centered medical homes (PCMHs).

While there are several competing models for how these arrangements should be structured, the unifying idea is to make payment dependent on quality and value measures rather than the volume of visits or procedures. These new approaches to paying for healthcare are encouraged by the Affordable Care Act, through Medicare programs, and by private insurers as a way of containing costs while improving quality. While in some ways not so different from the health maintenance organizations of the past, these new models are enabled by today's greater availability of data and analytics technologies. The requirement for patient health data makes having a capable EHR system a prerequisite for participation.

Practice iQ aims to help independent physician associations participate in these models, which otherwise tend to be dominated by large hospital-led healthcare systems. Practice Fusion claims to have 100,000 medical professionals active on its cloud service each month, many of whom are part of the smaller, independent practices that Practice iQ aims to help.

[Why are cloud services are only one piece? Read Athenahealth: The Other Side Of The Cloud.]

"We'll be the preferred vendor for practices that haven't adopted an EHR yet," said Todd Martin, senior VP of business development at Practice Fusion. In the first half of 2014, Practice Fusion and Practice iQ will also work together to ensure that data flows smoothly between the two systems, he said in an interview. The goal is to allow physicians to get feedback on their performance, as measured by Practice iQ, from within the EHR environment -- avoiding the need to manage quality through spreadsheets, he said. "What will really solve the problem will be consolidated, bidirectional analysis, and we'll be able to do that in a way that isn't disruptive to the provider."

(Source: Flickr, CC-BY-SA)
(Source: Flickr, CC-BY-SA)

Practice Fusion's Free EHR business model makes the cost to the physician zero, but Practice iQ will compensate Practice Fusion for the exchanges it manages through the partnership, Martin said.

"Practice iQ understands the pressures faced by independent physicians as the healthcare environment shifts from volume-based to value-based care," Brian Parker, president of Practice iQ, said in a statement. "Adapting to this new model can seem overwhelming, but Practice iQ is dedicated to helping doctors navigate through the changes and emerge successful. Working with Practice Fusion, we can deliver care coordination information to doctors within their current EHR workflow to streamline the process and improve their success."

David F. Carr is the Editor of Information Healthcare and a contributor on social business, as well as the author of Social Collaboration For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter @davidfcarr or Google+.

Though the online exchange of medical records is central to the government's Meaningful Use program, the effort to make such transactions routine has just begun. Also in the Barriers to Health Information Exchange issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: why cloud startups favor Direct Protocol as a simpler alternative to centralized HIEs. (Free registration required.)

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