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Of taxicabs, Square, drchrono and the future of iPad EHRs

Earlier this week in Washington D.C. after a long day at Datapalooza, colleague Jenny Laurello and I needed to grab separate cabs to return to our respective hotels. We both needed ones that accepted credit card payments; like most people, we don’t walk around with a lot of cash anymore.

Right off the bat, we spotted one for Jenny. It took a solid half hour for another to appear at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center taxi stand, despite the steady stream of cabs coming and going. When its driver finally deposited me at the hotel, I was still a little concerned about the whole “accepting plastic” thing, because he didn’t have the swipe-box terminal I’d seen elsewhere in D.C. cabs and in other cities I’ve visited.

No worries. He whipped out his iPhone, plugged in a curious little black thingy that read my card’s mag-stripe and emailed me a receipt. That fast. It was my first real-life encounter with Square, a personal credit-card acceptance device launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey two years ago.

Today, drchrono – an iPad EHR vendor that also offers Web-based billing and patient check-in systems – unveiled its own iPad/iPhone Square implementation, which enables small physician offices to accept credit card payments and then pipes the transaction information into its billing system. Along with other features new to drchrono, such as real-time insurance eligibility checks – the apps suite helps patients and providers both sort copayment and coverage issues while cutting down paperwork and billing-cycle time in one fell swoop.

In theory, even though the system still functions in our current fee-for-service health care model, it cuts at least a little bloat out of a health care system where costs run amok, especially for the smallest physician practices that may or may not be able to afford the overhead that traditional credit-card-acceptance involves. And it’s ONC-ACTB certified for meaningful use.

Most importantly, if this little Square device can’t itself make health care cheaper, per se, it does make doctor visits more straightforward for patients – which should be the primary goal of all good health IT gear.

After seeing Square in action for the first time for myself – fully understanding how it saved me time, and enabled an independent cabbie’s business to act more nimbly and serve his customers better than his more well-funded competition – all I can say is, “wow.”

In a recent, unrelated interview, Gartner analyst and federal HIT advisory-committee stalwart Wes Rishel hypothesized that vendor size means nothing in health care: A few years from now, he predicted a handful of presently small, perhaps relatively unknown companies with new ideas could be game-changers and dominate the space…and maybe even replace some of the present market titans.

Coincidentally, the iPad, Square and drchrono all hit the market with in relatively quick succession in 2009 and 2010.

“We’re iterating way faster than larger vendors,” drchrono co-founder Daniel Kivatinos said in an interview with SearchHealthIT. “They don’t realize where these mobile devices are going. They don’t realize how predominant it’s going to be. The way I see it, every doctor, at some point, is going to have some tablet device.”

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Of taxicabs, Square, drchrono and the future of #iPad EHRs #meaningfuluse #healthdata
@DonFluckinger's taxicab-inspired post: #Square, #drchrono and future of #iPad EHRs #healthIT