Allscripts-Misys revenues surge, but some Chicago doctors cling to paper records

by Felice Baker

Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc. is signing an increasing number of physician groups on to the Allscripts Electronic Health Record and Practice Management solution, which—on top of the October merger of Allscripts and Mysis— led to a 29 percent surge in the company’s revenue to $128 million in the quarter ended Nov. 30. 

One out of three physician groups nation-wide use the Allscripts-Misys system, making for a client base of about 150,000 physician groups, according to Allscripts-Misys. 
The technology allows physicians to file and easily access patient information, universal medical research which can lead to safer prescribing, and a series of other automated services which Chicago-based Allscripts-Misys says will result in improved patient care. The Obama administration is expected to push for greater computerization of health records.

Out of ten Chicago medical practices and hospitals interviewed, three said their organizations were still paper-based, but that they were considering switching to electronic medical information systems. Elaine Rogers, who works in the medical record-keeping department at Lincoln Park Hospital, said that the hospital willswitching over its soon, but did not know which provider it will select.

“We’re not electronic yet,� said Rogers. “But we should be in a couple of years.�

Another four said that they have already installed electronic information systems, but all four systems were provided by Allscript-Misys’s competitors such as Electronic Data Systems Corp. and NexGen Technologies Inc.

Finally, three said that they have no immediate plans for transitioning from a traditional paper-based information system. John Pochie, director for quality assurance for Mobile Doctors—a practice that makes house calls for the disabled and the elderly—emphatically specified why the practice will not be transitioning.

“Not unless the government makes us,� said Pochie. “None of the different brands of the electronic systems talk to each other and the outlay for such a product is unbelievably high.�

Asked whether he thought the initial costs for an electronic information system would be offset by future efficiency, he said it was unlikely.

“There are so many brands of data systems out there, and there’s no point in having the technology if one brand’s system cannot communicate with another.�

There’s some truth to Pochie’s objection. According to the Allscripts-Mysis Web site, In order for products of different companies to communicate with Allscripts-Misys’s electronic information system, they would need an HL7 interface, a technological feature developed by Health Level 7, a volunteer group that works to develop international healthcare standards. An Allscripts-Misys support technician said that not all electronic data systems have this feature, though he said “a lot of them do.â€?

Allscripts-Misys announced on Dec. 18 that St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, along with another St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., will switch to the Allscripts product.

Dr. Clyde E. Wesp, Jr., the chief medical officer and chief medical information officer of St. Joseph Health System, said that the Allscripts product will enhance patient care.

“To support the St. Joseph goal of delivering perfect care for our communities, Allscripts will enable our physicians and hospitals to connect to each other and to vital patient information, when and where they need to,� said Wesp. “Secondarily, Allscripts will help our physicians practice better medicine by providing immediate access to evidence-based best practices at the point of care, and by measuring their effectiveness against national care standards.�

One blockbuster deal that Allscripts-Misys signed on Jan. 8, is with Physician Associates LLC, a large Orlando physician group consisting of 80 doctors with 18 locations in Florida.

According to an Allscripts-Misys press release, Physician Associates’ Chief Information Officer Chris Jordan said that there was resistance among physicians in the group who were used to traditional paper-based methods of record keeping.

“Our physicians, who were generally not happy about giving up their paper charts, were amazed at how quickly and easily they could navigate through the chart in the in the Allscripts system to find the information they needed,� the press release quoted Jordan as saying.

Four other sales hits added to Allscripts-Misys’s significant second quarter boost, meaning that the company nailed five major sales since Jan. 6. The other four are Tully Wihr Co., of California, Excela Health, of Indiana, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, and Integris Health, of Oklahoma. They brought a total of more than 400 physicians in less than a week and a half.

The rise in sales takes place despite the faltering economy. The merger of Allscripts and Misys is said to contribute to physician groups’ decision to sign an Allscripts-Misys deal.

Manny Fernandez, the chief executive officer of Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, was quoted by Allscipts as saying that her decision was influenced by the merger.

“Allscripts came out on top not only because our physicians considered it to be the best product, but also because of the company’s size and stability,� said Fernandez, according to the Allscripts press release. “We wanted to know that the company would be around for the long term.�

The merger, however, may have been responsible for a slight decrease in Allscripts-Misys’s gross margin, which decreased in the second fiscal quarter to 52 percent from 56 percent as some of the company’s resources went to new expenditures.

Nevertheless the company is optimistic about future growth, and expects that it will be spurred by president-elect Obama’s administration.

“We expect the Obama administration’s focus on healthcare information technology to drive exciting new opportunities,â€? stated Glen Tullman, chief executive officer of Allscripts, in the release.  “We continue to believe that Allscripts is in the right place at the right time, with the right solutions to make the most of the opportunity.â€?

Allscripts-Misys stock rose nearly 3 percent on Thursday to close at $8.45.

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