Bill Crounse, M.D., a family practitioner for 20 years and the global healthcare industry manager for software giant Microsoft, says for electronic medical records to reach solo and small-group physician offices in great numbers, price is a key variable.
"Perfection has become the enemy of the good," says Crounse, given that their hefty price is preventing top-shelf electronic medical records from reaching small-group and solo physician offices in great numbers.
With 500 million users worldwide and a $7 billion research and development program, Microsoft is "getting calls from people all over the world, including from a lot of doctors, who are looking to Microsoft to solve this," Crounse says.
An EMR priced at around $200 a month -- not a top-of-the-line product but one at a minimum able to record the basic elements of a patient encounter -- might be a "tipping point for a lot of small physician offices," he says. The good news is such a price could be achievable soon with template-based "commodity" software programs available online, Crounse says.
The lower price could be a boost for the U.S. healthcare industry in particular, which badly trails much of the world in the use of EMRs, ranking 23rd on a list of 25 industrialized nations.
Crounse hopes a Microsoft product called InfoPath, part of the Microsoft Office suite, can lead the way. InfoPath permits the creation and use of "intelligent forms" based on XML, a popular language for Web-based communications.
A form developed with the software "looks for all the world like what you've used in your office for the last 50 years," Crounse says, except the form is on a computer and can be embedded with tools, such as clinical alerts, that make it much more powerful than paper forms.
Microsoft sees its base audience for InfoPath as vendors, which would develop the clinical forms and provide the value-added software, such as drug contraindication alerts, then market the forms to physicians.
InfoPath "allows people to do this at very low cost," Crounse says. "We looked at that price point of a couple hundred dollars a month, and we have no doubt it can be met using some of these products."