Electronic Health Records

Allscripts Aims To Ride Windows 8 Apps Wave

EHR vendor teams with Microsoft to foster open approach to app development, partners with American Well on telehealth.
8 Accountable Care Organizations Worth Closer Examination
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Allscripts is moving on several fronts to expand the number and types of applications from outside developers that the company can integrate with its electronic health record (EHR) software.

Last week, the EHR vendor announced an agreement with Microsoft to expand Allscripts' application developer program. Allscripts also recently struck a deal with American Well to integrate the latter's telehealth technology into its EHR products.

Under the Microsoft pact, the two companies are working together to encourage software firms--including developers in the Microsoft community--to create applications for Allscripts in the new Windows 8 operating system. Noting that "much of our open platform is built using Microsoft technology," Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman told InformationWeek Healthcare, "We want to be in synch with Microsoft as they announce Windows 8 and invest a very substantial amount to get it used and integrated in the developer community. We're riding some of that wave, because we want all our developers to take advantage of that."

Currently, Allscripts offers developers its Helios software development kit (SDK). Tullman said that more than 200 developers have signed up to use Helios, which was originally designed for Allscripts' acute-care system. That activity generated more than 30 products that are either available or close to release, he said.

Among those, he said, are Apixio, which creates instant reports on individual patients by pulling data from disparate sources; MyCareTeam, which sifts data from mobile monitoring devices used by patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes; and BIO-Key, a form of biometric authentication that allows physicians to sign off on orders by touching their fingers to a computer pad.

[ Practice management software keeps the medical office running smoothly. For a closer look at KLAS' top-ranked systems, see 10 Top Medical Practice Management Software Systems. ]

With the help of Windows 8's authoring tools, Allscripts plans to build on Helios, adding more Web services from the ambulatory care side, Tullman said. "Ultimately, we'll have one SDK that adds more robust Web services across the entire portfolio," including inpatient, ambulatory, and post-acute care products, he added.

Allscripts will also draw upon Microsoft Dynamics CRM--a type of customer relationship management software--to create care management tools for Allscripts customers as they make the transition to population health management.

According to Tullman, Dynamics CRM "includes a bundle of healthcare-specific content" that can help providers do outreach to patients for specific kinds of preventive and chronic care, medication compliance, and appointment reminders. However, he noted, it's not a full care-coordination program. To flesh it out and make it useful for care management, he said, the EHR vendor will encourage third-party developers to build new apps while Allscripts' own R&D team tackles the challenge simultaneously.

The company plans to turn this research into a product called Care Director by the end of this year, he said. The care management system will cover the complete spectrum of healthcare, including inpatient, ambulatory, and post-acute care.

Tullman believes the "open" approach to development--using outside firms to stock an "app store" similar to Apple's--will ultimately trump the "closed" approach of Allscripts competitors such as Epic and Cerner, which use a single proprietary database for all of their systems. But a recent KLAS report indicates that, at least for now, more provider organizations are choosing the single-database approach.

Meanwhile, Allscripts has seized the new opportunities in telehealth by partnering with American Well. Tullman said that his company made this move because of American Well's superior technology, and its agreements with payers. In addition, he observed, "16 states now require health plans to reimburse physicians for online visits. So it's happening now, and we decided to take that leap."

Allscripts will pilot its integration of American Well with Tampa's University of South Florida (USF) Health, which itself recently teamed with the telehealth firm to provide remote services to The Villages, a large retirement community northwest of Orlando.

"USF wants their doctors to be able to service this huge retirement community, but the doctors can't move there," noted Tullman. "So how do you do that? You can bring the patient in once, and after that, you do it using telehealth technology. And even though the patients are older and retired, they love it."

Allscripts plans to roll out its integration with American Well in a phased approach, starting in January, he said. About 10 customers will be involved in the first wave, with more to follow.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

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