WebMD Founder, Dr. Oz Buy Clinical Decision Support Company

PKC acquisition will give Sharecare a clinical engine for its health and wellness social network, and bring PKC's CDS system the consumer audience it long sought.

Neil Versel, Contributor

June 20, 2012

4 Min Read

Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?

Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?

Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future? (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

A clinical decision support company founded by medical informatics pioneer Dr. Lawrence Weed is now in the hands of TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz and WebMD founder Jeff Arnold.

Sharecare, the Atlanta-based health and wellness social network started by Arnold and Oz, announced Monday that it has purchased PKC, maker of clinical knowledge management software for clinicians and consumers.

Weed, 89, the father of the problem-oriented medical record, started a previous incarnation of PKC--which stands for "problem-knowledge couplers"--in 1982, established the current company in 1991, and left it in 2006. He remained the principal shareholder until this sale, Weed told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Weed said he was paid in shares of the privately held Sharecare. His son, Chris Weed, has remained at PKC as a medical decision support developer.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

The sale adds PKC's clinical knowledge management technology to Sharecare's interactive health and wellness platform for clinicians and consumers alike. Sharecare, which has partnerships with the likes of Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, Remark Media, Sony Pictures Television, and Discovery Communications, will use the PKC technology to, among other things, help physicians meet some of the requirements for "meaningful use" of electronic health records by producing care plans and offering relevant patient educational material, PKC CEO Howard Pierce said in an interview.

PKC, of Burlington, Vt., gives Sharecare a clinical engine for its social media-oriented system and Sharecare provides the outlet to consumers that PKC had sought for years, according to Pierce. "This is actually going to plan" from the time he joined the company 20 years ago, "but I had to add 10 years to the plan," Pierce joked.

"This is the first group that met all the criteria we had" for a sale of PKC, Pierce said of Sharecare. He said that the company, which did not employ a salesperson and has never run advertising, was looking for a purchaser that "brought value to both the consumer and physician sides." He believes that the Sharecare platform has "high production value," including a strong interface on the professional side built by people with experience in old-line media, namely television.

He also was looking for a "strong clinical personality" and found it in Oz. "I could have never imagined a personality like Dr. Oz a few years ago," Pierce said. Furthermore, he added, "This is a mature group at the leadership level."

While Arnold was traveling abroad and not immediately available for an interview, Pierce said that Sharecare intends on putting the PKC knowledge engine behind an online, evidence-based assessment tool that takes a patient history by walking consumers through an interview process that branches out according to each response. This process creates the subjective part of the SOAP (subjective, objective, assessment, plan) note, another of Weed's many brainchildren, and can populate an EHR. "This is pure Larry Weed," Pierce said.

From this assessment, the technology helps build a differential diagnosis and management plan--the latter being the final stage of the SOAP note--so the physician can perform what Pierce called a "targeted physical exam," saving time and leading to a more accurate assessment. Patients get a printout with educational material and follow-up instructions, or that data can go into a personal health record. This consumer-friendly step may be required in stage 2 Meaningful Use.

Later this year, PKC plans on augmenting its search feature to provide greater, more personalized clinical knowledge, complete with links to original sources, according to Pierce. "It will be a platform to communicate with doctors and patients on the clinical level," he said.

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About the Author(s)

Neil Versel


Neil Versel is a journalist specializing in health IT, mobile health, patient safety, quality of care & the business of healthcare. He’s also a board member of @HealtheVillages.

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