The Benefits of an Ad-Supported EMR

Like all Americans, I see advertisements all the time. They pretty much fade into the background these days though there are some that do get to me, like the ones before movies. If I’m seeing ads then that should make something free but movie tickets are expensive.

Services like Gmail, Facebook, network television, iPhone applications, radio, etc. have all been able to provide something for free by including ads, which I’m grateful for. At the same time, they need to be careful about how those ads are presented.

When I started working at Practice Fusion, one of the first things I wanted to know was how discreet the ad banners in the web-based EMR were. It was easy to find out, all I had to do was attend a demonstration.

And they definitely are discreet. In fact, there is an option to turn the ads off for $100 a month, which is still significantly cheaper than other EMRs. What’s amazing is that, with over 60,000 sign ups, very few users select that option.

One time before hosting a Practice Fusion electronic health record demonstration, I spoke to a doctor who was adamantly against ads in general and wanted to see them before she signed up. I said that of course I would show them during my demonstration. After opening up the call for Q&A she angrily chimed in that I had lied to her and hid the ads the entire time. I told her to take another look at the bottom of the screen where the banner was. There were a few seconds of silence and then, “Oooooh, ok. I didn’t even notice that! That won’t get in the way at all.”

I can understand being perfectly fine with discreet ads that don’t interrupt workflow. However, something I’m still trying to get my head around is that many of our users actually like the ads. This was a shock at first, though after hearing their feedback it started to make sense.

Our VP of Product Development tells a story about the first time an ad for cheaper generic drugs was pulled from the EMR because the contract expired. We immediately started to receive emails asking us to put it back up because it reminded users how to save their patients money.

I once talked to a doctor who commented on the fact that the ads shown are based on region and specialty and asked if I could turn on all the ads for him. Why would he want to see ads for other regions and specialties? He said it’s one way he keeps up on the industry as a whole.

I’ve even heard multiple users thank our account managers for the ads because they run private practices in rural areas and don’t hear about new drugs and services. And we often hear praise for the dictation software, hardware deals and other services that are advertised.

The other day a user emailed us to say that “not only was I impressed by how subtle and non-intrusive the ads are… I actually LIKE this feature, as it is very hard to keep up with all the new drugs, and for me, it is like a bonus, as I practice solo in a rural area… [the ads] are a convenient way to learn what’s new and keep up to pace.”

Derek Ward
Trainer, Product Evangelist
Practice Fusion EMR