EClinicalWorks Unveils Mobile App as Patients’ Go-To Site for Healthcare

Many people steer their social lives from a single online dashboard, such as Facebook. Entrepreneur Girish Navani is betting that people will also want to use a densely connected Web platform to manage the health aspects of their lives.

His Westborough, MA, company is rolling out a new mobile phone application designed to be the single control panel where patients can do everything from consulting their doctors to tracking their exercise habits.

Navani is the CEO and co-founder of eClinicalWorks, one of the leading firms in the business of helping doctors to manage and store the electronic health records of their patients. The private company is laying out $25 million to fund the first year of operations for a new stand-alone subsidiary called Health & Online Wellness, or “healow” for short. Patients can download the healow app free of charge starting today for the Android and iOS mobile operating systems.

Healow users will be able to tap into their medical records right away if they are patients of one of the healthcare professionals who pay $375 per month for eClinicalWorks’ services, which include billing software and cloud-based health records management. For the moment, the doctors will pay nothing extra if their patients start using healow to do things like sending questions to their practitioners, scheduling appointments, and checking their test results.

Healow app home screen

The home screen for eClinical Works' new healow mobile app.

But healow will expand later this year to include add-on functions including home health monitoring apps developed by outside businesses, Navani says. At least two “significant vendors” have already signed contracts to provide services including weight loss programs, blood pressure measurements, and a pedometer that counts the steps an individual takes every day, he says.

Navani says says he’s confident that revenue sources for healow will develop quickly. Payment could come from health monitoring device companies that gain more customers through healow. It could also come from doctors, employers, and health plans that would save money if healow keeps their patients healthier, he says.

“I’m pretty positive that it will be a profitable business by next year,” Navani says. He says it’s against his philosophy to invest in ventures that lose money for years until they get off the ground.

Navani and the four co-founders who launched eClinicalWorks in 1999 took no money from outside investors and say they still hold no debt on the business. The private company reports it has been profitable every quarter since 2000. Navani says he anticipates that 2012 revenues will be in the range of $250 million to $255 million. The company says it has a customer base of more than 70,000 physicians.

Big competitors in the field include Allscripts of Chicago, IL (NASDAQ: MDRX), which says it serves 180,000 doctors, and Epic, a private company based in Verona, WI, that recently received high ratings from KLAS, an Orem, UT, ratings firm that ranks health IT practices based on customer surveys.

Such firms are rated by many different metrics, based on their software, other services, and the size of the physician practices they serve best. Navani says eClinicalWorks ranks in the top two spots by the number of prescriptions ordered, and the number of patient visits that are covered by an electronic health records system.

At least nine electronic health records companies, including eClinicalWorks, already offer mobile platforms where health care professionals can access patient records and organize the tasks of care using devices such as the iPad or the iPhone, according to a survey by Informationweek. A competitor of eClinicalWorks, the Watertown, MA, company Athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN), recently announced that it has agreed to acquire a mobile medical reference platform widely used by doctors, Epocrates of San Mateo, CA.

The Health & Online Wellness unit founded by eClinicalWorks seeks to expand the patient side of the electronic health care management conversation.

Patients of health care providers that are part of eClinicalWorks’ subscriber base can already call up their medical records and interact with doctors on desktop computers or laptops through the eClinicalWorks Patient Portal, which has 8 million users, Navani says.

The company will build on that customer base to attract users to the healow app. Navani says the app improves on the patient portal website because it can allow patients to pull together information from all practitioners, information sources, and outside apps that contribute to maintaining their health. A user such as a parent could also manage the health-related activities of children, as well as other family members who give consent, within a single healow account.

Navani expects that all these features will help build the customer base for eClinicalWorks’ existing electronic health records business. “If we establish wide use among consumers, then doctors will be enticed to participate,” he says.

But the company’s ambitions for healow may be broader than that. The Health & Online Wellness subsidiary, which is housed in a separate building near company headquarters, with an initial staff of 85, will be given the freedom to develop independent business strategies, Navani says. He says eClinicalWorks has not disclosed healow’s management structure.

The cloud-based healow app will soon be modified to allow patients to access their health records even if their doctors are not eClinicalWorks subscribers. Non-member doctors can make this possible by joining a network set up by eClinicalWorks as a conduit for collaboration among practitioners, regardless of the electronic health records service they use. Already, 20 percent of the network’s members are not subscribers of eClinicalWorks, Navani says.

The network could expand the user base for healow, and thus, the customer base for other services that may become integrated within the app. For example, Navani says plans are in the works for a directory that patients could use to comparison-shop for health care providers, from medical specialists to physical therapists.

Navani says he expects that outside developers will continue to design apps to integrate with healow. Health plans and other organizations could use it as a platform to develop wellness programs that could reduce the overall costs of medical care, the company notes. Doctors can send patients reminders each time they’re due to take their medicine.

Like many an Internet entrepreneur, Navani says the first priority is to build his company’s consumer network. Patients will get a free ride.

“We will never charge for the healow app,” he says.

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