Dossia Adds Medical Term Translator To E-Health Records

The consortium of large employers is looking to make it easier for employees to use its online health records.
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Dossia is making it easier for patients to understand the information in their electronic health records.

The employer consortium has signed a deal to use terminology translation technology from Health Language Inc. in Dossia's personal health records to help convert medical lingo into layman terms.

HLI's Language Engine automatically converts clinical diagnosis and procedure descriptions that populate patient information fields in Dossia's PHRs to consumer-friendly terms. So, instead of patients trying to figure out the meaning of "epistaxis" in a clinical report, the software converts the word to the commonly understood term "nose bleed."

The functionality is available now to Dossia users, and is part of the organization's ongoing mission to make its personal health records easier to use, Dossia CEO Michael Critelli said in an interview.

Besides the new terminology translation functionality that's been added to Dossia through its pact with HLI, Dossia is working on other ways to make use of its PHRs easier for users.

For instance, Dossia is focused on making it more convenient for parents to manage the health records for their children and themselves "without having to sign in for each family member," Critelli said.

Also, Dossia is looking to incorporate into its PHRs data that comes from healthcare providers that aren't reimbursed by a health insurer, such as some walk-clinics.

For instance, if a patient gets a flu shot at an airport health clinic or has a blood test in order to buy life insurance, that information could be integrated into the patient's Dossia record, said Critelli, a former CEO at Pitney Bowes who took on the CEO post at Dossia in January, replacing founding CEO Colin Evans, an Intel executive.

Dossia was launched in late 2006 by a consortium of several large employers to provide e-health records to more than two million of their workers to help those employees better manage their and their dependent's health and wellness, with a bigger vision for those efforts helping to control soaring healthcare costs.

Dossia members include AT&T, Intel, Wal-Mart, BP America, Applied Materials, Cardinal Health, Vanguard Health System, Pitney Bowes, sanofi-aventis, and Celgene. Of the 10 member companies, so far six have rolled out the PHRs to employees, said Critelli.

Another large employee is close to signing on with Dossia to offer its workers Dossia's PHRs, he said. However, that new employer will not join the consortium as a founding member, he said. Founding members are expected to invest $1.5 million in the consortium, in addition to an annual subscription fee.

The new company will launch "a sizable pilot expected in the fall," he said. Currently, there are "tens of thousands" of Dossia PHR users, Critelli said.

In the earlier days of Dossia, the organization's sales team frequently called on companies that "didn't have the readiness" to provide their employees with PHRs, he said.

Now, Dossia is looking to sign up employers that will continue to work with Dossia in making the PHR offering "stronger and better" for workers, he said.

For instance, in the future, some employers providing Dossia PHRs to their workforces might consider rewarding employees with gift cards, reward points, or other financial incentives if they meet certain fitness or wellness goals, or track their chronic condition in the records, such as downloading from portable monitors their glucose or blood pressure readings.

"We want to measure physical activity and reward that," he said. "We want to provide tools that drive good health behaviors."

The patient data in Dossia 's PHR come from multiple sources, including the patient, healthcare providers, and health plans. The records are un-tethered, meaning the data stays intact for patients even if an employer change health plans.

In the meantime, "the HLI partnership is extremely important to get us differentiated from many other patient portals," he said.

In general, some studies have found that consumers--especially healther ones--are reluctant to embrace online health records because of concerns about security or unfamiliarity with the concept of PHRs.

With consumers hesitant to adopt PHRs, making them easier to use will be increasingly critical for players like Dossia, as well as Microsoft and Google, who offer those products.

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