Girish Navani: Examining a City's Health

Turn Your Head and Cough Up Your Data
Photograph by Jesse Burke for Bloomberg Businessweek

Understanding the health of a community is difficult. Surveys cost millions of dollars and take months to figure out how diseases such as obesity or diabetes affect a population. They’re too slow to spot fast-moving illnesses like the flu.

Girish Kumar Navani, chief executive officer and co-founder of EClinicalWorks, is trying to change that. The Westborough (Mass.) company’s electronic health records are used by 60,000 physicians who see 1 million patients each day. About one in five Americans’ health data are stored using EClinicalWorks software. Those data form a real-time record of patients presenting symptoms, getting diagnoses, and undergoing treatment.

EClinicalWorks began working with New York City’s health department in 2009 to examine the health of the city as a whole. The records let officials “take a pulse of the community and know how to target future policy decisions,” says Michael Buck, the city’s biomedical informatics manager. “Sometimes it takes us decades to make decisions on population health,” says Navani, 45. With real-time health analytics, “you might suddenly start making [decisions] in weeks.”

The company is now offering a product called community analytics to health authorities and medical organizations across the country. To protect privacy, EClinicalWorks queries health records where they’re stored, either on secure servers or a doctor’s own hard drive, and strips them of identifying information such as names.

The Greater Baltimore Medical Center already uses EClinicalWorks’ health records and plans to have its community analytics system in place by June. That will let the hospital measure how well its procedures work, says Tressa Springmann, Greater Baltimore’s chief information officer. For example, clinicians could track when patients fill their prescriptions and test whether it’s better to follow up 15 or 30 days after an appointment. “The analytics component over time will tell us, are they getting better?” she says. “That’s our feedback loop.”

Navani came to the U.S. from India in 1988 to study engineering. He worked for Teradyne and Fidelity before starting EClinicalWorks in 1999. He built it with no outside investors and says it’ll reach $250 million in revenue this year. Doctors pay up to $525 per month for the health records software, and community analytics will cost more, though the price hasn’t been determined.

Navani calls the new software part of a broader mission to use technology to improve health care. EClinicalWorks is also rolling out a free Web portal and mobile apps for patients to access their records and get reminders to, say, schedule a checkup.

Only a third of U.S. doctors have adopted electronic health records, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For Navani, they’re the “on-ramp” to a better health system. With the data stored digitally, he says, “you can look back and change both patient and provider behavior.”

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