Free Enterprise Staff  | January 28, 2015

A Small Business Looks to Upend Healthcare Technology

As the world moves to an increasingly digital-first environment, everything from a person’s Facebook profile to her health records can be accessed from a phone. Though doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals are digitizing patient medical histories to streamline the healthcare process, records are not easily shareable across different Electronic Health Record (E.H.R.) platforms, complicating what was intended to be a simple process. A Maryland-based company hopes to solve this problem—and it’s getting attention across the globe.

Get Real Health has created InstantPHR, a system that syncs each patient’s medical records regardless of E.H.R., effectively granting a patient and all of her doctors easy access. This allows providers to surmount one of healthcare’s most endemic problems, argues Get Real Health senior strategist Christina Caraballo. “Many personal health records on the market are tethered to an E.H.R. This has caused patients to have multiple patient portals,” she says.

“InstantPHR solves this problem by aggregating data from multiple sources so that the patient has a holistic view of his or her health record. We can also integrate at the H.I.E. level. This allows organizations to implement a patient portal across the whole system, as opposed to having multiple personal health records.”

Despite the differences that exist, countries all over the world are looking to adopt innovative technologies to improve their healthcare systems, Caraballo explains. “The need for health I.T. and consumer engagement across the world is flat and very universal.”

What makes InstantPHR attractive and accessible globally, Caraballo points out, is its customization capability, especially when it comes to language. “The application can be branded to match any organization’s look and feel, as well as satisfy localization and language requirements—including support for multiple languages, patient-set preferred units and language, and right-to-left text,” she says. Canada is currently using InstantPHR as the primary patient portal in Alberta, and the team will soon travel to Italy and Turkey to educate their health and innovation teams.

Yet bringing its technology to international markets has its drawbacks. Concerns over protecting its intellectual property have kept it from moving into some international markets, for example. Get Real Health’s biggest concern is that a competitor will steal its technology that allows the app to be used in any language and displayed in either right-to-left text.

What’s more, InstantPHR does more than simply serve as a repository for users’ medical records. The technology also helps patients keep track of their day-to-day health, allowing them to set medication reminders, record daily information, follow a doctor’s set action plan, and keep track of their records and prescriptions—all of which can later be used to help identify critical insights.

“Being able to look at trends helps patients change their behavior,” says Jennifer Dunphy, a clinical subject matter expert at Get Real Health. Patients with congestive heart failure, for example, often experience significant weight gains following hospital stays. Get Real Health’s technology would help prevent this sort of outcome by communicating each day how much weight a person has either lost or gained. “The best way to rein in costs is to improve healthcare,” Dunphy stresses.

To further ensure accurate reporting, the tool works with other devices that send information straight to the app to be recorded. In the case of the patient with congestive heart failure, a connected scale would send the recorded weight of the patient to the app each day. Still, Get Real Health’s partnerships go beyond connected devices and include reliable health websites that provide additional information about conditions and symptoms. These sites typically offer short content bits and videos that feature information designed to help patients better understand their health.

Perhaps counterintuitively, tools like InstantPHR don’t seem to reduce office visits or threaten the existence of private practice. It’s the opposite, actually—the app allows patients to review medical information before their visits, allowing for improved in-person visits, exaplins Caraballo. “It’s been our experience across multiple client implementations that patients who use InstantPHR are more satisfied and experience better clinical outcomes,” she says. “They feel more in control of their healthcare and perceive the doctor-patient relationship as more of an equal partnership. They are more likely to understand their own role in managing their health, and they feel empowered to do so.”