Helping consumers chart a best course of action

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

A company that uses data from both doctors and patients to chart a consumer's regimen is gaining support from a wide variety of partners. And it could make crowdsourcing the hot new topic in mHealth.

WiserTogether was launched five years ago and began marketing its Wiser Health Platform about three years ago, according to company CEO Shub Debgupta. This week the company announced a partnership with national telehealth provider MDLIVE to equip members with immediate access to healthcare providers, a contract with the international research and education firm John Wiley & Sons, and an investment from 7wire Ventures, the firm launched last year by former Allscripts executives Glen Tullman and Lee Shapiro.

WiserTogether's selling point is its Wiser Health Platform, which gathers data from consumers and doctors who have encountered similar medical issues and creates a list of best options based on clinical efficacy, financial considerations and treatment preferences.

"It's like eHarmony for healthcare," said Debgupta. "What's missing in the healthcare market right now is patient preferences, and yet those preferences can lead to better outcomes, better choices and more conviction in those choices."

Tullman, whose firm has invested in several innovative healthcare, education and energy startups recently, said WiserTogether could make a difference in prompting consumers to make better healthcare decisions. He sees this as the next step in crafting the "intelligent connected health consumer" of the future.

"When people talk about big data or crowdsourcing, they are talking about using all the relevant data and making it both useful – that is, turning it into information – and accessible, which usually means on a mobile phone," he said. "We’re focusing on the unique opportunity to crowd-source health information – including from physicians – in real time … whenever and wherever you need it."

"The security of having knowledge and experience at your fingertips for something as important as your health is changing how consumers engage with their health, their healthcare and their physicians," he added. "It's no longer about your doctor's knowledge, it's about your ability to access information instantly (from the soccer field, at work, during vacation) and use it to engage with your doctor. This kind of tool is just the beginning of what we are seeing and investing in."

Debgupta said a typical person looks at about 22 different factors in choosing a course of medical treatment, ranging from personal preference to effectiveness to cost – and they typically try five different treatments before making the decision to see a doctor. By gathering data from others – both consumers and physicians – who have faced similar issues, he said, the Wiser Health Platform gives consumers a better idea of what would work for them.

Surprisingly, he said, in a survey of users, cost wasn't at the top of the list of decision drivers – it was 7th. "What people look for is how to get better," he said.

Debgupta explained that WiserTogether currently has about 2 million members through contracts with employers and health plans, and now wants to take that platform up to the next level. Hence the partnership with MDLIVE.

"Telehealth is a natural extension of our service, and it addresses a need at the time of decision," he said in a press release announcing the partnership. "Our clients' employees and family members will be able to access affordable, immediate care through MDLIVE as they evaluate their treatment options on Wiser Health."

The partnership with John Wiley & Sons was actually forged a while ago, when WiserTogether agreed to use Wiley's Essential Evidence Plus clinical decision support system. Wiley's will now make WiserTogether available to its U.S.-based employees and family members.

"We're committed to providing our colleagues and their families with the tools they need to make the best healthcare decisions," company CEO Stephen M. Smith said in a press release.