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These 5 Innovative Companies Are Cause for Health IT Hope

Posted on October 1, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

When the topic is health IT, it’s easy to get caught up in discussing the major EMR players.

And because of Meaningful Use, there’s a tendency for everyone to do the same things — even if they go about it in different ways. Whether you’re a giant like Epic, an upstart like Kareo or a specialty firm like the gastroenterology-focused gMed, you’re likely making sure, for example, that your customers will be able to exchange structured care summaries with other providers and with patients.

But there’s still plenty of innovation in health IT, much of it with little or no connection to MU2 or other federal requirements. Startups all over the country are trying to improve lives through more efficient collection and use of data.

Here’s a sampling of startups and specific innovations:

  • HealthLandscape. This Cincinnati-based firm markets a mapping application that lets you input data from a variety of sources. The idea is to better understand health information by visualizing it. The company is a subsidiary of the nonprofit Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, which worked with the American Association of Family Physicians and the Robert Graham Center to develop the platform.
  • SwiftPayMD. This iPhone and iPad app from Atlanta-based Iconic Data allows physicians to note diagnostic and billing codes by voice right after seeing a patient. I have to admit, when I stopped to think about it, I was surprised that doctors couldn’t already do this. The major selling point: It helps practices to get paid as much as two weeks sooner.
  • Vivify Health. Based in Plano, Texas, this startup has created a cloud-based platform for monitoring and testing patients remotely. Its system works with just about any consumer mobile device to provide customized care plans, coaching, educational videos and interactive video conferencing. In a press release, Vivify Health said it’s helping hospitals, home health agencies, payers and others to reduce readmissions, manage chronic diseases and improve care transitions. It received funding this year from Ascension Health Ventures and Heritage Group.
  • Drchrono. This Mountain View, Calif.-based company bills its flagship product as “the original mobile EHR built for the iPad.” It was part of the Y Combinator, a Mountain View-based seed accelerator, in 2011. Drchrono in 2012 raised $2.8 million in funding led by venture capitalist Yuri Milner.
  • Doc Halo. This firm, based in Cincinnati, makes possible HIPAA-secure texting. (If this list seems slightly Cincinnati-centric, it’s because I worked in the city for eight years and know the market better than I know others.) Many doctors use regular text messaging to discuss patient information, but they shouldn’t. Doc Halo’s mobile app system uses several levels of encryption.

These are just a few projects that I thought were cool. Based on what they’re doing, there’s plenty to be hopeful about in health IT. There are, of course, many other firms equally worthy of mention. And there are now accelerator programs all over the country specifically for health IT startups.

I often get the feeling that the federal government’s involvement is taking the joy out of health IT. That’s not the case, but amid the push to meet MU2 requirements, you might have to look a little harder to find it.

And with these startups, here it is.

Disclosure: gMed and DrChrono are both advertisers on this site.

Meaningful Use And Health IT Innovation

Posted on September 12, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Today I caught an excellent post on HIT Consultant by standards architect Keith Boone (aka @motorcycleguy on Twitter) on how Meaningful Use is affecting health IT. In his article, Boone argues that Meaningful Use requirements are stifling health IT innovation in some instances:

When you put an entire industry under the MU pressure cooker, the need to meet Federal Mandates overwhelms anything else.  The need to develop software that is able to support a large number of externally controlled mandates can, and in many cases, has resulted in bad engineering.  You can’t innovate well on a deadline.

Boone says he’s seen many instances where developers produce a capability that meets MU requirements but doesn’t meet the needs of the customer. He suggests, quite credibly in my view, that with Meaningful Use requirements dominating EMR development, that “neither developers nor end users really learn the lessons Meaningful Use is attempting to teach.”

That being said, he does cite a few instances where Meaningful Use has actually succeeded in supporting innovation, including:

* The Blue Button Plus supports a new, higher level of patient access to their data,and is built from components and requirements already present in Stage 2.

* The Query Health initiative, he suggests, has done innovative work that supports not only its stated focus (health research) but also automation of quality measurement using HL7’s HQMF.

But the bottom line remains — and this is me talking here, not Boone — that Meaningful Use will inevitably focus EMR vendors on developing to the standard, not coming up with neat innovations that may not meet the requirement. There’s just no way around it.

What we will see more of, meanwhile, is applications which serve as an extra layer or function to EMRs. As a recent story in MedCityNews notes, new EMR-related innovations range from Modernizing Medicine’s touch-based electronic medical assistant for specialists to healthfinch, a technology which standardizes care protocols for the 80 percent of stable patients they see so they can apply their time and skills to the sickest 10 percent to 20 percent.

Readers, what technologies are you seeing which enhance the experience of using an EMR?