Hello Health Deploys $10M To Expanding Patient-Funded Health Records

3/13/12Follow @arleneweintraub

When Westfield, NJ-based internist Peter Weigel began thinking about switching from paper charts to electronic medical records, all sorts of tech salesmen appeared in his office with pitches that seemed to good to be true. They told Weigel if he paid them to implement electronic records in his practice, he would be reimbursed under the government’s “meaningful use” regulations, which offer incentive payments to doctors who use such systems. “They said, ‘Yeah, there’s a price, but you’ll get it all back from the government,’” Weigel recalls. “It was worrisome.”

Then Weigel got wind of Hello Health, an electronic health record (EHR) platform that’s free for doctors—because it’s the patients who pay for it. Hello Health, which is a New York-based subsidiary of Myca Health in Quebec, Canada, has spent the last year or so rolling out an EHR system in the United States that patients can opt into for a fee that averages $36 a year. About 80 physicians have signed up for Hello Health so far, including Weigel, who estimates that 40 percent of his patients have signed up for it.

Now Hello Health is gearing up for a major national expansion, which will be largely subsidized by $10 million in venture funding the company announced it raised on Feb. 28. The funding—from a group of private investors and Sandbox Industries, a venture fund sponsored by BlueCross and BlueShield—will help the company branch out beyond the New York City area, where most of its current customers are, says Stephen Armstrong, vice president of marketing.

Hello Health has undergone a drastic evolution in the four years since its founding. The company’s initial goal, Armstrong says, was to hire its own physicians and outfit them with EHRs that would make the practices ultra-efficient. The company went so far as to set up its own clinic in Greenwich Village and hire a doctor. “But we quickly made a decision that we should stick to technology,” Armstrong says. So Hello Health converted the clinic into a small office and began perfecting its EHR platform.

Hello Health was designed with the needs of the patient top of mind, Armstrong says. Patients can use the portal to schedule appointments, keep track of their prescriptions, and send questions to their doctors via e-mail. Doctors can then consult the entire panel of patients to address specific groups who may have special needs, Armstrong says. “If they have a cohort of diabetics, they can use the platform to proactively send messages to them saying ‘it’s time for a checkup,’” Armstrong says. “You can start to promote greater frequency of visits when it’s clinically appropriate.” Hello Health also designs Web pages for the doctors in its system, and handles the conversion from paper to electronic charting.

Most EHRs offer similar capabilities, but what makes Hello Health different is it’s not only free for doctors, it also allows them to generate bolt-on revenue streams. Armstrong says Hello Health shares about one-third of the subscription fees paid by patients with the doctors. The company also offers video-chat capabilities, which doctors can use to schedule remote … Next Page »

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