What a new customer engagement platform means for Allscripts' future

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Allscripts recently acquired HealthGrid, a customer engagement platform, in a deal that has the potential to significantly change Allscripts' role in the patient's care continuum.

Jim Hewitt, the executive vice president for solutions development at Allscripts, took the time to speak with Becker's about what the HealthGrid acquisition could mean for Allscripts' future.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity

Question: What motivated Allscripts to acquire HealthGrid?

Jim Hewitt: What really motivated us was that HealthGrid has a very innovative way to reach a very large patient population. They're an award-winning consumer engagement platform and Allscripts has very a widely deployed consumer engagement solution through FollowMyHealth. So bringing this large distribution channel with innovations around consumer engagement we think is going to be something special within the industry.

Q: How will this acquisition affect the ways patients and providers interact with Allscripts' platforms?

JH: If you look at overall consumer engagement across the U.S. today, it's been primarily focused on patient portals. When you dig into a patient portal solution, their adoption rate is fairly low. You may have a lot of people signed up but who's actually using it? We see 15 to 20 percent of the overall population actually using that consumer engagement tool. HealthGrid takes a different approach and will communicate with you no matter where you are and no matter what device you're on. If you're home they'll use interactive voice solutions, if you have a cell phone they'll communicate via cell phone. They will communicate via email and of course they can communicate through the patient portal.

So what HealthGrid does is bring all those solutions to a single platform, so you can get a consistent message across the board for your overall population. The second thing HealthGrid does is fill in a lot of the gaps with a consumer engagement strategy today. It has full check-in capabilities and manages waitlists so if there's a cancellation you can move your appointment up. It does patient surveys and education and handles gaps-in-care protocols as well, so tying that in a with a universal health record, which is what

FollowMyHealth really is, and covering all that communication will be a unique solution in the marketplace which is going to engage the consumer very differently.

Q: Why are patient engagement platforms important for the advancement of value-based care?

JH: If you look at what's going on specifically with risk-based contracts or managed care — if you're changing the game from bringing patients in and getting paid to manage patient populations, there's really a couple different ways you can do that today. One is the old way, which is to hire an army of people with Excel spreadsheets and they get on the phone and call patients trying to get specific care plans and data from them.

One organization has 12 to15 nurses just for their diabetic population. They call their population every day just to get glucose data, so they're investing heavily in resources to manage that population. The other way is a true consumer engagement platform that allows you to create monitoring and compliance orders and also set ranges within those orders so if something is out of range and if a patient is not being compliant you can also communicate to the care team. It creates an exception-based process rather than this reactive labor-intensive process of calling everybody.

Q: How will patient engagement apps continue to evolve in the coming years?

JH: I really believe the future here is the empowered health consumer. Consumers are getting more savvy and want the best quality of care at the lowest possible price along with a level of convenience. All these things together are very important for the future of the health consumer. They want appointments at convenient times with the right physician, and they want it at a decent price. They want tools that enable them to electronically interact with their care team so if providers don't have a telemedicine offering or virtual visit offering patients are going to compare them with someone that does. Another example of what HealthGrid brings to the table is they have the ability to set up care protocols based upon individual healthcare events.

When something happens, like a patient with a cancer diagnosis sees his or her oncologist, the system will know that they've been diagnosed with cancer and can fire off care protocols specific for that patient and can send educational material. It knows the patient is going to have their first chemotherapy treatment and it can give them information about their treatment and can survey them after to see if they're doing alright. You can create these very customizable pathways to engage the patient which makes the patient feel like their healthcare system cares about them.

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