Bold claim: 'an operating system for the entire healthcare industry'

SERMO founders launch par8o to eliminate interoperability excuses
By Tom Sullivan
08:02 AM
Data code

One school of thought suggests that interoperability between electronic health records systems is not a technological problem, rather it’s a business model and political matter.

Regardless, it remains a monster problem that many parties are working to solve, from high-powered policymakers to high-tech entrepreneurs.

[See also: Sermo acquired by WorldOne]

"EHRs have become roach motels," said par8o CEO Daniel Palestrant, MD evoking the old Black Flag insect trap commercial. "The data goes in but it’s really hard to get it out."

To be clear: This is not another story about blame. Palestrant, in fact, stopped short of pointing fingers at any specific EHR vendor — perhaps because par8o doesn’t exactly need their cooperation.

Palestrant, founder and former CEO of online physician community SERMO, is officially unveiling par8o as a new company on Monday at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco  and, in so doing, touting par8o as "an operating system for the entire healthcare industry."

[See also: Interoperability 'taking so darn long']

"Much like iOS or Android operating systems tie together the user experience with apps on your phone, we do that in healthcare: Tie together payers with providers and patients," he explained.

The big idea or catchphrase is to match the right patient to the right resources at the right time.

'Blue sky' roots

About three and half years ago, just as the Affordable Care Act was coming to a head, Johnson & Johnson "wanted to do something blue sky," in Palestrant’s words  so they invited him to a meeting.

“My theory was that as more people came into the insurance pool, we were all going to have to do a lot more with less,” Palestrant said.

J&J ultimately awarded Palestrant a $2 million grant, money that turned into the seed for par8o technology. Then when SERMO was acquired by WorldOne in 2012, Palestrant and SERMO co-founder Adam Sharp, MD, spun off par8o.

The company has been relatively quiet since, issuing only a single press release just last week announcing $10.5 million in Series A funding from Atlas Ventures, Founder Collective, CHV Capital, among others.

But Monday’s coming out party for par8o is about more than venture capital. It’s about proof.

“We feel we have enough data and experience that we can stand behind this,” Palestrant said.    

How the tech works

While the bold claim to be an OS for the entire industry is one way of describing par8o, a perhaps better likening is to programs such as DropBox — insofar as once installed it more or less becomes part of the operating system.

When an employee goes to a primary care physician and needs a next step in care, such as a specialist appointment or a lab test, par8o kicks into action to examine the patients insurance and, in turn, inform that patient and provider of the best option at the best price, ideally steering patients and doctors in the right direction.

That event can be triggered by an EHR, such as Allscripts in which par8o is fully-embedded, but as Palestrant said, "the beauty of the par8o approach is that we are not dependent on EHR vendors to integrate with us."

Instead, the par8o cloud service accommodates APIs, enables doctors to cut and paste patient data or send it as an attachment, and has a print-to-share feature that extracts the data from an EHR.

Because of the different means of extracting patient data Palestrant claimed that, particularly for those EHR vendors currently making it quite difficult to interoperate or integrate with, "we eliminate the excuses."

But par8o’s ultimate intention is to ensure both that the patient takes that next step in care and that it’s a low-cost high-quality option. Whether it will achieve that ambitious end or not, of course, remains to be seen.

The company counts among its customers MGM Resorts, and academic medical institutions including Harvard Medical School affiliated hospitals as well as Mount Sinai facilities in New York.

par8o in action

Lancaster Regional Medical Center is another early customer. Amid a transition to a Cerner EHR, the Pennsylvania hospital is running several electronic health records products and until they get that full Cerner EHR implemented lacking a good way to get transitions of care of summary discharges out to its providers.

CEO Russell Baxley said that par8o helps with triage, reduces wait times, and aids providers and specialists in finding care based on quality and price.

"We are already seeing a reduction in returns to ER and slight reduction in readmissions," Baxley explained. "We have seen an increased satisfaction with our community-based providers, they actually know when their patients enter our hospital."

And a bit about the name

It’s taken from the 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto on account of his “Pareto Efficiency” theory, often associated with the 80-20 rule.

What inspired company founders to use Pareto’s name was his thinking about achieving efficiency by better matching supply and demand.

"Many efficient supply and demand industries have dynamic pricing," Palestrant said. "That’s the Pareto Efficiency."

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