How camera phones can automate healthcare

By Neil Versel
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Mitek Mobile DepositThe same company behind the technology that allows bank customers to deposit checks by camera phone is entering the healthcare business.

Mitek Systems, Del Mar, Calif., is now offering its mobile imaging technology through an API so smartphone app developers can automate paper-based processes. Obviously, healthcare has many such processes.

The new Mitek Mobile Imaging Cloud, which runs on the Amazon Cloud, captures images through smartphone cameras, extracts data from each image, populates forms and forwards the information to appropriate channels. Suitable healthcare documents might include paper prescriptions, physician superbills, insurance forms and patient history forms, according to DeBello, because they represent such tedious processes.

Healthcare "is one of our priorities," Mitek CEO James DeBello tells MobiHealthNews. "Providers are trying to engage patients and consumers in a better user experience," DeBello says.

He gives the example of a submitting expense reports and receipts to get reimbursed through a healthcare flexible spending account. "I literally have to go to the copy machine to copy my bills and receipts, fill out a form by hand, then fax the form by hand," DeBello laments. If all goes well, a check shows up by snail mail a few days later.

"It is so painful," DeBello says.

Instead, how about snapping a picture of each document to populate an electronic reimbursement form that gets submitted in a matter of seconds? As soon as the FSA administrator approves the charges, payment gets sent electronically.

Mitek already offers an expense-tracking app called Mobile Receipt for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone, but DeBello said the company is working on several "proof of concepts" with a healthcare company he won't name just yet. Our best guess is that the client is either a bank that handles FSAs or a health insurance company interested in improving customer service.

The company already has a lot of experience in the financial sector, as evidenced by this widely seen commercial for Chase QuickDeposit. Mitek's technology is behind this check-deposit service, as well as a related offering for customers to pay bills on their smartphones. A patented set of algorithms extracts data from images. "It's easier than typing on a tiny [smartphone] keyboard," DeBello says.

"We think the key is not the core technology, but the user experience."

In healthcare, Mitek is targeting three types of organizations: providers, insurers and pharmacies/pharmacy benefit managers. For the latter group, the company's technology can capture a picture of a paper prescription and send the information to the retail or mail-order pharmacy of a patient's choice, effectively serving as a bridge between paper and electronic prescribing. "Our algorithms can read print, handwriting and script," DeBello says, acknowledging that physicians are notorious for bad handwriting. As a safety precaution, the pharmacist gets a digital image of the prescription to verify the information in the electronic form Mitek provides.

If an image is rejected, the end user—the patient—gets immediate feedback as to what the problem is.

DeBello says Mitek is working with several healthcare companies to incorporate the technology into their mobile strategies. Expect to see the first healthcare customers by the end of the year.