Hospitals and Insurers – Mobile Cloud Overview

In this commentary we provide a brief overview of hospitals and insurers and early activities in the mobile cloud space.

Hospitals in general, and large hospitals to a greater extent, bear a resemblance to enterprises when it comes to the issues of the cloud and mobility. In other words the hospital industry is at an early or mid-stream stage of starting to deal with these two issues. Also, like enterprises, they typically have substantial investments in legacy health information technology (HIT) and electronic medical (or health) records (EMR or EHR) systems. Furthermore, in somewhat of an analogy to line of business managers in an enterprise, hospitals must take into account the interests of doctors and other healthcare professionals who have access to mobile technology and apps that may be easier to use and more efficient than the hospital’s systems.

Now these hospital organizations are being literally overrun by doctors and other staff who are increasingly relying on mobile devices such as iPads. At the same time they are facing costly decisions on how to transform existing information systems, often described as antiquated or cumbersome, into cloud-based systems.

All of the major suppliers of hospital information services claim to be addressing mobility and the cloud, to at least some extent. Examples are set forth below

McKesson, which provides its Horizon Clinicals electronic healthcare information system, states that it offers “direct handheld access to our Horizon Clinical database.”

Allscripts, another major EMR provider, with its Sunrise Clinical Manager system, offers Sunrise Mobile MD II, an iOS-based app, as a mobile extension of its Clinical Manager system. Mobile MD II includes voice access capability. It provides access to patient records and its capabilities include: access to summaries of individual patient information and current results and problems; ability to capture charges for doctor’s services; various messaging and communications functions for transmitting information for patients and the medical team.

Epic, which features the EpicCare EMR system, provides a number of mobile apps for doctors, including its Haiku and Canto apps for the iPhone and iPad respectively, which give physicians access to patients records, when they are not in reach of EpicCare-enabled terminals.

Cerner offers Physician Express an iPhone app solution that enables “quick access to review clinical information.”

The complexities of health insurance and its massive impact on parties throughout the health ecosystem is another driver towards mobile information apps.

Castlight offers a system to employers and insurance providers, which enables their individual plan members to have access, via mobile devices, to a platform for gaining information about treatment costs and alternatives. The platform analytics can take into account the patient’s medical requirements, location and the specifics of the individual’s health plan, such as deductibles, covered procedures, etc. The company states that, “The algorithms data-mine a massive amount of claims and provider rate tables to come up with personalized information on pricing.” The system also allows users to search for care providers that are near by, based on their geo-location.

Aetna is one insurance company providing what it refers to as a “personal health cloud” to customers through its CarePass platform. The company emphasizes that CarePass allows the consumer to, among other things:

  • Find a doctor or facility and book an appointment
  • Access a variety of health and lifestyle apps that are on the platform
  • Share their medical records (that are in one secure repository) across multiple apps

While there are several third-party apps available on the platform, in late 2011 Aetna acquired Healthagen the provider of the iTriage application. iTriage enables consumers to do research based on their symptoms, find medical providers and schedule appointments. It provides them details about diseases and procedures. It also uses the patient’s GPS to direct them to a provider’s office.

Other similar platforms can be expected from insurance companies, since these companies are becoming at least somewhat oriented to viewing policyholders as “customers’ whose business is to be valued – a major shift in attitude in the industry. UnitedHealth Group, for example, in mid-2012 announced myHealthcare Cost Estimator, a more limited tool for enabling users to find care providers and be informed of the cost – based on actual contracted rates with the insurance company. The tool also suggests possible treatment alternatives.