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eCareSolutions to Launch Patient Interaction Product

A Mequon-based developer of personalized medicine tools for use by self-insured companies plans to launch a product next year that will use the Web to prod patients to lower their health risks.

Currently, eCareSolutions offers services that allow employers to predict health risk exposure and help insured employees with health risk cost avoidance. In September the company launched eCareConnect, an innovative Internet-based health risk management tool. The eCareConnect suite of online products and tools identifies high-risk employees and helps organizations implement loss-avoidance through a proprietary risk resolution and call-to-action program.

“The idea for this started during my residency,” eCareSolutions founder Dr. Raymond Gavery said. “There was a great need for taking care of large numbers of patients with very limited resources. Somehow, we always had more patients than time.”

Gavery’s interest in increasing the efficiency of communicating with and treating patients continued as he launched his internal and family medical practice in Lake County – and intensified as he began working with Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).

“I believe we were the first to bring an HMO into northern Illinois,” Gavery said. “That pushed our group further into looking at new ways of practicing medicine. We developed our first health assessment, our first case management tools.”
By the early ‘90s, Gavery had sold his practice, was working as a consultant to health plans and had developed a computer program designed to analyze health risks.

“We found out what they needed and what they expected to get from a corporate program that would practice loss avoidance,” Gavery said.
In time, Gavery’s system of algorithms to identify health risks developed into the underpinnings of eCare Connect, the product his company is rolling out this fall.

The program not only allows self-insured companies to collect data on employee health risk -- but allows employees access to a personalized health desktop accessible from the Web.

“We just finished our software and have tested it – and are now placing it in the market,” Gavery said. “This will be Version 2. Version 1.5 is already proven very effective. The significant difference is the predictive model and the fact that individual gets their own management tool through which they can communicate with parties involved in their health care.”

The personalized desktop will not be a complete medical record, but will store information on hospitalizations, test results and treatments, according to Gavery.

Hoop to jump through
One hoop software developers had to jump through was the need to make aggregate medical information available to employers but allow individual medical records to be accessed only by each employee.

According to Patty Clemens – project manager with Northwoods Software, Inc., Milwaukee, the sites the firm designed for eCareSolutions will be easily customizable by Gavery and are HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act0 compliant.

The solution involved using two separate technologies together, according to Clemens, who said Northwoods solved the problem by leveraging an active directory in SQL, using one system to manage users and the other to manage what each user can look at.

“The whole content management system uses both of those technologies,” Clemens said. “You can keep who the person is in one system and what attributes are available. That was key.”

Should Gavery need to change the performance of the system to account for new data on disease probability, he can do that without outside programming help.

“We also provided this back end interface that allows Dr. Gavery to enter specific parameters – and make changes to various parameters,” Northwoods Managing Partner Rick Fessenbecker said. “He doesn’t need us to do any of that.”

“Data can be changed to affect risk factors with diseases,” Clemens said. “We built that all into this engine.”

Next Step
While the current version of eCare makes its way to market, Gavery is already planning the next step of his system, and late next year plans to expand eCare to proactively prod patients to properly follow treatment regimens and engage in risk-reducing behaviors.

“Our next product is case management -- a very highly-structured means of communication between the provider and the patient,” Gavery said, adding that the Web will be used as a lower-cost alternative to phone continuity and follow-up by a nurse or physician. “Let's say you have a diabetic. In order to keep chronic disease at minimum cost, you need to maintain and make sure that treatment is done properly. If we can take care of those small problems before they become large issues – it’s just more expensive to do one-on-one or do by phone. The Web is a lower-cost way. That is coming later part of next year.”

The challenge in implementing the case management tool is securing cooperation of and integrating with systems of health care providers, according to Gavery.

“The nice thing about southeast Wisconsin is that you have several large providers that provide health care for most of the population," Gavery said, indicating that this will make the case management roll-out easier here.

With nationwide interest in lowering health care costs and the addition of the case management service, Gavery said he expects eCareSolutions to carve a respectable market niche in the next year.

“Most of the assessment programs will assess the population and then give an employer a report and they walk away from it,” Gavery said of his competitors. “They are not given a way to get the high-risk population to resolve those risks. The cost of our product is not that great, and we offer an ROI of three to one. I think in a year we will be pretty well spread out through the country. We are working through insurance brokers and distributors. There aren't too many products like ours.”

Chuck Rathmann is a freelance writer and contributor to Wisconsin Technology Network.

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