Warning: long blog ahead. So here are my after thoughts about the PF Connect 2011 conference on Saturday. I’m going to put on the TripAdvisor hat here and attempt to be honest – critically evaluating what I experienced – rather than seeming too overly candy-coating of my favorite EMR company. After all, I do have some readers now and I’d like to think I’m a bit impartial even though PF will always be a big-time positive player in my book.
The day began with a Veteran’s Day tribute, and opening the conference was a Christian evangelical choir, the SFSU Gospel Gators (who by the way are very good singers), singing two songs. Although I don’t remember much of the lyrics, they were pretty evangelical, singing about God being great and having God on your side when war at the end of the world comes sounds familiar. I was a bit confused as to why this was supposed to be a Veteran’s Day tribute. There were no comments made about soldiers fighting for freedom, etc that I recall. I know PF is very socially conscious, and so perhaps this was a partner organization focused on social outreach within the local community. An introductory clue here would have been helpful.
Next up on the list was a short keynote by Ryan Howard, CEO. As I recall, it was brief – about 10 min – and included statistics for users, patients served, and company growth, which now includes 130,000+ users, 25 million+ patients, and 100+ employees. He did eventually talk further about current developments at the end of the day in a closing talk, including an iPad mobile app which is arguably the hottest ticket item currently under development and was very cool to see up close. They have clearly tried to engineer as type-free a UI as possible, including a dictation feature embedded in the app, which got a much-deserved round of applause from the audience.
While I was getting miked up backstage for a panel discussion, my practice manager Ken was watching out front as Dr. Farzad Mostashari gave a short keynote Skyped in from DC. He discussed in general terms the need for more companies (without endorsing anyone by mentioning names, probably a fair thing) introducing disruptive technologies into the field of health IT but always listening to the little guy on the ground (i.e. providers, doctors, nurses, etc). Unfortunately, his keynote was cut short by Skype-failure and was not able to be finished. And at a tech conference?! LOL. Future hopes and dreams include a backup connection. ☺
My panel followed and spent about 25-30 min focused on the “Evolution of the Doctor’s Office”. Matthew Holt, founder of Health 2.0 and a macroscopic commentator, spoke about what we all seem to suspect, that healthcare is changing and in the future will look differently than the current model. While I appreciated the comments, they left me wanting to know what the actual meat of the changes would be, or at least what he thought they would be. For my part, I had a small amount of time to get into a little of what we are doing in my office, but didn’t have time to go the whole nine yards. I talked about being paperless and what that has allowed us to save and do with our spare space and extra money saved, as well as how starved for a technology-oriented doctor the general public actually is. I also briefly touched on the HR changes that an electronic medical office will necessitate if done properly – mainly a work force that necessitates high-level computer skills and a higher baseline education. I’m excited to say that more on this “tech HR” topic will come in a separate guest blog by my practice manager, Ken Harrington, soon! A third panelist was Edwin Miller, VP of Product Management about developing a good EMR product at PF, but I don’t recall much of the specifics. I think they may have been very general. I’ve met and had dinner with Edwin before, so this is not a cut in any way. I was probably so excited in participating on stage that my mind was elsewhere by that time. Great future resolution coming to mind!
From the printed agenda for the entire day, I counted up that they managed to squeeze in about 17 other mini-sessions ranging from 5-20 mins in length. Overall, the movement kept going along, and there wasn’t much time for falling asleep, but because the sessions were relatively short it was difficulty to go beyond a TEDMED level of superficial discussion. I left feeling that I was glad I went, and would go again, but somehow had a longing for more depth. One of the doctors, a psychiatrist from New York I think, said maybe about a single sentence or two on the panel that he was speaking on. But glad to hear he was also not participating in Meaningful Use – just like yours truly! – but still using an EMR to keep neat and efficient patient charts. I’m not nuts after all! (Or at least not the only one.) Overall, I was left asking if too much was just crammed into too little a time space? I am hoping they will conduct parallel break out tracks/sessions next year, so more time can be spent on meatier levels of conversation. I bet I could talk and take questions for a whole 30+ min to providers on the specifics of how we work in my practice. We’ve already done so much that it would seem a shame to let that info go to waste. Nonetheless, I’m going to blog over the next several weeks on what I had planned to but didn’t have time to speak about at Connect 2011. At the end of the day, I know that docs are starving for info on what they can do right now in their own office to be more digital.
In closing, seeing Practice Fusion’s astronomical growth and upward trajectory has been truly inspirational to me as a small office doc with dreams of building a larger future. As we open up and take over the doctor’s office next to our current space – nearly doubling our square footage – and anticipate bringing on 1-2 additional providers in the next 1-2 years, I look forward to growing alongside a great EMR company like Practice Fusion. It will be great to see them at PF Connect 2012, as I’m sure that everything will continue to go right. Congratulations guys!
Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com. He blogs at HappyEMRDoctor.com and EHROutlook.com.