Information technology companies that once concentrated on improving the administrative side of health plan and provider operations are taking a clinical turn, prompted by increased interest in harvesting patient-care information collected in the billing process and redirecting it to performance improvement efforts.
WebMD Corp. last week agreed to acquire ViPS, a Baltimore-based provider of information technology and clinical decision- support services to health plans and state and federal governments, in a cash deal valued at $160 million including assumption of some liabilities. WebMD said the acquisition would enable the Elmwood Park, N.J.-based company to add health management services to the administrative and financial processing services it already offers to facilitate the claims adjudication and payment process.
Also last week, ChartOne of San Jose, Calif., entered into an agreement to acquire InterTech Information Management of Alpharetta, Ga., which does business as eWebHealth. ChartOne manages patient chart completion, coding and other tasks associated with improving the healthcare billing process and controlling the release of information. InterTech's eWebHealth service provides a Web-based hub for hospitals and clinics to scan, store and retrieve medical record information from patient charts.
Both ChartOne and eWebHealth now offer similar approaches to compiling a basic electronic medical record by converting paper-based reports of completed patient encounters to electronic images, which are then accessible to clinicians seeking historical information on currently hospitalized patients, said Peter Henderson, ChartOne's executive vice president of marketing, product development and deployment. The merger of those product lines will expand the breadth and depth of applications that the combined company can offer to providers, he said.
"There's been a new movement in recent years toward automating the whole electronic medical record function," Henderson said. Where once a hospital might have sought to increase the efficiency of a health information management department by digitizing records, the additional application of those electronic records elsewhere in the hospital "has benefits to the overall organization" in increased clinical proficiency and productivity, he said.
Health plans also are looking for more of a handle on their beneficiaries' health status so they can move beyond the traditional methods of reining in costs by managing insurance benefits more cheaply, said Roger Holstein, chief executive officer of WebMD. "Seventy-five percent of the cost of healthcare is the cost of care, not the administering of the benefit," he said.
The acquisition of ViPS will help meet the growing needs of employers and payers for computer-based tools and information on enrollees that can help them determine how well providers are hitting marks for clinical performance and potentially qualifying for incentives based on superior and more cost-effective care, Holstein said.
"The integration of ViPS' capabilities will enable these customers to better communicate with their members and providers about treatment and utilization issues to improve the effectiveness of care," he said.