IntraLinks uses virtual workspaces to digitize clinical data exchange

IntraLinks uses virtual workspaces to digitize clinical data exchangeSecure environment also appropriate for imagesThe focus on patient privacy and electronic security issues in this year's political battles highlights a new old issue:

IntraLinks uses virtual workspaces to digitize clinical data exchange

Secure environment also appropriate for images

The focus on patient privacy and electronic security issues in this year's political battles highlights a new old issue: how can different stakeholders exchange information securely? Many analysts have drawn parallels between financial markets and healthcare, citing the need for accurate, private transactions among multiple parties.

IntraLinks, which facilitates secure online B2B collaboration through ASP-based services, is directly addressing this issue with unique digital workspace technology originally developed for the financial market. The New York City-based company's client list reads like a who's who of finance: Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, and Ernst & Young, to name a few.

Recognizing emerging opportunities in online healthcare transactions, IntraLinks has moved into the pharmaceutical market. Its first clients include AstraZeneca, R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute, and Chiron.

"IntraLinks has been successful in multiple verticals like the financial and legal markets," said Brian Chadwick, business unit executive for pharmaceuticals at IntraLinks. "The similarities between customer requirements in financial transactions and requirements in a clinical trials environment inspired the move into pharmaceutical."

The firm is focusing initially on three areas in the pharmaceutical industry: licensing, contract administration, and clinical trials. IntraLinks sells its products on a yearly subscription basis using a pure ASP model. The company is targeting large pharmaceutical companies first and will eventually begin marketing to midtier companies.

"We're fairly flexible with our pricing, which is very attractive to pharma," Chadwick said. "Statistics show that 60% of the time final decisions are based on pricing, not cool technology, so we have to be keen to the needs of the pharma industry."

Within the verticals that it serves, IntraLinks has found that its competition encompasses the standard operating procedures of businesses-faxing, telephones, e-mail, and express mail. While other vendors offer digital workspaces, the challenge is to educate potential clients on the collaboration opportunities and time savings that come from using the Internet for data exchange, according to Chadwick.

"The value of IntraLinks' services is creating a community of users," he said. "Often in clinical trials, the same people are participating in multiple trials. Using our single sign-in, users can view all their clinical trials information for a participating pharma company without having to switch to different portals. Instead of taking days to exchange information by mail, users can exchange data online in real-time."

IntraLinks' workspaces are accessed through the Web site. The workspace technology has a hierarchical access system to the page level that enables granularity in setting user access levels for documents and Web pages. In addition, the technology incorporates audit trails.

"We're looking at digital workspaces becoming knowledge management," Chadwick said. "Around 30% of the time, the clinical coordinator for a trial changes in the first year. Through IntraLinks, we can give the new person permission to access not only the site, but also the site archive. We never delete anything, so the coordinator can come up to speed faster and access all the relevant information in one online location."

Any type of digital data can be stored, including medical images. IntraLinks also operates as the ASP host and provides other support services as well.

"We call our solution 'key,' not 'core,'" Chadwick said. "It doesn't require business process remanufacturing. Our workspaces live outside of the client's firewall, so we don't compete with clinical data management inside the facility. We provide a secure environment for companies to exchange data with outside parties."

The technology supports 128-bit-strong encryption and has been engineered so that it can reconfigure itself automatically to the security level of an outside user's Web browser, if necessary. In addition, IntraLinks maintains a security certification from KPMG and offers strong authentication through a product called Indentrus with Chase Manhattan as the certificate authority.

"We are exploring all the issues associated with digital signature per se and PKI (public key infrastructure)," Chadwick said. "From a B2C perspective, it will be 18 months to two years down the road for the practical issues on the consumer side to be worked out. In B2B, since there are a finite number of parties-for example, pharma companies and the FDA-it will move more quickly. The jury is still out on PKI because security is only as strong as the weakest link."

While IntraLinks is concentrating its efforts in the pharmaceutical side of healthcare, its technology is applicable across the board. In the near term, Chadwick sees additional growth potential for IntraLinks as the HIPAA security and privacy regulations become final.

"The whole healthcare unit holds opportunity for us," he said. "Right now we've got 60,000 users across all our verticals, and we're working on increasing the user base in the pharmaceutical industry."