Patient IO will help athenahealth learn more about individual patients, not just populations

By Heather Mack
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As we reported yesterday, athenahealth has acquired Patient IO (Filament Labs) to build out their care coordination and patient engagement platform. What does this mean for the cloud-based provider of EHRs and population health management?

For one, it shows athenahealth’s increasing focus on patient engagement in order to manage chronic conditions. It’s also the second such acquisition from athenahealth’s More Disruption Please accelerator (the first being Arsenal Health). The accelerator was athenahealth’s effort to identify and grow patient engagement companies that would be promising to their population health strategy.

“Prior to the MDP accelerator, we knew we wanted this type of virtual healthcare program, and we were looking for someone to fit this mold and try to invest in them,” Jon Porter, senior vice president of emerging strategies at AthenaHealth told MobiHealthNews. “That was really an active search on our part.”

More and more, Porter said, athenahealth is looking for ways to help understand how and why individual patients interact with their care plans and physicians, rather than going by the traditional population health management method of assessing a pool of people and trying to do risk calculations.

“What we started to look at was certain types of programs for ambulatory conditions –how you treat [patients] outside the hospital,” Porter said. “Take a condition like congestive heart failure. If they maintain their weight and are responsible about their care, adjust their meds when necessary, they aren’t utilizing the hospital services like those who aren’t taking care of themselves. So we would know the risk population. Unfortunately, when you give that data to those care managers, there isn’t much they can do beyond keeping track of them.”

With the acquisition of Patient IO – which will power athenahealth’s patient engagement platform, athenawell – the company can employ mobile solutions to establish more data touch points on the patient.

“Population health programs are only as good as the team staff to run them and come up with these analytics,” Jason Bornhorst, cofounder and CEO of Patient IO told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “So now, with mobile, you can create a lot of value, drive to the patient directly, and really accelerate the value of population health with patient self-management.”

As part of the transition to more mobile-based patient engagement, athenahealth will also generate a huge amount of data. The company has some 80,000 doctors in the network, who will all be analyzing data around generated from the new engagement tools. Physicians are already using athenahealth’s Epocrates point of care medical app, and athenahealth will be looking at ways to expand that.

Most patient data will come from athenawell integrations with HealthKit or GoogleFit, which patients opt in to, so there is already a level of security built in.

“That’s the really exciting part down the road,” said Porter. “Patient IO is small in the reach of their patients, but in the tail end, it creates things like athena research and athena analytics. We currently do analysis on things that are based on three or four events per year, and now we will have way more. At some point down the road (and it will take us at least 18 months before we have it) we can optimize care planning and care delivery, and give doctors the best practices.”
 
Porter said AthenaHealth has had huge organic growth in population health services and, by packaging Patient IO into the services and adding more upgrades in the form of niches like specialty pharma, he expects the company to grow between 200 and 300 percent.

With Patient IO, Bornhorst said, “we can turn any care plan into an actionable plan.”