Practice Fusion partners with Google to offer free EHRs

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San Francisco-based Practice Fusion announced a deal with Google to offer electronic health record systems to physicians and healthcare organizations for free, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. Unlike traditional EHRs which can be extremely expensive, this model would pay for the service through advertising driven by Google’s AdSense network, which will generate keyword-based ads to be shown to users as the records system are in use. Google and Practice Fusion will split ad revenues generated from the system.

Practice Fusion also offers practice-management tools, such as billing systems. Other companies offer web-based electronic medical records but they are the first to come forward with a this type of free service.

"There are 830,000 doctors in this country and two-thirds are in practice with eight physicians or less," said Ryan Howard, Practice Fusion chief executive officer. "We help out the little guy," he added, the Chronicle reports.

Howard said that pharmaceutical companies, for instance, are very likely to be keen on having an opportunity to display drug ads to interested physicians. But it is expected that other companies will be interested in this type of advertising opportunity, such as insurance companies.

Physicians who don’t like the idea of the advertising-based model can pay for the use of the systems via a monthly $250 monthly fee.  And clearly not everyone is happy about the situation. Privacy experts are wary of companies making a profit off of people’s health information, regardless of security reassurances, the Chronicle reports.

"It still comes down to the fact the company is using people's sensitive, personal information for profit," Allison Knight, staff attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, told the Chronicle.