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Practice Fusion Seeking to Heal One of the Biggest Challenges to Health Care System

In a world where everyone is connecting online, doctors and hospitals have been struggling to streamline decades of disconnected data. Electronic health records (EHR) are the way of the future. A 2011 McKinsey & Company study suggested that the health care industry could save $300 billion a year with the better data management that EHR provides. San Francisco-based Practice Fusion is trying to fix the data problem and is a leader in the industry, putting you health records online and making them accessible to doctors.

CEO Ryan Howard launched the company in 2005 after running into his own problems transferring his health records. "In 1999 I drove from New Hampshire to San Francisco, and I realized during the transition that I had a struggle getting my health records," he explains. "As I dug into this further I realized that the average patient sees 19 different doctors in their lifetime and that there's 200,000 deaths a year because this information is not available."

Practice Fusion handles every step of your doctors visit beginning with scheduling your appointment. When you arrive and a nurse takes your vitals, like weight, blood pressure, allergies, and your ailment, that is added to the Practice Fusion system, creating a personalized medical record that can be shared with any doctor that may need it. It's even connected to most pharmacies so when you leave the office your medication will be ready to pick up.

"It's the most efficient place for [pharmaceutical companies ] to come and have a dialog with doctors. The laboratories, it's the most efficient place for them to come and connect with doctors," says Howard.

And perhaps the best part, it's free for doctors and patients. As for profit, it's all about the data.

"It's the largest, highest transaction health care platform in the United States," says Howard. "So we know what type of drugs are being written on the platform, why doctors are writing particular drugs. We know different standards of care. We can identify the best doctors in the country and take that standard and apply it to all the other doctors as well. So there’s a number of different things that the data at scale brings to the market where there’s a monetization opportunity."

Practice Fusion now has over 150,000 medical professionals, mostly at smaller private practices, and tens of millions of patients in their system.

"Eighty-percent of all doctors are in offices of eight or less [employees], that's really where we thrive," Howard says. "There's about 400 competitors...but one out of four doctors choosing an electronic health record in that market today chooses practice fusion, so we are by far one of the, if not the de facto market players out there."

And the competition could get even more fierce next year as millions of uninsured Americans are due to enter the health care system as Obamacare takes full effect.

"It will definitely help the business," Howard contends, "making sure that the 40 million patients that are uninsured today are getting treatment and care is something we can definitely help with...We're able to free up a lot of the doctor's inventory to make it available to those 40 million patients that need to be treated."

And Practice Fusion is banking on that growth. Literally.

"We've raised roughly 66 million dollars, we have Peter Thiel in the founders fund, Artis Capital and some other top tier firms with the company," he says. "I think in this current market and with the current growth of the company, an IPO is very potential in the future and I think that's something we'll talk about over the next couple of years."

So Howard has the funding, the demand, and the drive to take his company public. The question is whether Practice Fusion can maintain their lead and continue to grow profits in this super competitive industry.

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