EBSCO Health Buys HealthDecision to Push Joint Decision-Making Tools

[Updated 1/25/19, 10:39 am CT, with comments from CEO.] Cardiologist Jon Keevil’s decision three years ago to hang up his stethoscope and focus full time on his digital health startup, HealthDecision, seems to have paid off.

His startup was just acquired by EBSCO Health, a business of Ipswich, MA-based EBSCO Information Services, which provides libraries with access to research databases, e-books and e-journals, magazine subscriptions, and other content and services. The firm’s healthcare business sells digital versions of clinical books and medical journals, as well as software tools that help doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals find information to improve their skills and inform decisions. The purchase price for HealthDecision was not disclosed.

Keevil (pictured above) launched Madison, WI-based HealthDecision in 2004 while he was a cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, aka UW Health. The idea was to build software tools that help clinicians and patients weigh the potential benefits and risks of treatment options to arrive at a decision. The company developed tools that retrieve data from a healthcare organization’s electronic medical records and present the information to patients in a way that helps them make a plan with their doctors. Examples include choosing whether to treat a patient with a cholesterol-lowering statin, or deciding whether a patient should get a CT scan to screen for lung cancer.

HealthDecision fits into several trends in healthcare, including advances in software tools to aid care decisions and get patients more involved in their healthcare.

By May 2016, the startup had grown to nine employees and had recently raised $157,000 from investors, with plans to raise at least another $100,000, Keevil told Xconomy at the time. A couple of months later, he resigned from UW Health to run HealthDecision full time.

Now, Keevil and the other five members of HealthDecision’s staff have joined EBSCO Health, he said in an interview after the acquisition was announced. The startup’s employees will continue working remotely from their homes in Wisconsin and several other states, he said.

EBSCO said HealthDecision’s products—which reach more than 26,000 patients annually—will integrate well with its clinical decision support products. Those include Option Grid decision aids, which the company describes as “brief, easy-to-read tools that help patients and providers compare healthcare options.”

“HealthDecision was born out of a mission to create tools that transform complex medical information into more actionable and patient-specific formats,” Keevil said in the press release announcing the deal. “I am thrilled that EBSCO Health’s resources and deep expertise in the field of clinical support and evidence-based medicine will greatly enhance our ability to assist patients and clinicians at the point of care.”

HealthDecision’s products are currently used by three networks of hospitals and clinics: UW Health, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Keevil said in our interview. Part of the reason for selling the startup—which raised a total of about $500,000 in outside venture capital, plus an undisclosed amount of money invested by Keevil and won in grants—was to more quickly expand its tools to additional customers, he said.

“The short-term goal is to take what we’ve done and scale,” he added.

Keevil predicts the demand will only grow for products that can curate medical data and present it to clinicians and patients in the most efficient and effective way.

“The information and the data and the material that’s available to a clinician to help take care of patients, and the material that’s available to patients to help them make decisions—it’s just growing,” Keevil said. “It’s just overwhelming to a clinician in many cases.”

Momentum for clinical decision support tools does seem to be growing. Other recent deals involving such products include Elsevier’s purchase of Via Oncology, Premier’s (NASDAQ: PINC) acquisition of Stanson Health, and Change Healthcare’s purchase of National Decision Support Company.

The HealthDecision deal marks the latest exit for Madison’s burgeoning healthtech cluster, which last year saw the acquisitions of Behold.AI and Propeller Health.

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