The investment, which is under $10 million, according to Practice Fusion CEO Ryan Howard, gives Salesforce a minority stake in the San Francisco company, which launched in 2006 and employs 20.
The deal also should alleviate doubts about Practice Fusion's financial "stability," Howard said.
Practice Fusion provides EMR, practice management, and patient scheduling apps free to physicians, generating revenue from banner ads targeted at doctors based on their specialties and other demographics. Doctors also have the option of buying an ad-free subscription for $100 a month, Howard said.
As part of the deal, Practice Fusion plans to use Salesforce's Force.com cloud infrastructure when Practice Fusion comes out in November with a new electronic personal health record app. That app will let patients securely access data in the Practice Fusion medical records that their doctors maintain.
Practice Fusion has about 18,000 physicians using its Web-based applications, Howard said. The company hopes to be among those the federal government taps to certify which EMR products are eligible for the $20 billion stimulus program, Howard said.
The Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT) is currently responsible for certifying EMR products, but that may change as requirements for stimulus funding are established. Practice Fusion's offering isn't CCHIT certified.
That doesn't faze Practice Fusion customer Dr. David Wyatt, an Atlanta physician whose three-office medical practice, Weight Loss MD, provides cash-only weight loss services to patients.
"We don't bill insurance companies, so I don't think we'd be eligible for the stimulus program anyway," he said. Wyatt, who's used Practice Fusion for two years, said it's as good as traditional EMR packages, especially since Practice Fusion recently added document scanning capabilities to its apps.
"I can customize the templates, and messaging is secure," Wyatt said. "And the software is free, you can't beat that."