New Dossia CEO Hunts for Cash to Expand Reach of Personal Digital Health Records

[Clarified. 2 pm Eastern time, 1/25/11. See below.] Dossia’s new chief executive, Michael Critelli, has plans to push personal electronic health records closer to mainstream use. He needs money, though. And that might mean tapping the capital markets.

Cambridge, MA-based Dossia is best known as a nonprofit consortium—with founding members such as BP America, Intel, Pitney Bowes, and Wal-Mart—that got started in 2006 to provide personally-controlled digital health records to employees of its member companies. Yet there is also a for-profit company affiliated with the group, giving Dossia the ability to issue shares and raise money to expand.

Dossia has been generating revenue from the companies whose employees use its records for more than two years, Critelli says, but that money doesn’t cover all of its expenses.

Critelli, the former chairman of and CEO of Pitney Bowes, says that he is now talking to outside investors as well as Dossia’s members to raise new funds for the group in the first half of this year. (The group wouldn’t disclose how much it plans to raise.) He says his first preference would be to raise the money from the founding companies, which have already committed $15 million to the group.

“Given where we want Dossia to go and what we want it to be, we will need additional capital,” Critelli says. “We need to build capability in advance of getting revenue to pay for it.”

So far Dossia’s personal digitized health records have only been deployed for six of 10 of its consortium members. To date, a bunch of factors have slowed the rollout. Dossia had a messy breakup with its early technology partner, Omnimedix. Later, the group had to further develop the electronic records platform it adopted from Children’s Hospital in Boston to meet the needs of its member companies. And factors such as key personnel changes and reorganizations at some of the Dossia member companies have slowed their adoption of the records, Critelli says.

Alas, Colin Evans, the previous chief executive of Dossia, was unable to reach his goal of getting all the group’s founding members onto the system during his stint with the group, as he told me he wanted to in November 2009. Yet Evans did at least lead the group during a period of relatively rapid adoption. Only Wal-Mart, which was the first company to deploy the records, was up and running on Dossia’s technology when Evans took leadership as CEO of the group in 2009. When Critelli took over for Evans last month, there were six members who were using the records. [This paragraph was clarified to emphasize that Evans took leadership as CEO in 2009. His leadership of Dossia actually predated his being named CEO of the group.]

Still, the group counts the number of people who use its records in the thousands, not the millions, where it wants to be. (Critelli declined to provide specific numbers of users). While lots of people and doctors agree that personal electronic medical records are a great way to get patients more invested in their health, very few Americans have or use one of them.

Dossia has been working to increase the value of the records for people and their employers, Critelli says. For example, the group is expanding its ability to let people store and manage health data not only for themselves but also for their children, spouses, and parents, catering to that key person in the family who keeps track of everyone’s doctor’s appointments and prescriptions. (Check out an online demo of the Web-accessible records here.) A key feature for families is the ability of adolescents to share their information with their parent.

Dossia often draws comparisons to personal electronic medical records offered by Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault, and WebMD. Yet what has helped make Dossia stand out from its rivals, Critelli says, is that people can authorize the group to automatically put data from sources such as health insurers and pharmacies into their records. Microsoft and Google have taken more of a do-it-yourself approach to their records and do not go to same lengths to populate them, he says.

While Dossia believes its biggest market for its records are self-insured employers—which Critelli says spend a total of $500 billion per year on healthcare in this country—the group wants to broaden its reach. Its future plan is to make the records available to members of any health plan, recipients of Medicare and Medicaid, and uninsured people, Critelli says. Vanguard Health Systems, a member of Dossia, has begun a pilot program in which the healthcare provider has given its patients their own Dossia records to help the better manage their health.

Michael Critelli, CEO of Dossia.

Critelli seems a fit to take on the ambitious goals of Dossia. Not only is he the group’s past chairman, he was CEO of a Fortune 500 company for 11 years and led Stamford, CT-based Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) through some interesting times such as the emergence of the Internet as a dominant platform for communication. Imagine the impact of e-mail on a company with so much of its business tied to products and services for paper-based mail.

Dossia has much different challenges than Pitney Bowes, clearly. And one of them will be to get people to trade in their manila folders for online records to manage their health information. It’ll be interesting to see what progress Critelli makes on this front and how much investors are willing to stake to help him get the job done.

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One response to “New Dossia CEO Hunts for Cash to Expand Reach of Personal Digital Health Records”

  1. Rich says:

    They’re not the only ones hunting for funding.