iMcKesson sharpens focus on physicians’ role in electronic data loop

November 1, 2000

iMcKesson sharpens focus on physicians’ role in electronic data loopCompany works to establish e-health ROI with quantitative dataiMcKesson, the e-health spinoff established by McKesson/HBOC earlier this year (HNN 7/12/00), is

iMcKesson sharpens focus on physicians’ role in electronic data loop

Company works to establish e-health ROI with quantitative data

iMcKesson, the e-health spinoff established by McKesson/HBOC earlier this year (HNN 7/12/00), is taking the e-care bull by the horns. In conjunction with the release last month of its first official product, PracticePoint, the Atlanta-based firm released the findings of a healthcare satisfaction study conducted in partnership with the research firm Harris Interactive. iMcKesson is also participating in a three-year study at the University of Michigan designed to quantitatively assess the effect of electronic patient communication on physician practice efficiency, accuracy, and satisfaction.

These aggressive moves into clinical e-health and physician-patient information exchange are a departure for McKesson/HBOC, which historically has been associated more with large-scale administrative and financial information systems than clinical workflow. But with the acquisition of Abaton.com last November and the creation of iMcKesson, the company has set its sights on the growing relationship between the Internet, the physician’s office, and the patients who visit both.

“Our view is very clear: the real value (of IT) in healthcare is on the clinical side,” said David Mahoney, CEO of iMcKesson. “But we need to take an incremental approach. Physicians are allergic not to technology but to technology that doesn’t work.”

The two-phase Harris Interactive study included an online survey of 1000 U.S. healthcare consumers, followed by an online focus group of four patients and five physicians who responded to the survey. Among the study’s conclusions is that consumers want to actively manage their healthcare through a combination of online, phone, and nurse triage services. More important, patients are not happy with their physician encounters, and they want more sophisticated Internet-based tools to manage their health. For example, 83% of respondents want their lab tests to be available online, 69% want online charts for monitoring chronic conditions, and 80% would like to receive personalized medical information online from their physician after an office visit.

“What we heard clearly from patients in this survey is that the physician is at the heart of this process, and they want more opportunity to connect with their physicians,” Mahoney said. “One of the barriers we have found is that physicians have not come to the realization that the Internet is not a depersonalization of their industry but a tool for higher levels of personalization of information and its exchange.”

The next step, according to Mahoney, is to gather quantitative data that support the qualitative findings of the Harris study and give physicians and administrators a clearer view of the return on investment offered by many e-health products and applications. The company has joined forces with Intel and the University of Michigan Health System to study the impact of iMcKesson’s Web-based ePPi (electronic provider-patient interface) on increased physician-patient communication in a clinical setting.

The randomized controlled study will involve more than 120 physicians and their 35,000 patients and will examine the impact of ePPi (which uses a secure, personalized patient Web site rather than e-mail for information exchange) on physician-patient interaction, volume of telephone calls and office visits, and efficiency in the timing of communication. The three-year evaluation is expected to begin next March.

In the meantime, iMcKesson has launched PracticePoint, a suite of Web-based clinical, administrative, and doctor-patient communication tools for physician office practices. The entire system runs on a Windows NT platform and is delivered via an ASP model supported by McKesson/HBOC’s network of data centers. Leveraging the modular nature of the underlying Abaton.com technology, PracticePoint enables online prescribing, lab test ordering, results reporting, claims processing, eligibility verification, remittance, and communication.

For example, the PracticePoint Clinical Solutions module supports clinical care delivery via online, rules-based order entry for labs, prescribing, radiology, and consults. It also supports Web-based dictation and transcription and access to patient charts and related information. Future versions are expected to integrate wireless data-access capabilities as well.

“The platform was built from day one to have the ability to do relatively simple capture or even more complicated capture of transcription or images,” Mahoney said. “Where the images are digitized, the technology has the ability to distribute them and make them available throughout the network.”

While PracticePoint reflects iMcKesson’s focus on the physician market, it can be piggybacked on the McKesson/HBOC’s Horizon product line to enable enterprise-wide systems integration and data access.

“Using Horizon and PracticePoint, a healthcare organization provides access and exchange of information across the e-health enterprise,” Mahoney said. “Both leverage our customers’ installed technology systems to preserve their current investment and provide them with a migration path to Web-based technologies.”