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Practice Fusion buys startup Ringadoc in telemedicine play

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Practice Fusion, provider of a free electronic health record service for doctors, bought app developer Ringadoc on Wednesday as it moves into a new market: telemedicine.

Telemedicine allows care providers to interact with patients via devices and related technologies. Research firm IHS forecast that the U.S. market will grow to $1.9 billion in 2018, from $240 million in 2013.

Ringadoc, a startup previously based in Practice Fusion's San Francisco offices, has developed a mobile application and web service for doctors to manage after-hours patient calls.

It was an attractive target for Practice Fusion, Chief Executive Ryan Howard said, as "it's a base product that every doctor needs."

"This is us diversifying our portfolio," Howard said, adding that Practice Fusion is planning to launch a host of services complementary to its best-known product, its health records.

“We cross-sell features constantly.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Silicon Valley has made a big bet on Practice Fusion in recent years. The company, which has raised $149 million from Kleiner Perkins, Qualcomm, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and others, grew rapidly in the wake of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which incentivized doctors to move from paper-based to digital systems and defrayed the cost of adoption of electronic health records.

Practice Fusion claims to have 112,000 active medical professionals using its service each month and a database of over 81 million patient records.  

But the market is flooded with competitors, among them GE Healthcare, Kareo, Cerner, Epic Systems and Allscripts. Many of these now offer additional software and services to physicians, such as billing and claims processing.

Practice Fusion is attempting to differentiate itself by catering to both doctors and patients.

In April 2013, it launched a service called Patient Fusion for consumers to peruse doctor reviews and book an appointment online. Howard said the company also sees massive opportunities for telemedicine.

Ringadoc is currently available for $69 a month, but Practice Fusion may consider subsidizing this cost. Unlike its chief rivals, the company is able to offer its health record service for free and makes money through advertising.

(Reporting by Christina Farr; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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