By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

This look into Merck's Practice Fusion partnership is exciting news for all of us who've been wondering what pharma engagement of physicians and patients through electronic health records (EHRs) might look like. Merck is giving users of Practice Fusion's EHR a dashboard through which they can identify patients who are behind on their vaccinations and notify them that it's time to get their shots, Forbes reports:

"Alerting doctors or patients for an overdue vaccination or test has long been the job of payers. Merck's intervention through an electronic health record is a first for a pharmaceutical company as it harnesses newly emergent technology and data to get closer to patients."

Practice Fusion says the program can also alert providers that a patient needs a vaccine during the patient visit:
Practice Fusion's 112,000 monthly active medical professionals now have a real-time dashboard that compares each provider's patient population to those of other Practice Fusion providers, allowing them to actively track the percentage of their adult patients that have received select vaccinations based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This gives them a quantified view of their vaccination rates. During patient office visits, the program notifies providers within the EHR if a vaccine is recommended for that particular patient based on guidelines from the CDC.

While Practice Fusion's EHR is ad-supported, Merck won't plug products through the program, writes Zina Moukheiber in Forbes. However, the company does stand to benefit from a halo effect by association not to mention the resulting lift in prescriptions for vaccinations. It's exactly the sort of win-win-win scenario envisioned by proponents of pharma-EHR collaboration, who have said that if pharmas are to penetrate this fourth screen, they will have to offer all parties something of value, because the old promotional paradigm is obsolete here. With physicians now spending more hours per day in their EHRs than they are on all other digital resources, it's an essential challenge for the industry.

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