Headquarters: Irving, Texas
Headed by: Scott Decker, chief executive officer
Products: software and hosted services to link hospitals, employees, consumers and physicians via secure Internet connections
Revenue: $20 million in 2001
At Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, it's no longer a question of whether physicians want to connect with the nine-hospital system via the Internet, but when and how easily. That's how strongly the Houston-based organization feels about the power of online information sharing.
Using browser-based software products and services from HEALTHvision, based in Irving, Texas, Memorial Hermann says it is improving communication and relationships between physicians and patients. The system says this in turn improves quality of care, which should then drive consumer and payer decisions about where to go for healthcare.
But to grow beyond early adopters such as Memorial Hermann, HEALTHvision needs to draw a solid, quantifiable connection between use of its products, which improve electronic ties to physicians and consumers, and growth in hospital admissions, says Eric Brown, research director of healthcare e-commerce for Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.
"They now need to talk much more specifically about ROI," Brown says. "Why are people spending this kind of money?"
VHA; Eclipsys Corp., a Delray Beach, Fla.-based health information systems company; and General Atlantic Partners, a New York-based venture capital fund, launched HEALTHvision in July 1999. HEALTHvision's products grew out of the Web-based software development work that had been under way at VHA and Eclipsys.
HEALTHvision manages healthcare systems' Web sites-and access to those sites-from servers, routers and software in Mountain Lakes, N.J., as a hosted service. As of January, the company says 317 systems had contracted for its Web-site services.
Healthcare systems can add a variety of services to the hosted Web site, such as secure communications between patient and physician offices, access to patient records for both physicians and patients, and consumer access to a wealth of health and chronic-disease information. HEALTHvision also is in the process of deploying technology so hospital employees, such as human resources and finance, can more easily access corporate information essential to their jobs.
"We operate one big environment that our customers tap into," says Scott Decker, HEALTHvision's chief executive officer. Patients and physicians log on to HEALTHvision's system from browsers, with access controlled through passwords and user IDs.
For example, lab results or information from an attending physician are forwarded to a patient's secured Web site within the HEALTHvision system.
The cost of a subscription ranges from $25,000 to more than $1 million, depending on the number of services and users involved, Decker says. Healthvision posted 2001 revenue of $20 million.
According to HEALTHvision, as of January, 21 health systems were using its physician-office solutions, and 8,200 healthcare providers, including 5,600 physicians, were hooked up to the system. Some 350 patients were communicating with their physicians.
At Memorial Hermann, 630 users, including physicians and their staffs, signed up for the physician-office solution, according to the hospital system.
In addition to the browser-based technology and services, HEALTHvision in January launched DirectEffect, a consulting company that develops strategies to market health systems' Web sites and related services to physicians and consumers.
In early 2000 Memorial Hermann became an early customer of HEALTHvision's Carevision product, which delivers secure messages and health-record information to physicians and patients. Carevision also gives physicians access to reams of medical information, including online medical texts, practice guidelines, drug information, patient handouts and full-text medical journal articles.
As one of the first customers, Memorial Hermann helped HEALTHvision test and develop Carevision.
"We were doing some of the components in 1997 and 1998-sending lab and radiology reports to doctors-but it was real slow. We were trying to figure out a way to provide a better service when HEALTHvision came along," says Scott Fenn, vice president and executive director of Memorial Hermann Health Network Providers, the health system's 2,900-physician independent practice association.
Although it had been working with Carevision since early 2000, Health Network Providers didn't aggressively roll out the product to physician offices until October 2001. The IPA renamed the Carevision product PhysicianLink for its application. Fenn says doctors tell him PhysicianLink saves them money because their staffs communicate more effectively with patients using e-mail than telephones. "We have one doctor who even claims he gets to go home earlier," Fenn says, adding that he doesn't have numbers on how much money physicians are saving.
Better patient care is another benefit of the system that's hard to quantify, Fenn says. In theory at least, PhysicianLink improves care because patients communicate with doctors more effectively and both patients and doctors have faster access to test results and other medical-care information, Fenn says.
HEALTHvision is working with customers, such as Memorial Hermann and VHA's Performance Consulting-the alliance's consulting operation based in Charlotte, N.C.-to document the economic value of HEALTHvision's products and services. It expects to release information from those studies mid-year, Decker says.
"The Internet is the perfect technology for healthcare-being as fragmented as it is," he says.