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Weekly Byte: The "Green" Tape of Interfaces
It's no secret to anyone working in medical IT that the storing and transferring of data digitally is a booming space. Doctors generate terabytes of health data every day, but that data isn't useful unless it's sent somewhere. EHR and practice management (PM) software systems need to send and receive that data to facilitate patient care and track reimbursement. At pMD, we are proud of our ability to interface with any software using HL7 specifications or any other structured data. We are always looking for ways to minimize manual entry, avoid unnecessary errors, and increase efficiency. After all, who enjoys manually entering data from one system to the next? With an obvious need to share data between systems, one would think that software companies would make this process as easy and simple as possible. Sadly, this isn't always the case.

What typically holds up an interface project? In my experience, cost is often the culprit. We all work for many reasons: to help others, to solve problems, and, at the end of the day, to get paid. But sometimes, the hunt for the almighty dollar gets in the way of the greater good, and it's frustrating. A few weeks ago, one of our providers approached us to discuss setting up a simple one-way appointment interface between his new PM system and pMD’s charge capture software. Everything started off on track: the kick-off call went well, the technical challenges were minimal, and schedules were clear to set up a transfer of appointments into pMD. Then came the cost discussion.

Our customers are typically surprised to hear that pMD doesn't charge any additional fees for building interfaces. Most EHR and PM vendors will charge customers an initial fee for the development of an interface with some sort of recurring cost added for "maintenance." That being said, each vendor has a different philosophy about how much revenue they plan to generate from interface projects. Because this is a relatively simple interface that some other vendors offer free of charge, we were shocked to hear this PM vendor quote thousands of dollars for the initial setup and a hefty 18% annual maintenance fee!

The doctor was disheartened and justifiably angry. When he further investigated the situation, the PM vendor tried to push their own mobile product on him as a cost-effective alternative to interfacing with pMD. If you read our post earlier this week, you might be able to guess how that went over. The doctor said, “[The PM vendor’s] mobile product is an unreliable POS! What a bunch of crooks!” Needless to say, this doctor chose to forego the interface and is still happily using pMD.

We’re continuing to search for alternative solutions for this doctor, since the PM vendor’s price quote was so unreasonable. My opinion as a software developer is that this approach lacks integrity. It's not right to ask for an absurd amount of money for such a simple interface. That doesn’t help doctors, and it certainly doesn’t help patients. I'm so glad to be a software developer at pMD, a company that looks to solve problems by working with our customers instead of viewing their requests as a way to make money.