Brown & Toland Medical Group, based in San Francisco, 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., says the independent practice association began offering its members free Web access to see lab results from LabCorp.
"All they have to do is to configure their browsers to run it and come to training," says Alperin, who is the organization's medical director. "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 says.
Alperin freely concedes there's a string attached to giving doctors the free lab results.
"It's the hook," he says. "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 says, physicians then will take a closer look at purchasing other modules of the EMR that Brown & Toland is offering under a special market- ing arrangement with Allscripts Health- care 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 says. 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 says. "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 says.
Brown & Toland's effort illustrates the findings from a recent Commonwealth Fund survey that found that physicians in large group practices are 7.7 times more likely to practice in a "high-tech" information technology environment than physicians in solo practices (Dec. 13, p. 34).