AMA takes first steps to build physician Web portal

The Association is developing the site as a response to doctors' requests for more assistance in their day-to-day practice.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted May 4, 2009

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Two companies have announced their involvement with the American Medical Association on a project to build an online portal that would give physicians easy access to a suite of practice management services.

Covisint, a subsidiary of Detroit-based Compuware Corp., is partnering with the AMA to build a Web-based platform where physicians can access multiple services through a single log-in portal, the company announced on April 22.

Through the portal, doctors would be able to access e-prescribing systems, electronic medical records, practice management solutions, clinical information and physician-to-physician messaging as well as educational and practice management information.

Joseph M. Heyman, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, said the portal came from interviews with AMA members on how they viewed their lives as doctors and what they needed. "It became very plain that physicians are on a hamster wheel right now, and there is a lot of pressure on them to accept this technology and at the same time, they are just trying to run their practices," he said.

Physicians needed help, and they were concentrating on things that would make them more productive and efficient, Dr. Heyman said.

"The genius behind this [portal] is that [physicians] can go to one place and, in a relatively inexpensive way, they can find all of the things that they need to make themselves more efficient, and, by coincidence, to be able to comply with stimulus package health IT provisions and do it in a way that is not painful," he said.

The systems that physicians can access through the portal can be either Web-based systems they download or their own client-hosted systems that can be integrated to work on the portal's dashboard. The downloadable systems will be ones that are considered "best of breed" and will be vendors the AMA has vetted and formed partnerships with.

The first company announcing its availability through the portal was DrFirst, based in Rockville, Md.

Brett Furst, vice president of health care for Covisint, said the portal meets physicians wherever they are in the health IT adoption process. He said the company didn't want physicians who already have adopted health IT systems to replace them.

Pilot tests will be conducted with various physician groups before the service is launched nationwide, which is expected to be early next year. During the beta period, physicians will test some of the systems that the AMA will make available through the portal.

During the pilot period, the DrFirst e-prescribing system will be offered free of charge. After that, the company said, rates consistent with market standards will go into effect.

The Michigan State Medical Society launched a similar program with Covisint for its members in January.

David Fox, spokesman for the MSMS, said that so far there are more than 200 physicians who are signed on to use the system. The society is offering the physician-to-physician messaging function of the system as a free member benefit but additional fees apply for each application added to a physician's dashboard.

Fox said interest in the portal has increased, including interest from payers who want to create a portal that can be accessed from the same dashboard.

On April 28, the AMA and MSMS announced a partnership between themselves and Covisint. They would pool portal development efforts. Later this year, the partnership will allow an increase in the number of products and services available to Michigan physicians through the MSMS portal, as well as allow them to give early feedback to the AMA development.

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