eClinicalWorks goes mobile with new unit

Initiative aims to connect patients to their own health records
By Eric Wicklund
09:40 AM
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With patient engagement now a key component of meaningful use, EMR providers are looking to mHealth to bring the patient into the loop. The latest to do so is EHR vendor eClinicalWorks, which this week launched a new business unit designed to connect patients to their doctors and their electronic health records.

Executives at the Westborough, Mass.-based developer of ambulatory clinical systems say the Health & Online Wellness (Healow) initiative "directly connects patients to their own and family electronic health records, allowing immediate access to personal medical records and facilitating two-way communications between providers and patients."

Girish Kumar Navani, the company's co-founder and CEO, said patient-centered portals like those developed by Google and Microsoft haven't done well because they don't bring the doctor into the conversation. With 8 million customers using eClinicalWorks' electronic patient portal and surveys that indicate physicians are ready to embrace mHealth, he said the timing is right for a platform that can bring both sides together and connect them with clinical data.

[See also: eClinicalWorks invests $10M in interoperability project.]

"We're tapping into a whole new ecosystem of health," he said, describing the new Healow unit as the "blocking and tackling of mobile health."

"We need to start from the inside out, make it easy for (physicians and patients) to access and share information … and make decisions" based on that data, said Navani.

“In order to transform healthcare, patients need to be engaged,” Navani added in a Feb. 6 press release announcing Healow's launch, which includes a $25 million investment by the company over the next 12 months. “People are invested in and want to be engaged in their health as long as they trust the source of the information. We are confident the tools delivered through Healow will be successful due to the foundation we have built with more than 220,000 medical providers and because its solutions bring together cutting-edge technology and a critical component – the medical provider.”

[See also: More patient engagement proposed for Stage 2 meaningful use.]

Navani said the unit's first product will be a free app that enables patients to connect to their own and family EHRs and communicate with their physicians. That app will be available in iOS and Android versions later this month.

Looking down the road, Navani said Healow will develop pathways for integration with home monitoring units and medical devices and an online, open-access scheduling system similar to Priceline. He also expects Healow to develop an API that would allow developers and other parties to write their own apps for the platform.

Salvatore Volpe, a Staten Island, N.Y., physician whose solo practice was the first in the nation to receive Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home status in 2011, said eClinicalWorks' Healow initiative will help him as he targets stage 2 of the meaningful use standards.

“We care for our patients as part of their family and broader community,” he said in the press release. “By engaging patients in their care, they can make better and more informed decisions about their health. The eClinicalWorks Patient Portal has had tremendous response from our community and the company is taking a great step by extending this collaboration further to mobile patient health solutions. This expansion into patient engagement will also help our practice attest for the new Meaningful Use 2 standards when they go into effect.”

Scott Patch, a Yarmouth, Maine.-based physician in the InterMed physician group, said the Healow initiative will enhance physician-patient communications begun on the eClinicalWorks Patient Portal.

“InterMed provides multi-disciplinary medical services and is committed to maintaining an open dialogue with our patients,” he said in the press release. “Enhancing communication, we have been using eClinicalWorks Patient Portal to offer patients fast access to lab results, problem and medication lists, direct message doctors, as well as send appointment and refill requests. This has allowed our organization to cut down on mailings and other administrative tasks in order to focus more on delivering healthcare. We look forward to building on this by engaging with our patients via mobile apps.”

Navani said the results of the company's January 2013 survey of physician customers were "mind-boggling" with regard to their interest in mobile health. Among the results: 93 percent find value in having a mobile app connected to their EHRs, 93 percent say mobile apps can help improve a patient's health outcome, and 89 percent are likely to recommend an app to a patient.

According to the company's press release, the Healow app "enables patients to manage their medical records/summary and those of family members, send messages to their provider, request medication refills and view lab results (and) allows providers to create compliance and wellness campaigns to further engage patients and build on the 5 million plus messages going out monthly through text, voice and e-mail."

Navani said Healow will help eClinicalWorks become part of the "mobile health ecosystem of the future," where physicians and patients work together to manage health and healthcare, rather than interacting only in an emergency.