Phytel well-positioned for PPACA

By Mike Miliard
09:54 AM
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Many vendors, of course, are benefiting from the stimulus, with scores of hospitals scrambling to install EMR and CPOE systems in hopes of drawing a portion of the billions of dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But not everyone. "In a way it doesn't affect us,” Phytel CEO Steve Schelhammer said.

Instead, the Dallas company, which offers a suite of automated services aimed at physician-driven and patient-centered population health improvement, happens to be especially well-positioned to capitalize on the provisions of another watershed piece of federal legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – healthcare reform.

I think a lot of the key principles that are embodied in this healthcare legislation just play perfectly to our sweet spot," said Schelhammer.

Phytel's registry, which encompasses 15 million patients, employs evidence-based chronic disease management and preventive care protocols to flag gaps in care and trigger automated messages that alert patients of the need to make appointments and tracks patients' compliance. Phytel also provides automated PQRI reporting, tracks pay-for-performance quality data, and assists with qualification for NCQA's Patient-Centered Medical Home program.

As Frank Moss, director of the MIT Media Lab declared at a recent healthcare IT forum in Cambridge, "patients are the most underutilized resources" when it comes improving outcomes and lowering costs. It's time, he said, for "doctors and patients to collaborate as partners to radically transform medical care."

With perhaps 32 million newly insured people now seeking out physicians, caregivers will be more reliant on care coordination of the type Phytel provides, leveraging data to identify and route patients for the appropriate care. (That capability helps ameliorate staffing shortages, too, with automation tools managing population health against guidelines and reducing the need for costly staff.)

And with an aging population, and chronic conditions such as obesity on the rise, "Phytel’s automated outreach solution helps engage patients in an entire community, and fits into the Accountable Care Organization and Patient-Centered Medical Home objectives," said Guy Mansueto Phytel's vice president of marketing.

With the new legislation "defining outreach as a mandatory aspect of what health information technology needs to support," said Schelhammer, it's clearer than ever what the marching orders are. "Population health management [is] the way forward to deliver quality and quality outcomes."

Be it the national standards for chronic disease and prevention promoted by the National Quality Forum (NQF), or pay-for-performance and the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI), "a real emphasis on quality now is percolating up, not only through CMS but also through private payers," said Schelhammer, "requiring tools to manage populations of patients and evaluations of outcomes that are going to be driven by population health management." In addition, he said, "you have what we think is going to be the rapid onset and acceptance of accountable care organizations that are featured in the reform legislation."

In short, said Schelhammer, " I see a lot of wind in our sails as a result of some of these changes." He adds: "We're not changing a thing in terms of our belief system. We're just accelerating our investments in new capabilities to take advantage of this new opportunity."

People are noticing. In February, for instance, Phytel scored $14.2 million in funding from investors including Polaris Venture Partners, LAH Investments and Caris, Ltd. – whose founder and chairman David D. Halbert called the company "uniquely positioned to benefit from widespread efforts to help physicians provide better, more timely care to their patients."

As the new healthcare reform goes into effect and the industry continues its "push toward cost containment," said Mansueto, "we feel like we're starting at the end point, and then moving backwards. Healthcare IT as an industry is starting at another point and moving forward. We have a really nice intersection of our services."