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An inside look into cloud EHR vendor Practice Fusion

Despite concerns about the cloud, cloud EHRs are ramping up in popularity. Some of the top cloud EHR vendors include eClinicalWorks, Amazing Charts and athenahealth, which has announced plans to scale up its EHR to serve midsize hospitals.

Practice Fusion, which is mainly used by smaller physician practices in the one to 10 provider range across various specialties with a focus in primary care, is also a high profile ambulatory cloud EHR vendor and SearchHealthIT's news writer, Kristen Lee, had the opportunity to visit the company's San Francisco office to speak with Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Informatics at Practice Fusion, Richard Loomis.

Loomis discussed the benefits of a cloud EHR, how Practice Fusion's EHR works -- side note: it's free for providers -- and the company's unique culture.

"We're unique in that we're a cloud-based EHR platform and so this means that rather than having a local software to install in your practice and servers to run, we do all of that for you," Loomis said. "We host our software and our solutions in the internet, or in the cloud so to speak, and what that means is as a practice all you need is a computer and an internet connection through a web browser to access our software."

Providers can sign up to use Practice Fusion's EHR on the company's website and support is provided should customers need help during the implementation process -- which Loomis said usually takes between two and six weeks. He added that in addition to an easy implementation process, other benefits of the cloud include the ability to roll out security updates and patches so that providers don't have to do it themselves, and the ability for patients and providers to access information in the EHR anywhere, at any time.

Loomis believes that the cloud will also play a major role when it comes to ensuring healthcare organizations meet new regulation requirements, such as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

"As we increasingly move towards a complex regulatory environment with new programs from CMS and other organizations shifting us towards value-based care delivery models, MACRA being a great example of that, cloud-based technology will increasingly be important because it will allow software vendors to rapidly meet the demands of these new regulations and roll out the new features and functionalities that are required to help practices meet the requirements of the value-based programs," Loomis said.

He also discussed the company's unique workplace culture. For example, Practice Fusion has a dog policy which allows employees to bring their dogs to work -- which tends to lower stress levels -- and no one, not even C-level employees, has a walled off office. Everyone shares the same space, which facilitates collaboration. Loomis adds that being located right by Silicon Valley has influenced the company and its culture as well.

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