WellFX has deployed a social-engagement platform to allow patients to seek support on conditions such as diabetes, depression and chronic pain.
Health centers will begin using the platform, the company announced Sept. 6. WellFX launched the service in June.
Amazon hosts the platform in the cloud, and the service is accessible on mobile Web browsers. WellFX will eventually offer iPhone and Android native apps.
As part of a pilot project at California's Redwood Community Health Coalition, patients at the nonprofit West County Health Centers in northern California will use the platform to share feedback on their experiences with chronic conditions. Patients can form communities to discuss conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Staff-only community groups will also communicate on the platform to discuss best practices of care.
West County was one of the first community health centers in northern California to deploy electronic health records, said WellFX CEO Jock Putney.
The company had secured $5 million from a private investment company CMT Ventures to help fund pilots for two low-income areas, Redwood and Washington state's Columbia Valley Community Health, as well as the product's release, the company announced July 23.
Secure-messaging platforms in health care often connect doctors with patients, but for WellFX, patients use the service to communicate with one another.
Although it's a patient-to-patient wellness platform, WellFX is provider-directed as far as content, Putney told eWEEK.
"Providers have to have the authority on the content side to make sure it's the right information," said Putney.
Providers also use the tool to communicate with staff members and share educational materials.
The service is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) because it allows patients to be anonymous, and an always-on "https" protocol prevents patient information from being accessed from a public location or network, said Putney.
"You couldn't do this in a traditional consumer social network where someone can have 'http' sitting in an Internet cafe and packets sniffed," he said.
WellFX doesn't share personally identifiable data with third parties, Putney added.
The service features 72 anonymous avatars for patients to use. "We encourage users to be anonymous," said Putney.
Although WellFX could examine de-identified data from the platform, it can't trace the information to patients, said Putney.
WellFX says patients can use the platform to discuss treatment and share their struggles. They receive tips from other patients on their care plans.
"Those patients managing illnesses can use a platform like this to make connections," said Putney. "Small groups of patients communicating with one another can really have an impact on behavior," he said.
WellFX's proprietary platform allows users to retain control over who views their content, where their posts end up and who they communicate with, according to the company.
As part of a pilot project, WellFX will monitor patient feedback and adoption as well as the health outcomes that result. Possible results could be improved hemoglobin levels in diabetes patients and fewer relapses by addicts.
This fall, additional health centers in California and Washington state will adopt WellFX's platform.
In addition to WellFX, sites that allow patients to share how they deal with illnesses include pregnancy resource Baby Center, journaling site CaringBridge and support group resource Daily Strength.
Consumers, or patients, are ahead of providers in adopting social media platforms, according to the April 17 report "Social Media 'Likes' Healthcare: From Marketing to Social Business" by consulting firm PwC.