Brown & Toland Medical Group has launched the first element in what its medical director hopes will become the provision of a subscription-based, complete electronic medical record service for its 700 community physicians.
Peter Alperin, M.D., said the San Francisco-based independent practice association began offering its members Web access free of charge to see lab results from LabCorp.
"All they have to do is to configure their browsers to run it and come to training," said Alperin, who is medical director at the IPA. "We have many labs in our network, but the largest nonhospital lab is LabCorp. Almost every doctor is using (it). I know they account for roughly half of our business."
Hospital lab data won't be available, for now, but they're working on it, he said.
Alperin freely concedes there's a string attached to giving doctors the free lab results.
"It's the hook," he said. "It's the seed of interest. The idea was to add value immediately, and it requires a low barrier of entry with ease of use to our physicians."
Hopefully, Alperin said, physicians then will take a closer look at purchasing other modules of the EMR that Brown & Toland is offering under a special marketing arrangement with Allscripts Healthcare Solutions. The software and data-storage equipment will reside at a centralized location run by technicians employed by Brown & Toland, which will purchase the EMR software licenses from Allscripts and, acting as an application service provider, resell them to members.
The arrangement will relieve member physicians of the high upfront costs of purchasing software licenses, as well as eliminate the need for them to hire their own IT support staffs, Alperin said. Brown & Toland will support the software as part of the contract, which should cost physicians about $350 to $450 per month for a full EMR.
The IPA also has a list of preferred hardware vendors and configurations, to make it easier for physicians to get the systems running.
"If you're a physician and you're a three-man office, having an IT support staff is expensive," Alperin said. "We can negotiate a volume discount, operate a support staff and lower the barrier to entry for our members."
The first office on the full EMR will go live in January, Alperin said.
In July 2003, the Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against Brown & Toland, accusing it of price-fixing and other antitrust activities with its PPO enrollees. The IPA settled with the FTC in February, signing a consent decree barring it from negotiating with payers on behalf of physicians or setting contract terms for physicians without further clinical or financial integration.
Now, the multispecialty IPA, which has more than 1,500 physician members including specialists, is seeking FTC approval for a clinical integration plan that would lift the ban on negotiating on behalf of its PPO physicians.
Alperin said this EMR initiative "takes Brown & Toland further down the path of clinical integration."