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The whole truth?

Health IT vendor Practice Fusion grabbed headlines a couple of weeks ago with the news, first reported March 16 in the San Francisco Chronicle, that it would offer a free EMR to physician practices, thanks to a “deal” with Google.

Publications nationwide jumped on this story, which some interpreted as Google’s long-anticipated entry into the world of healthcare. As of this morning, Practice Fusion’s own Web site lists no less than 17 instances of media coverage the company has received since then, including my story in Digital HealthCare & Productivity last week.

Thanks to the publication schedule, my story didn’t appear until March 20, which gave me time to put in a call to Google and get spokesman Brandon McCormick to say, “This shouldn’t be interpreted as a product move on Google’s part.”

Further, an e-mailed official statement from Google read as following: “Practice Fusion has recently joined Google’s AdSense program to place ads on their Web pages. AdSense helps hundreds of thousands of publishers effectively monetize online content in just about every vertical category that exists on the Web. Practice Fusion’s participation in our AdSense program is not exclusive and should not be read as an indication of any product plans by Google.”


That makes it sound like Practice Fusion’s invocation of the G word was little more than a publicity stunt. I guess it worked, since so many publications—the Wall Street Journal included—took the bait.

The news also lit up the blogosphere.

Fred Trotter’s post called the news “snake oil” and “bunk”—and that was just in his headline.

A new blog called e-CareManagement took issue with the business model and raised the obvious privacy concerns about an ad-supported EMR. That blog’s writer, Vince Kuraitis, e-mailed me twice last week.

The first message questoned both Practice Fusion’s ethics and the wisdom of publicizing the supposed business connection to Google. The second message, sent exactly nine minutes later, said the following:

…one more thing that doesn’t fit…

Google AdSense revenue is peanuts, see, e.g.,

certainly not enough to sustain an EHR.

On the other hand, you would think that PF would have negotiated a special
click thru rate with AdSense knowing that doctor eyeballs poised on an EHR
at the point of care would be worth a lot more that an average eyeball.

….which would suggest that indeed there is a special deal with Google

…but which Google now denies ????

This thing stinks.

I don’t know if anything stinks or not, but I can vouch for the ad revenue being peanuts. Google doesn’t cut a check unless you have at least $100 in your account. I’ve had AdSense ads on this site since July 2005, and I haven’t seen a dime yet. But I never expected to make a profit from blogging.

On the other hand, Practice Fusion finally updated its blog on Tuesday, the first post since March 6. Perhaps the phones were ringing off the hook there for the past three weeks?

Stay tuned to this story and to my blog. I have at least two more posts in me, and hopefully I’ll have them up in the next day or two.

March 29, 2007 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.


In the days and weeks leading up to last month’s HIMSS conference, several people, probably hoping to get on my crowded dance card, noted that I was one of the more “important” journalists who covers health IT and healthcare policy. Flattering perhaps, but not exactly true. To me, importance in media is measured by audience size and influence. Based on a couple of recent stories, I really don’t have that much.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week how the price of generic drugs can vary so greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy. The story caught the attention of people all over America, including that of David E. Williams and his Health Business Blog, so much so that it’s generated extra traffic to my own blog the last couple of days. Why? Because I had essentially the same story nearly two years ago, first with this blog post from June 23, 2005, then in a story that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sept. 19, 2005.

Now, the Sun-Times is a major daily newspaper in the nation’s third-largest media market, but it just doesn’t have the readership numbers or the cachet among national policy-makers as does the Journal. Still, I take pride in knowing that I had the story way early—in the same manner Detroit’s WXYZ-TV must have taken pride in having the same story a couple of years before I did.

The same thing happened on a smaller scale two weeks ago, when Government Health IT reported on the demise of the Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange. That grabbed the attention of most of the healthcare trades nationwide, which is fine, except that Inside Healthcare Computing reported the news on Sept. 16, 2006. The archives are locked for subscribers only, but take my word, it’s there.

I didn’t write the story, though I am a frequent contributor to that publication. No matter, the target audience is more the CIO than the CEO or policy wonk. And guess which group has more clout on a national level?

Then there’s the matter of lifting the ban on cell phones in hospitals, something that’s also suddenly become a hot topic not only in the U.S., but in Britain as well. For the record, the Mobile Healthcare Alliance—a group that actually no longer exists—first put out a report at the 2004 TEPR conference, saying that the risk of hospital-systems interference from cell phones is manageable. Read my coverage here.

March 19, 2007 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Podcast: Jonathan Bush

NEW ORLEANS—As promised, here’s my particularly lively podcast with Jonathan Bush, president and CEO of athenahealth. I could tell you some of the highlights, but the details below ought to be teaser enough. Enjoy.

Podcast details: Interview with Jonathan Bush, president and CEO of athenahealth, recorded at HIMSS’07 in New Orleans. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 11.8 MB, running time 25:45.

2:12 HIMSS traffic
2:50 HIT interest in ambulatory care/Stark changes
4:05 “Battle of the Thunderdome” at the nexus of health IT
5:00 Personal health records
7:10 Role of government in health IT
7:56 Role of hospitals in promoting HIT adoption
9:25 Movement of money in healthcare supply chain
11:00 athenahealth’s relationship with Eclipsys
11:50 athenahealth’s business model
12:45 Plutonium shoes and the value of “free”
15:40 athenaClinicals and financial guarantees
16:55 Physicians and data entry
19:08 Office/workflow management as a supply chain
20:30 athena’s scanning/data-entry operation
21:20 Delivering results
22:45 Outlook for the industry
24:45 The “athena model”

March 1, 2007 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.