In doctor-patient communications, paper is out, and apps are in

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

To Missy Krasner, today's healthcare landscape is still mired in paper. Doctors think they can't communicate properly with their patients unless they get everything down on paper and send it home. And patients don't take their diagnoses and instructions seriously unless they're printed out on handouts.

Krasner, the new managing director of healthcare and life sciences for Box, a Los Altos, Calif.-based developer of digital communications tools, wants to push doctors and patients into the digital age. At this week's Health 2.0 conference, she helped launch an app developer challenge with Dignity Health, one of the nation's five largest healthcare networks, and the Social+Capital Partnership.

The Dignity Health and Box Patient Education App Challenge, which runs through Jan. 10, 2014, calls on developers to design an app that best addresses the problems associated with patient education. Officials say the goal is to create a simple and effective means of eliminating the paper handout and replacing it with the link to the patient's health record.

"People just want to get their documents," said Krasner, a 20-year healthcare veteran who helped launch the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT during the Bush Administration and was a founding member of Google Health. "This is a big pain point for lots of hospitals. Box is all about being able to store content in the cloud and collaborating on it and being able to share it."

Krasner said the patient education space is often ignored, and that no one has figured out how to develop a good delivery system. With the advent of mHealth and the realization that both consumers and doctors are using smartphones and tablets, she said, the innovators are taking notice.

"We really want to seed that innovation and focus on the patient education space," she said.

The challenge winner will receive a $100,000 convertible note and one month of office space and mentorship from The Social+Capital Partnership, and the winning app will be featured in the Box Apps Marketplace and proposed for a pilot project in the Dignity Health network. Finalists will be announced on Feb. 6, 2014, with a winner announced on March 27.

“We recognize the immense potential that technology has to enhance our patients’ care and overall experience,” said Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health, a San Francisco-based network of some 11,000 physicians and more than 300 care delivery locations in 21 states, in a press release. “Dignity Health is thrilled to partner with an innovative company such as Box and challenge developers to create applications that may someday have a profound effect on how we manage our health.”

The panel of judges who will decide the finalists and choose the winner is composed of Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. chief technology officer; Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie; Ted Maidenberg, a general partner with Social+Capital; and Rich Roth, vice president of strategic innovation for Dignity Health.

“There’s a huge opportunity to increase productivity in the healthcare industry by improving the way information is captured, managed and shared,” said Whitney Bouck, Box’s senior vice president and general manager of enterprise, in a separate press release. “With our expanding ecosystem, we’re bringing Box and the power of information into entirely new healthcare use cases and scenarios, and attempting to stimulate new innovation with our developer challenge. We’re thrilled to be able to support these efforts and to play a role in helping transform an industry that touches so many people’s lives.”

Expanding the Box healthcare ecosystem
Along with the app developer challenge, Box – which moved into the healthcare vertical this past April – is adding 13 app partners to its healthcare ecosystem. Krasner said the company's goal is to help healthcare providers and those in the pharma industry avoid the "shadow IT work-arounds" that employees use when they can't or won't adapt to an enterprise IT platform.

"Especially with BYOD in place in so many systems, people who work in IT are having a hard time working with the approved (IT platform), so they create these work-arounds that allow them to get their jobs done," Krasner said. "But that creates a lot of vulnerability."

Krasner said the new partners "are a fantastic group of early disruptors that have been working within the ecosystem," and will work with Box to create a cloud-based approach to supporting and sharing various files and file formats.

The new partners are CareCloud and Informedika, which focus on electronic health records; MedXT and Nephosity, both in the imaging space; Grand Rounds, PokitDok and Pocket Anatomy, who focus on access to care; and Qualaris, HIPPOmsg, Medikly, PicSafe Medi and VitalHub, which all focus on workflow automation.

“There is so much that healthcare can learn from other industries. At CareCloud, we see the value in partnering with the best technology innovators to help our customers be successful,” said Albert Santalo, CEO of Miami-based CareCloud, in a separate press release issued by CareCloud. “With its HIPAA-compliant offering, Box is the perfect partner as we look to expand our offerings for physicians. Additionally, CareCloud and Box both share a commitment to developing on an open API platform, so this partnership made sense both culturally and technologically and we are excited to offer the resulting integrated solution to the market.”

The collaboration with CareCloud will enable providers using the CareCloud platform to store, manage and access documents through a patient's Box account.

“This is exactly the kind of practical solution I need in my practice, so that I can enhance my interactions with patients while also collaborating with my peers without altering the way I like to work,” said Carlos Sesin, of Vanguard Rheumatology Partners of Florida, in the release issued by CareCloud. “With this new file sharing capability, I can reach patients quickly, efficiently and securely from within my existing practice management and EHR platform. This capability will not only enhance my business’s workflow, but will also enable me to drive patient engagement to the next level.”