25 May 2016
Medical Director’s Helix might catalyse radical change
Medical Director’s entry into the cloud patient-management system race last week with MD Helix may have signalled the beginning of the most rapid and radical change in primary care since PIP incentivised the Computerisation of GP surgeries 15 years ago
The announcement by Medical Director has effectively legitimised the idea of a cloud-based system for nearly half the GPs in the country (who are MD’s current desktop customers). The race is now on for the hearts and minds of those GPs who see the enormous potential to increase their practice efficiency and their communication with their patients through the system’s patient-connected apps.
The timing of the announcement, at the precise date of the formal launch of much mooted cloud-based start-up, MediRecords, at the Sydney GPCE , was not likely to have been a coincidence. It looks targeted directly at MD’s customer base to at least put some doubt in the minds of anyone who is thinking of switching to the MediRecords system in the near term.
MediRecords had been secretly building their system with a development team for the past three years and launched live with customers last week with what they claim is a sophisticated cloud offering which has all the functionality of rivals Medical Director and Best Practice, plus a swathe of new features associated with its key differentiating feature: it’s connectivity.
As things turn out, Medical Director, recently acquired by private equity group Affinity, had also been playing playing possum for the last 20 months, developing its ground-up written cloud version of MD. CEO Phil Offer demonstrated the beta to TMR at last week’s Sydney GPCE and, although it isn’t going to live customers just yet, the software looks very close to a formal launch. And MD has thought very hard about what the new technology can do for its customers.
Offer told TMR that “if you haven’t at least started on a cloud product by now, you are likely to be in a bit of trouble”. He said Medical Director Helix, was pretty much ready to go, and they were just doing a little more fine tuning through its focus groups.
Offer said extensive focus groups had indicated that attitudes towards the cloud and thing such as data security were finally beginning to shift in in the minds of many doctors.
“ We guess that usage of these technologies is becoming so common in other parts of their lives such as banking and travel that the concepts are no longer scary or alien,” he said. “There’s a decisive shift”.
Offer said that the importance of Medical Director’s entry into the competition for the future of connected health could not be understated. “We want our customers to understand that we’ve invested in their future and we are here with this important technology at the right time. With this technology there is so much more you can do. And we’ve invested a lot so our customers can do it if they want to”.
Offer said that the announcement of an imminent launch of the cloud version would not stop investment in their iconic desktop version, suggesting that the company will keep developing that version as long as customers wanted it.
The feeling among many industry pundits is that now Medical Director has declared its hand, things are going to start to move much faster.
The surprise is that the other major incumbent player, Best Practice, appears to have been caught out, with a spokesperson saying its cloud version, Titanium, announced last October at the annual Best Practice conference, is still at least “six to 12 months away”.
This might be a serious tactical error on the part of the Best Practice team, depending on the speed of the take up of the other two new offerings.
According to MediRecords CEO Jon Marshall, the entry of Medical Director does a lot to legitimise the cloud market. “It makes our significant investment look precisely timed which I think it is”, he told TMR.
Offer thinks that now there are starting to be legitimate cloud offerings of patient management systems and based on its research with customers, the timeframes for rapid changes in technology in health might be shortening.
“Technologies like these typically follow an S curve. That means early adopters now but it might only be a year or two before we see a very rapid escalation in uptake of these systems,” he said.
If the timing is that fast, then Best Practice will be starting a relatively long way back in the pack.
That might see a new group like MediRecords occupy a position like Xero ended up doing in the race to win cloud share in the lucrative small-business cloud-accounting market in Australia.
Soon after XERO launched, MYOB posted a spoiler announcement that it too had a cloud version. But MYOB had simply hacked together a VPN version of its old software. The market responded and Xero experienced exponential growth, and when MYOB did eventually launch a proper cloud version two years later, the market for cloud was owned by Xero and Australia had a new major provider in the space.
Genie, which dominates specialist practices, announced their cloud version a few months back.
“ The Australian health sector is on the cusp of major changes as it moves to using cloud-based software. We have developed MedicalDirector Helix to help practices adapt to this anticipated change, and with this platform we aim to transform their everyday patient and clinical interactions,” Offer said.
“We’ve listened to clinicians and designed the new platform from the ground up to provide world class useability and agility, while ensuring efficacy, patient safety and privacy.”
MediRecords CEO Jon Marshall told TMR that “ For any practices that are ready to go, they can start today. We are fully functional and through all our testing. “
Marshall said of the Medical Director announcement:
“Medical Director is a great old company with a good track record. Having them pushing us in this manner is fantastic for everyone in the market, most especially for our doctors. “
Of the Best Practice position Marshall said: “We never even contemplated we might be so far in front anyway, so that’s just a nice-to-have for now. We always felt that this battle would be fought on superior usability and features, and we think we’ve brought quite a bit of new and innovative thinking to our offering that set us apart from any cloud offering the incumbents are likely to come up with.”
The author is a minor shareholder of MediRecords and a past director of a Medical Director JV. Both MediRecords and Medical Director are currently paid advertisers with The Medical Republic.