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Covisint And AT&T Enter Health Care Exchange Market

Tennessee system aims to boost participation in digitized medicine.
Covisint launched in 1999 as an ambitious auto-industry e-marketplace, fizzled, and is now recasting its secure infrastructure technology to serve another, hopefully more robust, market: health care. This week, Covisint will announce a partnership with AT&T to provide the state of Tennessee with a hosted infrastructure to allow health care providers and payers to securely share patients' clinical and administrative data. The eHealth Exchange Zone "is the nation's first statewide e-health network," says Diane Turcan, director of health care marketing for AT&T and a former hospital CEO.

The AT&T-Covisint alliance provides for broadband access to the Covisint OnDemand platform, a hosted service that uses a VPN-based portal and streamlines access to information across health care communities statewide by giving physicians single sign-ons. For a monthly fee ranging from $3 to less than $100, the eHealth Exchange Zone will let Tennessee's six regional health information organizations, as well as doctors and hospitals that aren't part of those groups, access telemedicine services, such as remote diagnostics, and share digitized patient data, including prescriptions, health and lab records, and insurance eligibility, says Turcan. The secure network meets federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy and security regulations.

Covisint Through The Years

1999 Six automakers invest $200 million to launch Covisint as industry emarketplace

May 2003 Covisint says it's profitable, but supplier adoption is slow

Dec. 2003 Covisint sells auction-services business to FreeMarkets

Feb. 2004 Compuware buys what remains of Covisint

April 2004 GM signs deal to use Covisint's ebusiness XML data messaging services

Aug. 2005 Covisint launches health care portal; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan becomes first licensee

2007 Company officials say health care accounts for about 30% of $40 million revenue

Feb. 2008 Covisint and AT&T ink deal to provide Tennessee with statewide ehealth exchange

One problem, however, is that physicians, including those in Tennessee, are lagging when it comes to digitizing their patients' records. Nationwide, estimates suggest that fewer than 20% of physicians have deployed e-health record systems. Turcan hopes low-cost access to the Tennessee e-health exchange will encourage health care providers to deploy these apps. "They don't have to worry about what to put in place to meet HIPAA security, privacy rules," she says, adding that AT&T's broadband network provides sufficient bandwidth to share large files, such as digital X-rays. AT&T also is offering turnkey e-health systems for doctors.

The core software-as-a-service technology being offered for the health care industry has its roots in Covisint's automotive background. The Covisint platform is still used by more than 30,000 companies in the auto industry, many of them competitors, for secure messaging and data sharing related to supply chain activities, says Brett Furst, Covisint's VP of health care. This model allows health care providers to keep their existing applications for practice management or e-health records systems, while securely sharing data.

This deal isn't the first health care win for Covisint. In fact, last year the sector contributed about 30% of Covisint's $40 million of annual revenue, and that's likely to rise to about 50% this year, says Furst, who added that parent company Compuware is planning a spin-off and IPO for Covisint. However, it's likely Compuware will retain a stake.

What makes Covisint stand out among health care information exchanges, according to Wes Rishel, an analyst at Gartner, is that it offers services that are key to the success of health care information exchanges yet often are overlooked by operators of these exchanges, who aren't tech experts. For instance, when a doctor wants access to patient data, it's an obligation of the exchange to make sure that person is authenticated and should have access to that info.

Despite Covisint's rocky early years in the automotive sector, Rishel doesn't think Covisint will be carrying a lot of baggage as it moves forward. "Health care is a lot better place to be these days than automotive."

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