Healthcare giant WebMD may finally deliver on its promise to be a one-stop shop for physician information technology with the development of an integrated practice management system and electronic health records system.
Elmwood Park, N.J.-based WebMD used the Medical Group Management Association meeting in San Francisco to execute what it was calling a "soft launch" of its Intergy EHR.
Initial sales of the electronic health record product actually began in July, according to Jennifer Meyer, vice president of corporate communications.
Tom Stampiglia, president and chief operating officer of WebMD Practice Services division, the WebMD unit marketing the product, said the Intergy EHR suite was designed to work in a solo-physician practice as well as in large multispecialty groups.
Like most IT vendors, however, WebMD will push for sales in the mid-sized to large medical group market, having established what it calls "enterprise" sales, support and professional services groups to serve those customers. But it also will utilize a customer resource management system and online training capabilities to enable the company to make sales forays into the hard-to-reach small group market, where sales costs often exceed sales revenues.
It will target owners of its own Medical Manager practice management systems as well as new customers, Stampiglia said.
The company would not disclose sales or installation figures for the new system or the number of beta sites where it was tested.
Intergy EHR will sell for $7,500 to $15,000 per physician, depending on the type of hardware requested, storage and server capacity required, Stampiglia said. Annual fees will cost about 20% of licensing fees.
The company will not sell Intergy EHR through value added resellers, or VARs, as Medical Manager had been sold in the past. In February, the company disclosed that the Justice Department was joining a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of accounting irregularities linked to sales of Medical Manager systems to VARs.
The company has offered several clinical applications, including e-prescribing and document management systems, but a long-promised complete electronic medical record was long delayed. Meyer said WebMD went into a period of retrenchment and reevaluation. Stampiglia said Intergy EHR was designed from its inception with its sister practice management system, though either can be sold and used separately.
WebMD was founded in 1996 with a vision of using information technology and the Internet to revolutionize healthcare. After a binge of buying and mergers, WebMD managed to survive the dot-com crash of 2000 but has yet to post an annual profit, though it has been profitable so far this year. It has a respected Web portal business used by clinicians as well as the public, and owns a huge claims clearinghouse operation, formerly known as Envoy, renamed last week to WebMD Business Services.
David Kauder, M.D., is a urologist and president of the seven-physician Urology Consultants of the North Shore, with offices in Lynn, Salem and Peabody, Mass. His group replaced an aging practice management system with the WebMD practice management system called Intergy Practice in October 2003, then installed the Intergy EHR and went paperless in February this year, he said. Kauder was at the MGMA meeting Tuesday answering physician questions about the system.
With several of the physicians seeing patients in all three offices, each roughly 10 miles apart, the need for an electronic system was apparent, Kauder said. It was also easy to see with recent government support for electronic records that someday, all physicians would be required to adopt a system, he said. So, the question for his physicians was not whether they would buy, but which one and from which vendor, he said. Kauder said his group was looking for a system that integrated both a practice management and a clinical IT system.
Last year, before committing to a purchase, Kauder said he attended a WebMD user's group meeting and was impressed by WebMD employees.
"We saw people (who) were enthusiastic about listening and adding functions," Kauder said.
Kauder also said he expects a shakeout in the clinical IT industry and saw the size of WebMD as a plus. WebMD reported net income of nearly $5.8 million on almost $288 million in revenues and had more than $206 million in cash on hand for the quarter ending June 20, 2004, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"We wanted a company that has the capital to develop," he said. But the bottom line was the system itself, he said.
"I love the technology," Kauder said. "They have a super product."