With NYeC’s Help, Mana Health Revs Up Big Apple Patient Portal

8/19/13Follow @benthefidler

Mana Health has spent the past year successfully pitching its user-friendly patient portal to various healthcare constituencies in New York. Now, with the backing of an Oracle executive and a key New York non-profit, it has to find a way to turn that product into the foundation of a successful business.

The New York City-based health IT startup, just over a year old, took two big steps towards that goal this past week. First, the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), a state-funded, not-for-profit organization looking to establish a comprehensive network of electronic medical records in New York, awarded Mana a contract to build a patient portal—an online application/platform for patients and healthcare providers to view health records—accessible from any healthcare provider in the state. The contract is reportedly worth between $500,000 and $1 million. Mana will begin introducing the portal in parts of New York early next year.

Second, Reggie Bradford, Oracle’s senior VP of product development and the former chief marketing officer of WebMD, joined Mana’s board of directors and has become an investor in the company.

Mana CEO and co-founder Chris Bradley declined to specify how much Bradford has invested in the company (he referred to Bradford as the company’s “major investor”), the total amount invested in Mana since its inception in June 2012, or how much financial runway it has going forward. But the two announcements seem to give the startup—which hasn’t yet begun selling its first product—the chance to get its business off the ground.

“This is an enormous opportunity for us—from a business point of view, but also just from an ability to now contribute to the state,” Bradley says.

The son of two physicians, Bradley melded his college experience studying neuroscience, cell biology, and computer science at Rutgers University and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn in coming up with the concept for Mana.

“The impression I was left with was that life sciences, and specifically medicine, was very, very ripe with data, but not as much with making sense of it or consolidating it easily and using it easily,” he says.

So he joined up with Raj Amin, the founding CEO of New York City-based HealthiNation—a company that provides online health and wellness videos and resources to consumers—to create Mana, beginning with the idea of a patient portal in which all of a person’s medical information could be accessed online in an organized way that would be easy for patients to understand.

Efforts have been mounting over the past few years in New York to make this type of service the norm. The NYeC, founded in 2006 and funded by state and federal grants, is working to help Big Apple institutions make the shift to electronic health records and coordinate them into a network that is available across the state. And the Blue Button Initiative, which enables patients to download their personal medical information and share it with their doctors, was put into place by the federal government in 2010. But even so, Bradley says that the data, in its current form, is clunky—it’s presented through a “pretty ugly text file” that is difficult for patients to make sense of.

“Everything’s there, but it’s complicated, it’s not very well explained, and it could be up to 15 pages, so it’s not very easy for your average healthcare patient to understand,” he says. “We saw an opportunity to make this information more comprehensible, more engaging.”

So Mana designed a portal and entered it into a design competition held by the NYeC to create a standard portal that could be connected to any of the state’s healthcare providers. Mana was one of several companies to submit a design along with a demo that was voted on by the public. Finalists from that vote, which included Mana and other local health IT entrants iHealthNY and MyHealthProfile, then had to pitch their portal to two different panels of judges in New York City and Buffalo.

Mana won in May, and was awarded a contract from the NYeC last week after submitting a proposal to the non-profit to be the creator of the portal. The NYeC said, in a statement, that Mana had “the best understanding of the needs of New Yorkers.”

Bradley says what differentiated Mana’s portal from the crowd was an “intuitive, graphical approach” and a responsive design so that the application can be used with various different devices (as opposed to just a laptop, for example). Various pieces of personal medical data, such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels, blood type, upcoming medical appointments, and current medications, are all displayed on a page in big graphics.

The trick now is to turn that into a successful business in a rapidly evolving field that has a lot of competition. Bradley says the company plans to roll out the portal next year and build up an ability to integrate multiple sources of information into it—for example, wearable devices that track personal health data, like Nike’s Fuelband or the Fitbit Flex.

Mana will begin by selling the portal to hospitals and health information exchanges in New York, either licensing it out, or inking software as a service (SaaS agreements) with its customers. This could be for a one-time fee, or a stream of repeated payments, according to Bradley.

The idea, from there, would be to begin offering it to health information exchanges in other states, while scaling up the service into a suite of products that include various analytics tools to help clinicians make quicker diagnoses, among other things.

“You’ll be able to have a holistic view of your health, both from a clinical side as well as from your personal side,” Bradley says. “And we think that can bring a lot of value and a lot of engagement to this platform.”

Still, Mana faces a series of challenges. The company has to actually complete its portal, effectively build it out, and sell it. And the healthcare sector has a slew of actors—insurers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, patients, and more—that Mana has to work with to try to find its niche and survive.

“There’s a lot of moving parts and it’s constantly evolving,” Bradley says. “The main challenge for most companies— including us—in healthcare is really narrowing down how to make all of the different pieces fit and communicate, and then putting it all in one place so you can build value on top of it.”

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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