Chicago practice part of new hosting trend

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, an occupational healthcare practice in Chicago, have decided to leave their datamanagement, record-keeping and billing to CompassCare, a Chicago-based company that specializes in doing just that.

The decision by Northwestern to outsource its record keeping illustrates a growing demand for outsourced and hosted services, said Vivek Subramany, an analyst for healthcare information technology at Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm Frost & Sullivan. "It's becoming a larger portion of the market," said Subramany. GE, McKesson, Cerner – all the major healthcare IT vendors – offer a version of a hosted solution, he said.

While Subramany does not have data on the number of healthcare organizations choosing hosted services, he's noticed an increasing interest, which he attributes to the potential for time and cost savings.

Time and cost savings is precisely what motivated Dr. Robert Noven and his colleagues. Noven is medical director of the Chicago physicians' group, which is made up of two doctors, three assistants and six nurses. They knew their server could not accommodate new applications. "We didn't want to set up a new server," Noven said. The new system will eliminate the need for a new server and also the need to hire a case manager, he said.

Noven is particularly taken with the fact that the appropriate people in his office will be able to access information from anywhere. The practice is planning to set up satellite offices at construction sites, and the anytime-anywhere access is a key feature. The system, which was due to roll out June 1, might not be ready for prime time before July or August, said Noven. The delay does not worry him. Because the technology, called Medtrak Clinical Systems, is so flexible, the doctors and staff have worked with CompassCare on creating functionalities that are just rightfor them.

Before CompassCare, Noven explored hosted models from other, larger vendors and discovered the options were either unworkable or unaffordable.

Noven is convinced that all the tweaking will pay off for CompassCare as well as for the practice. In his view, the system could work for any type of specialty practice.

CompassCare will host and manage all aspects of the electronic medical record system. The data will reside on IBM Global Services network in Chicago.

"We looked for a partner that had service levels that were equivalent to dial tone," said Stuart Johnstone, CompassCare's president and chief executive officer.

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