Healthfinch is extracting info from the NextGen EMR in use at Elmhurst. I was surprised that existing EMRs don't yet have the refill-request-delegation features built into them.
"The evolution of EMRs didn't really come from the clinical side so much," Lurye says. "The real return on investment on EMRs initially was that they helped to do charge capture better and meet coding criteria for various types of visits. They've become over time much, much more clinically oriented, and that's great."
Berkowitz sees EMRs as a platform on which a multitude of apps can be built, much as apps now get built on mobile platforms such as Apple's iOS or Google's Android.
"EMR vendors are pretty much focused on Meaningful Use right now," he says. "Nothing in Meaningful Use really says, 'Make a tool that makes the doctor more efficient.' Our tool doesn't help Meaningful Use. It simply helps the doctor be more efficient and provide higher-quality care."
EMR vendors are beginning to open up their platforms to allow third-party vendors to build these apps. "Allscripts and Greenway are leading the charge," Berkowitz says. Others will follow. For now, that means apps such as Healthfinch have to find more cumbersome ways to extract and use data.
But clearly this notion of EMR apps is going to be much, much bigger than just delegating refill requests. The healthcare ecosystem, ranging from payers to caregivers and encompassing financial analysts, quality mavens, and researchers, is starting to tap vast quantities of patient data that will accelerate the pace of innovation in healthcare technology by leaps and bounds.
To me it's very encouraging that there are physician-leaders such as Berkowitz who, while keeping their day jobs, have found ways in their spare time to advance this ball. The message is clear to healthcare technology vendors: If the Lyle Berkowitzes of the world can get this done, you should, too—and more.