With 2,600 physicians, Hill Physicians Medical Group in San Ramon is the largest independent practice association (IPA) in northern California. A closed network for the group, which is scattered across more than 1,200 practice locations, is not an option, says Craig Lanway, vice president and CIO. Internet strategies are key.
Hill Physicians' relationship with RelayHealth, Emeryville, Calif., dates to 2003. When RelayHealth first contacted him with its messaging product, Lanway had no evidence that physicians or patients wanted to communicate online — but he liked concept. "We saw this as a business opportunity," he says.
And Lanway liked RelayHealth's approach to the highly structured patient communication process and e-prescribing. Doing a collaborative e-referral project enabled him to evaluate the company's performance and responsiveness at close range.
In 2005, Hill Medical added RelayHealth's full range of offerings, including e-prescribing, Web visits and lab results.
In March, the IPA celebrated half a million message exchanges between nearly 1,000 online physicians and more than 140,000 patients by announcing expansion plans to physician offices.
Physicians commonly start with e-prescribing, which is the most complicated, and with simple messaging, says Lanway. Now involved in a 10-year project to roll out Horsham, Pa.-based NextGen's electronic medical record system, he says an ongoing and very important part of the EMR strategy is working to integrate the two systems.
"There needs to be some patience as you approach this. It takes a long time to do these things. You don't just open the box and turn it on and it works, because you're working with complicated workflows that are all different in every practice you go to. You have to build a trusting relationship where the physicians believe what you're trying to do benefits them."
Robert Farina is CEO of Parsippany, N.J.-based CyberShift.