Compuware Seeks to Help Doctors Connect

A group of 1,700 independent doctors in Michigan has turned to Compuware Covisint to share and access patient health information.

A group of 1,700 independent doctors in Michigan has turned to Compuware Covisint to share and access patient health information.

The move marks Covisints entry into services for IPAs (independent physician associations).

IPAs include many community offices with just a handful of doctors, and is by far the category least likely to use information technology in their practices.

For a subscription fee of about $100 per month per physician, Covisint is providing a desktop portal will allow physicians to access information from different applications and health care facilities in a common viewing area.

"Were trying to get physicians connected at a single sign-on Web page across all the parochial applications," said Steve Grant, CEO of United Physicians, Michigans largest IPA.

He said his organization had picked Covisint after repeated meetings with IT people and decided that Covisint was a cultural fit.

Covisint has its beginnings in the automotive industry, providing a platform for auto manufacturers and suppliers to exchange information without granting potential competitors inappropriate access.

Though the bulk of its business is still in the automotive industry, it has been using its interoperability hub in health care for several years for clients including the North Carolina Hospital Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Other companies providing similar health IT services include Axolotl, Cerner, dbMotion, IBM, SeeBeyond (owned by Sun Microsystems) and SRS Software.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts health IT venture.

However, Brett Furst, VP of health care at Covisint, said that his companys portal was unique because it could readily incorporate information faxed from unaffiliated health care providers and because physicians could gain information from the portal even if they do not have access to other information technologies like e-prescribing or electronic medical records.

For example, when general practitioners refer patients to a specialist, faxed notes from the specialist will be stored digitally and automatically associated with the appropriate patients.

The images of those documents, said Furst, "become a poor mans EHR [electronic health record]."

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read more about large doctors groups EMR systems, click here.

But thats just the first step, said Furst.

"The idea is that you go from fax and walk [physicians] up to Web forms," whose more-structured data can be used for more applications, like generating alerts or recommending care.

Wes Rishel, a health care analyst with the Gartner Group, says one of Covisints strengths is that doctors who arent currently using IT can get started without significantly changing their workflow and move on from there.

Technologies that cater to the lowest common denominator "tend to be an immediate jump forward and then a roadblock," he said.

"What Covisint has done is put together a planned evolution that puts together the positive next step."

In addition, he said, Covisint has done a good job of integrating remote hosting for multiple EMR systems, an electronic laboratory results system, and an e-prescribing application.

Covisint is paid more if more physicians who are currently operating only with faxes sign up for more advanced technologies like EHRs and e-prescribing.

Many larger health IT companies that have focused on integrating systems within a single large health care systems are having trouble extending interoperability beyond an individual client, said Rishel.

Covisint, as well as other smaller vendors, have built tools that work independent of where information originates.

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