IBM, Aetna unit launch on-demand healthcare management suite

Summary:IBM and Aetna subsidiary ActiveHealth will roll out an on-demand clinical decision support suite aimed at medical practices, hospitals and government healthcare providers.

IBM and Aetna subsidiary ActiveHealth on Thursday will roll out an on-demand clinical decision support suite aimed at medical practices, hospitals and government healthcare providers.

ActiveHealth, which provides healthcare IT software and services, will jointly market the cloud suite, dubbed the Collaborative Care Solution. For IBM, the launch is the first cloud computing effort for the healthcare vertical. Big Blue included its various units, notably services, research and analytics, in developing the system. As part of its smarter planet initiative, IBM has focused heavily on healthcare. Indeed, at IBM's blogger day there were multiple demonstrations highlighting analytics, research and technology in the healthcare system.

In a nutshell, the Collaborative Care Solution takes ActiveHealth's clinical support technology, called CareEngine, and delivers it through IBM's cloud computing platform and other assets such as its Cognos business intelligence software. The aim: Combine electronic medical records, claims, medication and lab data to cut medical mistakes and costs.

Now many companies have targeted healthcare institutions, but IT hasn't quite caught on at your friendly neighborhood primary care physician. What's going to be different this time?

Robert Merkel, vice president and healthcare industry leader for IBM Global Business Service, acknowledged that IT adoption by doctors has been subpar. That's because many healthcare IT systems were designed just to eliminate paper processes.

Merkel said that delivering the software as a service should help adoption in healthcare institutions. Meanwhile, government incentives included in the stimulus bill should help the return on investment case. "Digitizing information by itself doesn't lead to adoption," said Merkel.

The argument here is that insurance companies and the government are going to be requesting meaningful use of IT, pay for performance and accountable care for overall health of patients for reimbursement. IT is a way to document and better manage care.

As for dollars involved, this on-demand healthcare suite will be under $1,000 per doctor with multiple price points depending on the modules used. The Collaborative Care Solution will feature modules for health information exchange, clinical support, personal health records, analytics and reporting. Although Merkel wasn't prepared to talk specifics about pricing, a simple health information exchange would be well below the price per month for the entire suite.

Here's a look at what physicians need to work through when looking into this cloud suite for the ROI case.

  • Meaningful use incentives. The government will provide incentives if you show you have meaningful use of healthcare IT. Each doctor's office can net $44,000 over five years in incentives starting Jan. 1. The bar on what represents meaningful use goes up every year. At this point, hitting those incentives provides much of the ROI. And since the Collaborative Care Solution is SaaS, there's no big upfront investment.
  • Pay for performance. Physicians increasingly have to show they improved care and quality to get paid. IBM and ActiveHealth are hoping doctors will go for the reporting capabilities to document the improved care.
  • Accountable care. The buzz in the healthcare industry is that physicians will be responsible for managing the entire spectrum of care needs. In a nutshell, the accountable care argument means doctors get paid for better health management instead of volume of procedures.
  • Automation of measurement, tracking, data sharing, reporting and other processes to improve productivity.

If IBM and ActiveHealth can show their SaaS suite meets those needs above and get physicians paid faster, it may have some legs. So far, IBM and ActiveHealth have garnered one flagship customer. Sharp Community Medical Group, a San Diego-based health system, plans to use the Collaborative Care Solution to connect its 200 primary care physicians and 500 specialists together.

Also: Rethinking Healthcare

ZDNet healthcare

Topics: Health, CXO, IBM, IT Employment, Legal

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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