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The great promise of electronic health records is that they capture patient-care data in digital form so that it medical professionals study data and use it to improve care. An old axiom in the health care IT circles reads, “Something has to be measured before it can be improved.”

As health care outcomes improve, health care costs the country less. That’s one of the big reasons why the federal government is paying doctors and hospitals megabucks to adopt the EHR.

The San Francisco-based health startup Practice Fusion is trying to help doctors and others learn some of those valuable lessons. The company this week announced its launch of a large health database, called “Insight,” some of which is free to access for anybody.

The data is collected from Practice Fusion’s web-based EHR software, which the company says sees use from 112,000 health practitioners. The Insight database accesses health data from “tens of millions” of the 81 million patient records doctors using the Practice Fusion EHR have generated.

The free version of the Insight database might tell stories like how successfully doctors treated the flu in a given year or vaccination rates among adults. It might reveal information about which patient populations are most at risk for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses. Pharmaceutical drug companies could also use it to track (in real time) how often doctors prescribe their products.

“Real-time patient health data has been kept under lock and key, both because of technology limitations and the companies monetizing that data at a high cost—until today.” said Ryan Howard, the founder and CEO of Practice Fusion. “Insight unleashes powerful, de-identified health data from tens of millions of real patients and more than 2,000 drug therapies in real time, at no cost.”

Practice Fusion also offers a premium version of Insight that allows users to drill down to specific patient populations and individual patient and provider profiles. It can also more closely track the use of specific medications within thinly sliced subpopulations. The potential for catching some big new revenue streams from drug companies and health systems seems obvious.


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