Last week, Epocrates announced the availability of its long-anticipated EHR platform cleverly named Epocrates EHR .  Targeted to small and solo physician practices, the service is a web-based software-as-a-service platform which will be offered on a monthly-subscription basis. At launch , it includes a native iPhone app that appears to include access to patient records as well as e-prescribing functionality, with iPad support reportedly in the works. Epocrates EHR will also include support for billing/coding, data analysis and reporting, and an interesting task-management feature. Missing at launch is the SpeechAnywhere feature, which integrates Nuance’s cloud-based medical speech-recognition technology to allow for rapid mobile dictation.  We commented earlier in the year how the speech to text feature would be a game changer, and are disappointed it’s not going to be integrated at launch.

There are several factors that make this offering particularly unique and raise some interesting questions. First, given the wide-spread brand recognition, Epocrates is likely to be successful in signing up customers in its target audience. Since all data is stored remotely by Epocrates, they will be in a position to gather information on populations that would otherwise be left out of large prospective and retrospective studies typically run out of large academic centers.

Also, it will be interesting to see how Epocrates integrates its mobile app offerings with its EHR. Included in the EHR packages are both the Epocrates Essentials iPhone app as well as Epocrates Online, a web-based resource for keeping up with medical literature. Currently, it is not clear to what extent the offerings – Epocrates EHR and Epocrate Essential – are functionally integrated nor whether Epocrates has any plans to integrate its newly acquired Modality products into its EHR offering. We can be sure though that if anyone is going to integrate mobile medical apps more directly with an EHR, it’s going to be Epocrates.

However, this also raises a notable ethical question. As we pointed out recently, Epocrates main revenue source is from pharmaceutical companies, particularly through sponsored offerings built into Epocrates EHR like DocAlert and Mobile Resource Centers. In its recent statement to the SEC, Epocrates even acknowledges the importance of this revenue source and plans to grow it further by improving its free app portfolio. So where exactly does the EHR fit into this – is it being effectively compartmentalized from the rest of Epocrates which is largely driven by pharmaceutical revenue, money these companies are spending to influence physician prescribing practices? Is that even a responsibility Epocrates has?

We’d love to know what you think. Would you mind using an EHR in your practice that has a close relationship with pharma?