Partnering for Health

Two deals highlight the use of information technologies to address today's health care problems.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Efforts to improve health care quality and access are at the heart of two recent collaborations that exemplify a growing reliance on information technology to solve today’s health care problems.

One problem that will need to be addressed with millions of currently uninsured people poised to gain access to health insurance in 2014 under provisions of the Affordable Care Act is improving access to doctors. To meet this demand, Sentara Healthcare, a not-for-profit health system that operates more than 100 sites in Virginia and North Carolina, is partnering with the telehealth company MDLive to deliver secure real-time consultations to patients with an established regional network of doctors available by telephone and online video throughout the state of Virginia. As part of the partnership, Sentara is taking an equity stake in privately held MDLive, a provider of online and on-demand healthcare delivery services and software.

The broad availability of a secure telehealth platform will boost Sentara’s capacity to serve newly insured patients. The service, currently available to consumers through MDLive’s web portal, will launch to Sentara’s patient population in October. Sentara employees and members of selected Optima Health commercial insurance plans will also receive the service as an additional benefit in of 2013.

“Health care is changing due to a variety of factors, including advances in digital technology, physician shortages, increased access to insurance and high deductible plans, decreased reimbursement and patient population management needs,” says Sentara Chief Executive Officer David Bernd. “This collaboration expands access to care to hundreds of thousands of residents in our core and neighboring markets, as well as offers them an alternate delivery option.”

Patients will be able to use the MDLive platform to consult directly with a licensed Sentara or partner physician, who will diagnose low-acuity illnesses, such as allergies or urinary tract infections and provide care as appropriate, including prescriptions. Patients with more serious conditions will be directed to the nearest immediate care facility as appropriate.

“We are at a transformational moment in health care driven by the demand for quality care and access and the capabilities of new technologies,” says John Sculley, an MDLive board member and the former chief executive officer of Apple. “The partnership between MDLive and Sentara Healthcare sets the stage for expanding access to new modes of health care delivery that can benefit patients, the health care industry and the nation.”

Institutional and non-profit collaborations are also being bolstered by recent technological innovations. The Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) and Induct Software, just launched CIMIT CoLab, a secure, cloud-based platform that enables institutions to encourage, manage, and measure innovation.

CoLab provides a way to connect health care institutions, universities, medical foundations and other non-profits with the experience, insight and talents of staff, faculty, industry partners, advisors and patients within or beyond their physical borders to accelerate and maximize the impact of innovations, the partners say.

CoLab is built on Norway-based Induct’s cloud-based technology platform.

“CIMIT has been using CoLab internally for over a year and working closely with Induct as well as collaborators from other major hospitals, universities and labs from across the United States, Asia and Europe to build and validate CoLab,” says John Collins, chief operating officer of CIMIT.

Collins says CoLab has enabled CIMIT’s network to be much more productive. For example, he points to a significant increase in the ease with which its network of expert clinician, technologist, manager and entrepreneur reviewers can access information to provide high-quality, timely and structured feedback and guidance to its investigator teams.

CIMIT is a non-profit consortium of Boston teaching hospitals, universities, and labs founded by Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, MIT and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in 1998. The consortium has grown to include nine other Boston area hospitals along with an expanding network of international affiliates.

CIMIT’s mission is to accelerate the health care innovation cycle by facilitating collaboration among all health care stakeholders — clinicians, managers, technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs — to rapidly develop and implement novel products, services and procedures that improve patient care. CIMIT is launching CoLab to advance and expand its mission in a scalable way, enabling other institutions to use and adapt proven innovation methods.

“We believe that by working closely with the best-in-class institutions, CoLab will become the enterprise solution of choice for institutions that see innovation as the way to improve the quality of patient care while reducing the cost,” says Collins. “One of CIMIT’s goals is to establish a network of premier regional and thematic clusters of world-class institutions collaborating with and via the CoLab platform.”

To see more deals that took place during the week ending on Aug. 24, 2012, click here.

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