Will eClinicalWorks Win the Race to “Engage” the Patient?

Patient engagement, for better or worse, is one of those buzzwords that won’t be leaving us anytime soon. A whole slew of companies use it to describe their products, platforms, and services, but we’re still knee deep in marketing jargon trying to figure out exactly what these tools do and how “effective” they really are. We got a closer look at one such tool last month at HIMSS from a company that also finds itself knee deep in patient engagement.

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eClinicalWorks debuted in 1999 as the Southwest Airlines of electronic health records (EHR). They offered a relatively low cost combined EHR/practice management system, which quickly made them significant players in the small practice market, adding more than 3,000 doctors in just three years. It wasn’t until 2007 though that eClinicalWorks really broke through when then Assistant New York City Health Commissioner and future National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. Farzad Mostashari selected them for installation with more than 1,300 New York City physicians as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Primary Care Information Project (PCIP). Now, eClinicalWorks counts more than 100,000 physician users in over 50,000 facilities in addition to another 14 million users on their patient engagement tool, Healow.

Healow, which stands for Health & Online Wellness, is a relatively new patient engagement tool built off of eClinicalWorks’ EHR system. The Healow business unit launched in February 2013 with $25 million in internal funding, and a clear mission to improve communication between patients and providers. Since then, eClinicalWorks has invested an additional $50 million into the unit. Tools for appointment booking, setting and sharing health goals, accessing medical records, and speeding appointment check-in are made available to consumers through the Healow app and web portal when their physicians activate the service through eClinicalWorks. Healow is entirely cloud-based, while the eClinicalWorks EHR/PM system, which started as client-server hosted software, has notably transitioned to the cloud with eClinicalWorks hosting data for approximately 60% of their clients.

The folks at eClinicalWorks will say Healow differs from other engagement tools because consumers can take care of all their needs in one app that directly connects to their provider and their data, but we still live a fragmented health system where multiple doctors are likely operating on multiple systems. Healow anticipates some of those challenges (read: accepts CCD files), but there are still some questions about how Healow will navigate the world outside eClinicalWorks network of providers.

At HIMSS last month, Jinesh Gandhi, a VP at eClinicalWorks, talked about how the EHR acts as a window for viewing and sharing health data, which is something we look for here at Health 2.0. In this case, the EHR is not the central piece of the patient-provider relationship, but the data within it creates value in the Healow app. What’s more, with about 5 million messages sent monthly from providers to their patients, Healow is also proving its value as a tech-enabled connection to a highly trusted source of medical information – family providers.

It makes you wonder whether eClinicalWorks hasn’t figured something out by connecting a physician to a PHR-looking app, while managing the user experience across the spectrum for both providers in the eClinicalWorks EHR and consumers in Healow. It will be interesting to watch Healow expand and grow, tackling patient engagement both in and out of the eClinicalWorks network.

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