The Year's Top 5 Health Tech Surprises

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Practice Fusion takes a closer look at the major trends and surprises that changed the health information technology landscape in 2011.

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2011 was a transformative year for health IT. Practice Fusion saw dramatic changes across the board: from medical practices forgoing paper charts to join the digital revolution, to patients taking more control of their health by enrolling in Personal Health Records (PHR). As the percentage of doctors who have basic electronic health records doubled between in the last few years, health information technology has become a top disruptive force while continuing to drive robust employment growth.

Here are the top five surprises that reshaped the health IT sector in 2011:

5. Heads Were in the Clouds

A recent IDC survey reported that 54 percent of medical organizations looked into using the cloud in 2011, while 21 percent adopted web-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems. The annual health IT conference, HIMSS 2011, was packed with new and established EMR vendors moving away from traditional client-installed servers to focus on web-based offerings. Skepticism of cloud-based EMRs faded as the sector saw value in giving doctors secure access to records anywhere, reducing installation hurdles, simplifying reporting and supporting interoperability.

4. Health IT Hiring Boomed

While other sectors continued layoffs in 2011, healthcare couldn’t seem to hire fast enough. From Silicon Valley to the Research Triangle, the $805 billion US tech landscape soared despite the recession and saw a new focus on health. The 2009 economic stimulus plan was predicted to create 50,000 to 100,000 new jobs to support the EMR transition. Practice Fusion more than doubled in size since 2010, growing 50 percent in just the first quarter of 2011. Epic announced plans to add 900 new employees, Allscripts to add 300 in Chicago and Greenway to hire 400 over the next few years.

3. Tablets Took Off

In addition to their emergence in hospitals, 2011 saw an upward trend of iPad usage among small practice providers, including those offering traditional house calls and concierge care. With 22 percent adoption among medical providers, as reported in a Chilmark Research report, the iPad is emerging as a key tool for US doctors and medical professionals transitioning from paper charts.

2. Google Health Said Goodbye

In July, Google Heath announced the end of their Personal Health Record (PHR) system and stirred up forecasts of the permanent death of the PHR. Launched in 2008, Google Health struggled with getting access to medical data and finding patients to participate. The failure of Google Health, contrary to heralding the end of PHRs, showed the importance of PHR systems being natively connected to EMRs. Connected systems at Kaiser, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Practice Fusion continued to succeed with giving patients control of their records.

1. Small Practices Led Meaningful Use

Contrary to predictions, small medical practices - not hospitals - led the national Meaningful Use program for EMR adoption in 2011. According to research by Practice Fusion’s Medical Director, Dr. Robert Rowley, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) records show that nearly 4,000 eligible medical professionals (most solo practitioners) received their stimulus checks in 2011 so far. Eligible providers received up to $18,000 to $21,000 each in their first year under the incentive program.
“Small practices are signing up, and receiving their incentive money in significant number,” says Rowley. “The availability of web-based and free EHR options has been particularly significant for the smaller-practice end of the healthcare delivery spectrum, which is still where the majority of practitioners reside.”

Practice Fusion is a free, web-based Electronic Medical Record system. Over 130,000 healthcare providers use Practice Fusion for charting, scheduling, e-prescribing and sharing records with patients. For more information, please visit


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Helen Phung
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