ICA seeks its niche in healthcare IT

By Eric Wicklund
12:00 AM

NASHVILLE, TN - A new company born from healthcare IT research being done at Vanderbilt University wants to put the emphasis on access.

The Informatics Corporation of America (ICA) was introduced in December following the implementation of a pilot program at Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Bassett Healthcare. Described as a clinical software and solutions company, ICA “empowers clinicians to access complete patient information, to communicate effectively with all participants in the care process and to act on information based on evidence and best practice.”

Gary M. Zegiestowsky, ICA’s CEO, said the company’s roots are in Vanderbilt Medical Center, one of the country’s leading research and teaching hospitals. Comprised of four hospitals, 120 outpatient practices and 1,000 physicians, Vanderbilt researchers began working about 10 years ago on a software solution that could connect all the disparate parts of the IT system.

“When we began the development of these technologies over 10 years ago, our goal … was to improve the inefficient paperwork and communications processes affecting the hospital’s

ability to deliver cohesive care across the medical center and its affiliated clinics and physicians’ practices,” said Harry R. Jacobson, MD, Vanderbilt University’s vice chancellor for health affairs, CEO of Vanderbilt Medical Center and a senior adviser for ICA.

“We focused first on information aggregation and display, instead of automation, to solve these problems,” said William W. Stead, MD, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs at Vanderbilt University, CIO and director of informatics at Vanderbilt Medical Center and a senior advisor for ICA. “We took data from the existing systems and aggregated it for view in clinical workflow – much like the Internet has done with varying information sources over the past decade.”

In time, said Zegiestowsky, Vanderbilt developed a suite of products that could be marketed to other customers, particularly hospitals and physician groups, and ICA was created. A couple of chance meetings between Vanderbilt officials and Bassett officials led to the November implementation of ICA’s core aggregation solution at Bassett, a rural health system that includes four hospitals, 23 community health centers and 14 school-based health centers in central New York.

Kenneth R. Deans Jr., Bassett’s vice president and CIO, said the network had followed a “best of breed” approach to IT during the 1990s, but encountered “considerable compatibility issues.”

“We chose ICA to answer these compatibility concerns largely because its technologies were built by providers for providers, in a real clinical environment,” he said. “As a result, we are not forced to solve compatibility issues while sacrificing provider and customer usability.”

ICA’s focus, said Zegiestowsky, is on “a quicker path to complete information.” “Today, one of the greatest unmet needs of clinicians and healthcare organizations – from rural hospitals to major health systems – is easy and effective access to clinical information across all systems within a hospital or community of providers,” he said.

The company’s product creates a unified electronic medical record by uniting all the clinical systems and processes, creating an easily accessible database of patient information for clinicians. Furthermore, he said, ICA offers workflow tools to improve communications, capture data, track clinical metrics and follow results.

According to an ICA press release, the company’s core solution can be implemented in four to six months.

“ICA provides a significant alternative to other products that typically require replacing existing systems or provide limited aggregation capabilities across those systems,” said Jeff Cunningham, ICA’s chief technology officer. “Our approach allows healthcare providers to leverage the strengths of their IT investments.”

With Bassett scheduled to roll out the ICA product across its entire network early this year, Zegiestowsky said ICA is looking for a few healthcare providers with multiple IT systems that don’t communicate well with each other. He said the company is still examining how it might “rise above the noise” in a crowded healthcare IT field.

“We’re still in the early stages of determining how we best fit out there,” he said, adding that the company doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as an EMR vendor. “There isn’t just one category that we fit in. We need to determine where we best add value.”