Practice Fusion, one of the SaaS electronic medical record (EMR) pioneers, has announced a Dell-based hardware system bundle for doctors spinning up to its free cloud-based EMR system. Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, walked us through what it means to bring the cloud to a small clinic - ground zero in the medical industry's transition to electronic medical records.

The proposition for doctors is simple: The U.S. federal government has proposed incentives to move to electronic systems. A doctor can qualify for $44,000 or $66,000 in federal stimulus dollars for completing the migration in the next several years.

A mix of traditional vendors, startups, and specialists are working to meet the demand from doctors needing to transition. And even though there are specific definitions for what constitutes an EMR solution, each doctor faces a complex solution.

According to Howard, his company has found that the average size of an office is less than nine doctors - which means that in many cases, a very busy doctor is also a part-time CTO.

The business of health care these days requires that a lot of paper is generated - a lot of it by fax - and all of which must be protected by compliance regulations such as HIPAA. Other technology challenges include having older browser technology, no Internet connection, no wireless access. or not having a digital camera. When technology investments are made, there is a desire to get extreme value out of them.

Practice Fusion's Dell-based hardware system bundles a heavy duty scanner and printer, as well as a camera for digitizing visual records. Integrating these devices seamlessly with the cloud applications is one area where vendors will need to create tight integration with the PC.

Below is an example of a what a doctor sees when adding patient immunization information into Practice Fusion. The system is a great example of where a broad set of available data can be powerful to patients, doctors, and communities. And an example of how small businesses need a deep connection between local hardware and cloud applications. (More Practice Fusion product images can be viewed at the companies Flickr account.)