In a much-anticipated move, the New York state Legislature recently agreed to spend $55 million to create a statewide digital highway for New Yorkers' medical records.
Known as the State Health Information Network of New York, and called "Shiny" for its acronym, SHIN-NY, the project will connect millions of patients, thousands of doctors and scores of healthcare systems in New York state.
A completed network will also be a boon to dozens of small businesses, including biotech startups—both through directly creating jobs related to building the network, and opportunities that will come with access to a new big-data
Health systems and hospitals will be among the first to benefit from SHIN-NY. They've already spent tons of money on computerizing health records, and are under federal pressure to continue doing so.
"Hospitals have made investments in health-information technology," said Zeynep Sumer, vice president of regulatory and professional affairs for the Greater New York Hospital Association
, a trade group. For now, access to that data is available only within local networks. There are currently 10 such systems, known as Regional Health Information Organizations, or RHIOs.
Completing the network will mean that these regional systems will be able to talk to each other. That will allow hospitals "to securely communicate important clinical information with a patient's entire care team," Sumer said.
A less-noticed benefit is that its completion will give scores of small businesses an economic boost.
One such company is Mana Health, a startup near Times Square whose co-founder and chief executive, Chris Bradley, won a state competition to design the best patient portal for SHIN-NY
, followed in August by a contract.
Mana Health's software for the portal is due to be tested when the program is rolled out in June, though Bradley said, "I'm not at liberty to discuss contractual details."
At the New York eHealth Collaborative, a nonprofit that will oversee the network, Chief Executive David Whitlinger said completing SHIN-NY will create about 160 jobs in New York City, many at the existing regional organizations. They will need more software developers, clinical specialists, project managers, and sales and marketing representatives.
"Each of the RHIOs is essentially a small business," he said.
At Healthix, an 18-employee Manhattan-based RHIO that serves 50 hospitals in the borough and on Long Island, company President Tom Check said he expects to hire about 11 people.
Check said other new hires would work on increasing the data collected in the system.
Manufacturers of personal fitness devices and software also hope SHIN-NY will help their businesses. At Fitango, a four-year-old Manhattan company founded in 2010, founder Dov Biran said SHIN-NY could bring his "patient-engagement platform" new customers. The software lets users, their doctors, and their insurers track their health habits.
Meanwhile, other small businesses have their eyes on the network's potential data mine. "We want to tap into the SHIN-NY data," said Frank Sculli, a biomedical engineer and co-founder of BioDigital, a SoHo-based software company that specializes in creating computerized 3-D pictures of medical conditions.
With more data, Sculli said, he plans to do patient-specific imaging. SHIN-NY "will absolutely advance technology," he said."New health data network lures entrepreneurs" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.