e-CMN: Doc's e-mail vs. downloadable software

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Thursday, February 28, 2002

YARMOUTH, Maine - As new players begin competing for e-CMN business, and build platforms that can exchange e-CMNs between a doctor's office and an HME, two different means of getting to the doctor's desktop are competing for primacy.

One pipeline is the doctor's e-mail system, as advocated by Trac Medical. Another uses a thin-client software application that the physician would download onto his desktop, as advocated by eClickMD and Medi-Gate.Net, a company run by David Pfeil, who also founded Dezine Healthcare Solutions.

Asking doctors to load specialty software onto their system is problematic, according to Randi Neal, director of field operating systems for American HomePatient. AHP plans to start exchanging e-mail using CareCert this month.

"People are going to be sorely disappointed if they plan to start loading stuff in physician's offices," said Neal. "I don't think the physician is going to buy it, no matter how thin the client is."

When one of Trac Medical's HME clients submits an e-mail to a doctor, the notification shows up as an e-mail in the physician's e-mail. But Pfeil doesn't think the eCMN can stand on its own. "You're not going to convince doctors to go on and just do eCMNs," he said.

He believes the doctor will go on-line, and will process his forms electronically, but will want to do everything in one place at one time. By downloading a thin-client application, the doctor is one click away from an on-line repository that would give him access to a whole suite of electronic documents, including e-CMNs.

Moreover, if you force the physician or the HME provider to go to a Web portal, that also means you're asking him to do double-entry. "But if I supply a provider with a thin client that talks to the portal, I can 'scrape' pre-populated information out of my billing system and deliver it to the portal in a coherent fashion."

Although Neal says that he expects to do double-duty on the data entry at the outset, he says that Trac Medical is working with software vendors to enable users to launch CMNs from inside their billing system in the same way that they submit electronic orders. So the advantage of using a thin client to scrape information is only a temporary advantage, he says.

The challenge for advocates of the thin client strategy, he says, involves competing for space on the doctor's desktop. HME

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