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7/26/2012
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Will Dossia-WCS Alliance Jumpstart Personal Health Records?

Union of Wellness Corporate Solutions and Dossia could drive more consumers to use PHRs.

Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?
Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The recently announced alliance between Dossia, which provides employer-sponsored personal health records (PHRs), and Wellness Corporate Solutions (WCS), which offers managed care and disease management services, could finally generate real consumer interest in PHRs, according to some industry experts. The two companies are touting the partnership as a way to offer a more inclusive health and wellness management platform.

"Dossia's strategic alliance with Wellness Corporate Solutions enables greater adoption of PHRs among employees within the organization," Shyam Desigan, CFO and senior VP of IT for the American Academy of Physician Assistants, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "This not only allows [WCS] to push the wellness agenda, but the toolset for them to gauge the impact of the wellness measures over time."

Dossia is a non-profit PHR business comprised of large employers including AT&T, Cardinal Health, and Walmart. In the words of Mike Critelli, Dossia president and CEO, "We're a personal health management system that helps a consumer with a combination of aggregating all the health-related data from all sources with helpful applications that enable them to manage their healthcare and health spending."

[ Wearable devices equipped with sensors and Web connections help consumers track health and fitness. Take a look at what's possible now. 10 Wearable Devices To Keep Patients Healthy. ]

"This is a complementary capability for [WCS]. We like their existing infrastructure because they have a very good brand and they are a company that already understands that when you are doing disease management you are dealing with two different components--one is how people interact with the clinical care system and with clinical decision making, and the second is how do they live their daily lives to keep a chronic condition under control," Critelli said.

In a press release announcing the alliance, WCS president Fiona Gathright said, "the Dossia Health Management System will offer WCS a more thorough view of an organization's health status and allow for streamlined processes of data collection and analysis."

In addition, the alliance with Dossia will give WCS the opportunity to expand its offering in preventative services. For example, the nurses that WCS uses to manage a patient population can do things with Dossia employees based on their past records, such as biometric screenings and observation of daily living, tracing that through the Dossia system.

"The architecture of Dossia, where the data is centralized under control of the consumer and locked down, is the right one for the development of a variety of innovative solutions," Wes Rishel, a VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner Heathcare Group in Stamford, Conn., told InformationWeek Healthcare.

"Individual startups do not have to duplicate the capture of data from many sources, and a patient who is signed up with Dossia has virtually no hassle in adding another application to their Dossia record," said Rishel.

Rishel noted that all such PHR systems are struggling to get consumer buy-in and interoperability with healthcare providers. "Focusing on wellness is a good move for Dossia because it bypasses the immediate need to get connected to the consumer's healthcare providers and can be marketed to consumers through employer channels," Rishel said.

Dossia CEO Critelli said that the IT challenges faced by the alliance are minimal. "We have created an open interface for applications for data to be received and exported," he said. He added that the issue with customers is they have existing relationships with legacy providers and are asking to export data to Dossia. "The fundamental issue to me is not: Can we be a comprehensive health management portal? It's that many of these third-party solutions, whether ... for the health plan or a disease management offering, they don't want us to be the portal, they want to be the portal. They really don't want anybody else in the picture. What we probably spent the most time battling is being really the advocate for the consumer when you have a lot of other people that want to lock in the consumer to a particular solution set."

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