NY'ers to get first taste of Big Data, as creation of state's patient portal gets under way

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NY'ers to get first taste of Big Data, as creation of state's patient portal gets under way
NY'ers to get first taste of Big Data, as creation of state's patient portal gets under way

New York State awarded the contract to develop its upcoming patient portal to Manhattan-based Mana Health, the e-health start-up was expected to announce Wednesday.

The portal, slated to debut in 2014, will have a simple interface, and integrate with electronic health records (EHRs) from various providers as well as with personal devices that patients are increasingly using to amass health data on their own.

The size of the contract is estimated at between $500,000 and $1,000,000, making it one of the largest statewide deals of its kind. When the portal debuts, about 10 million New Yorkers ultimately will have access.

“EHRs are still fairly crude,” said David Whitlinger, executive director of the group overseeing the initiative, the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), “so if you were to just display the raw record, it would be hard for a non-healthcare individual to understand and, frankly, it's not aesthetically easy to interpret, either. Mana did a good job taking that format…and displaying it graphically.”

Indeed, the company's goal is to “demystify patient data and make it accessible and simple to view and interact with,” said Chris Bradley, Mana CEO. The portal will incorporate responsive-design elements so it's viewable on multiple devices and is being “built from the ground up to integrate multiple sources of data in the patient record, [including] quantified-self devices like Fitbit and Nike FuelBand. We want to give a holistic picture of a person's health using all sources of data we can get from them.”

NYeC held a focus group to create the specifications for what patients wanted in access to their EHRs, then invited firms to submit designs. Sixteen firms stepped up and demo'd their designs to 200-person crowds in New York City and Buffalo.

After a public vote and in-person judging panels held in the two cities, Mana emerged the winner and was also chosen in a subsequent RFP process. (The other two design finalists, iHealthNY and MyHealthProfile, can be viewed here.)

A prototype of the portal is slated to be ready by October, with full roll-out in the first half of 2014, just in time for the start of a new federal requirement that EHR providers give patients access to their records online, called Meaningful Use Stage 2.

“If you look at the history, there's been a huge amount of investment in EHR systems to digitize patient data [but] not many tools and applications built on top to make use of the data,” said Raj Amin, Mana executive chairman. “So there are a lot of big reasons why the government has moved to the next phase, which is to incentivize hospitals and other care providers to use data to improve experience and efficiency in healthcare.”

NYeC, which receives state and federal funding to advance health IT in the state, will run the portal. Whitlinger said citizens can expect a richer experience because of the state's preexisting health network.

“With the state network, all we're telling providers to do is connect...and make their records available,” said Whitlinger. “Patients will have access to all their records in one place, as long as providers are connected. And we will take care of [portal] maintenance and password resets and [all else] that comes with a web presence. Why have providers do that? It's a waste of costs. Why not have one person take care of it on behalf of everyone in the community?”

Mana simultaneously announced that Reggie Bradford has joined as a board member and investor. Bradford is a serial entrepreneur who most recently was founder and CEO of Vitrue, and was former chief marketing officer of WebMD. Bradford is currently SVP of product development at Oracle, which acquired Vitrue last year.

“Reggie's built great companies in emerging industries,” said Amin, who was previously co-founder and CEO of HealthiNation, which became one of the largest video-on-demand health firms. Mana declined to quantify the amount of the investment.

A look at Mana's portal design (pictured) shows what makes it appealing. Various aspects of the patient's physiology have graphic symbols, like blood pressure and weight. Lab tests don't appear static but are graphed. “That was very appealing to panels reviewing these different submissions,” said Whitlinger, who compared the firm's thoughtful design aesthetic to that of Apple products. “I think their ability to interpret data and trend data was something that was valued.”

The portal will be designed with security in mind, as well. “We are partnering with NYeC closely on implementation of this so it meets their requirements for security,” Bradley noted.

Amin said Mana is courting pharma and other constituents. “There's a lot more functionality coming that HCPs will be interested in that will come on top of the basic version that we begin to launch,” he said. “We're starting to engage with other potential constituents in industry, like pharma companies…that want to in some way interact with us to help us, [for instance] collaborating on how we engage with patients on compliance messaging.”

This may be the state's first portal, but the platform approach means it definitely won't be the last. “There might be a patient portal that's really dialed-in for geriatric patients, with better interface, larger font and colors and different attributes of the record highlighted [for their special needs],” said Whitlinger, “or one tailored toward diabetics or cardiac patients or pediatrics. All of those are viable, valid applications and portals we hope get built against the platform [to] grow usage by an individual and engagement with their own data.”
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