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Can design help digital health records startup ElationEMR get an edge?

In case you haven’t noticed, electronic medical records are a big deal in the health world. Over the past few years, thanks to government requirements and incentive dollars, health care providers and hospitals have been moving from paper to digital, with several companies – from giant corporations like Epic to newer startups like Practice Fusion – trying to get a piece of the action.

During that time, San Francisco-based startup ElationEMR has been keeping a relatively low profile. But now, the company — which is backed by big Silicon Valley investors including Aberdare Ventures, Kapor Capital, Ron Conway and Facebook (s FB) co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, as well as design firm IDEO — seems to be making a bigger effort to court physicians.

“We’ve been quiet because we want to get the product right,” said co-founder Kyna Fong, who created the startup with her brother Conan Fong in 2010. “If it takes a couple years but we get it right, that’s important to us. It’s a big problem that lots of people are trying to solve.”

Most EMRs, Fong said, were built for billing and compliance purposes, and their design reflects that. Doctors are often given one pane to review at a time and are prompted to enter codes and information via drop-down menus that restrict data entry that could help with clinical decisions. But Fong, who worked in her father’s physician practice along with her brother, said that ElationEMR was designed for a different purpose: to support a doctor’s train of thought and clinical decision-making process.

“Other systems… are like glorified filing systems,” she said. “ElationEMR allows a physician to see many different pieces of information at once – from problems to active medications to notes from their last visit and lab reports – all in one screen.”

ElationEMR2The software, which costs $149 per month per doctor, also gives doctors more free-text options for entering information in unstructured ways, and enables them to search all the text in a patient’s chart, regardless of how the data was entered.

The company on Wednesday also released a new service that aims to make it easier for physicians to connect with other doctors caring for their patients. Called the Elation Provider Network, it analyzes data in ElationEMR, as well as other data sources, like the country’s healthcare providers and prescription information, to identify the network of physicians that have also seen a specific patient.

That enables physicians to have an up-to-date list of collaborators and referrals — ElationEMR estimates that the average primary care physician coordinates care with 229 other physicians in 117 different practices. With three clicks, Fong said, a doctor can send patient information to another specialist or provider.

In user numbers, the startup lags behind its competitors: its customers number in the hundreds, while, for example, Practice Fusion (which also targets physician practices) has more than 150,000 on its site. But Fong said ElationEMR is showing that it can get doctors engaged. The average physician may only open an EMR as many times as she sees patients during the day, Fong said. But ElationEMR says its customers are using the software not just for compliance purposes but to make care-related decisions.

(If you’re interested in how the tech world is embracing design, GigaOM’s annual RoadMap conference will take place in November in San Francisco and tickets will go on sale shortly.)

4 Responses to “Can design help digital health records startup ElationEMR get an edge?”

  1. This is very encouraging. In our current health care system the insurance agencies have been the ones in charge and dictating how medical records were keep. As a social worker even the clients diagnosis was dictated by what DSM classification number you could use to ensure the client received at least 6 visits. This medical records tracking system gives my hope that maybe the patients and doctors can have more influence on diagnosis thorough how medical records are kept.