Mana Health, which won the competitive bidding for the contract, also placed first in the Patient Portal for New Yorkers Design Challenge, which was held earlier this year. Mana will work with the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), which operates SHIN-NY for the New York State Health Department, to build the user interface for the portal website and its connection to SHIN-NY.
What made NYeC, the state health department and the RHIOs believe that a tiny startup like Mana could deliver a reliable portal at the scale of New York State? "Their prototype was built against the SHIN-NY sandbox in the design competition," NYeC executive director Dave Whitlinger told InformationWeek Healthcare. "What they'd already done was proof that they could do it."
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As for why Mana stood out from its competitors, Whitlinger said, "Their design is clean, elegant, straightforward and easy to understand, and easy for multiple demographics to use," such as elderly people who might need different size fonts and mothers who are keeping track of their family's healthcare.
There are some large companies that sell patient portals, but NYeC believed that small Web design firms might be more innovative and give the project more concentrated attention. "We've had a lot of success with small, hungry firms that want to succeed and will do anything to succeed," he said.
Meanwhile, Mana is beefing up its management resources as it enters the world of big-time IT. Following the announcement that it had landed the SHIN-NY contract, Reggie Bradford, a serial entrepreneur who is currently a senior VP at Oracle, joined Mana's board.
SHIN-NY connects regional health information organizations (RHIOs) -- known elsewhere as health information exchanges (HIEs) -- all across New York State. For a physician to participate in the patient portal, his or her EHR must be linked to SHIN-NY, which can be done only through one of the RHIOs. So the physician must belong to a RHIO to allow his or her patients to view or download their records on the SHIN-NY portal.
Currently, Whitlinger said, about 80% of hospitals and their employed physicians have connections to the statewide HIE. The percentage of independent practices hooked into SHIN-NY is much smaller, partly because most of them didn't have EHRs until a year or two ago, he noted. "We're just now getting those folks to connect to the SHIN-NY."
The new patient portal will give hospitals and physicians the ability to meet the patient record sharing requirements of Meaningful Use stage 2, he pointed out. Consequently, it will eliminate the need for providers to buy expensive portal portals for their EHRs. In fact, he said, using SHIN-NY's portal will save them even more money, because the site will do all the maintenance work, such as registering users and setting passwords, that the owner of a consumer portal has to do.
Although the portal will include a Blue Button that enables patients to download their records, Whitlinger said that what SHIN-NY will offer is something fundamentally different than the kind of Blue Button access that EHR-related portals provide. Right now, he observed, patients who see multiple physicians must download their records from the portals of each one to their computer hard drives and figure out how to collate and make sense of the data. The SHIN-NY portal, in contrast, will allow patients to view all of their data from multiple providers in one place, organized into useful categories. And they'll be able to control who sees that data.
In the future, he adds, NYeC hopes to offer consumers additional portals, such as pediatric- or geriatric-centric sites that focus on helping patients manage conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Having built APIs for developers into the SHIN-NY platform, the organization hopes that more entrepreneurs will create innovative solutions to manage the growing amount of clinical data, he said.