Last month, patient engagement platform developer Luma Health announced an integration partnership with leading EHR vendor MEDITECH in the US. Luma claims that the tie-up will bring ‘powerful new capabilities to the thousands of healthcare providers that use the MEDITECH Expanse EHR’.
The Signify View
Integrating with one of the big four US hospital EHR vendors is a positive step for Luma Health and its Patient Success platform. The San Francisco-headquartered company says it serves more than 600 health systems, integrated delivery networks (IDNs), federally-qualified health centres (FQHCs), specialty networks and clinics across the country. In doing so, it supports the care of more than 35M patients.
The tie-up with MEDITECH is one of several integrations Luma Health has with leading EHR vendors, including Oracle Cerner. Given MEDITECH’s healthy market position and the good reputation its Expanse EHR enjoys, the deal offers good upside for Luma Health. But how does it align with MEDITECH’s vendor integration and partnership strategy?
Quality Over Quantity
The latest chapter in the Expanse EHR story started to be written in 2017, when MEDITECH completed a major and much-needed upgrade to the solution. A move that was broadly well received by customers, hospitals and IDNs, it also transformed MEDITECH’s image from one of an old-fashioned EHR vendor to one equipped to do what few others could: go toe-to-toe with Epic. MEDITECH is a rare breed of vendor still growing its US inpatient EHR market share, and it is understandable why Luma Health would want to integrate with the Expanse EHR.
But where Epic (whose app store listed 660 partners in March 2022), Altera/Veradigm (around 400 partners) and athenahealth (also around 400) have opted to create as many partnerships as possible, MEDITECH has taken a much more selective approach to date. It lists just a handful of integrations and partnerships on the MEDITECH Alliance app store, and most of those are deep integrations with the likes of Google Care Studio (which powers Expanse’s search function) and Innovaccer, the population health management vendor.
In terms of patient engagement solutions, the MEDITECH Alliance lists just two vendors. One is MEDITECH’s Expanse Patient Connect solution, powered by enterprise communication platform developer Artera which is offered as a standard function on Expanse. And the other is Luma’s Patient Success platform.
MEDITECH Alliance Programme Tiers
At first glance, both the Artera and Luma platforms provide similar functionality. Both have automated chatbots offering patient scheduling, payments, eligibility, verification, conversational messaging, forms (pre-visit and triage intake) and analytics tools for the provider. They also have automated marketing and outreach tools. But while Artera’s platform draws on the company’s historic focus on patient communications (SMS, WhatsApp etc), Luma’s Patient Success platform is positioned as a workflow tool for the entire patient journey.
This subtle difference in positioning might explain why Artera and Luma Health have different status in the MEDITECH Alliance.
Artera is the only patient engagement solution vendor in the Alliance with ‘Innovator’ status. This is the highest level of integration, to the point that the customer might not even know that the solution is not MEDITECH’s. This is the case for Expanse Patient Connect which, although powered by Artera, is branded as a ‘native’ MEDITECH solution.
Luma, on the other hand, sits curiously and conspicuously as the only patient engagement solution vendor in the Alliance with ‘Accelerator’ status. ‘Accelerator’ solutions are less integrated than ‘Innovator’ solutions and are defined by MEDITECH as ‘partnerships designed for defining complex integration needs or new product integration promotional purposes’. In this category, the onus remains on the partner (not MEDITECH) to market the solution.
Although this is by definition a ‘lower’ status than the ‘Innovator’ solution, MEDITECH’s commitment to the Luna Health partnership is clear. The two companies collaborated closely in validating the integration of Patient Success as well as MEDITECH-enabled workflows into Expanse.
To provide Luma’s developers with hands-on access to its proprietary APIs, Luma participated in the MEDITECH Greenfield Workspace initiative. Luma describes it as a ‘preferred-access partner engagement initiative for organisations with proven, interoperable products that complement, enhance or extend the Expanse EHR’. It is effectively a ’sandbox’ where third parties like Luma Health can fine tune solutions, develop interfaces and even run pilots before testing them on a live MEDITECH EHR installation.
In Luma’s case, the real-life MEDITECH EHR installation was on Expanse at Phelps Memorial Health Centre, a critical access hospital in Nebraska. Luma claims implementation was ‘fast and smooth’, delivered ‘significant patient success outcomes’ and that nurses at the hospital saw a ‘significant reduction’ in the time spent contacting patients about appointments and test results.
The Phelps project was a valuable proving ground for the Patient Success platform, and this will be valuable to Luma moving forward. Despite MEDITECH’s clear commitment to the solution, the fact that Patient Success does not enjoy top-tier status in the Alliance means Luma must put in the hard yards to market it. It will have to persuade its customers why they should pay for its solution over the native application offered by MEDITECH and Artera.
Patient engagement is a highly competitive arena with a very fragmented ecosystem of vendors, but in MEDITECH, Luma has a partner that is in the top four hospital EHR vendors in the US with a solid primary care EHR footprint to boot. It is also one of a select few vendors whose solutions cover IDNs’ entire needs.
But still, the nagging question remains: why would MEDITECH allocate so much time and resources to Luma when it has a ‘native’ solution in the Expanse Patient Engagement platform already in place? Is there a problem with the Artera solution? Or is it simply trying to build its MEDITECH Alliance membership with a focus on quality rather than quantity?
The answer is probably the latter, and in any case the Luma partnership is of limited cost burden for MEDITECH. Amid a concerted regulatory push in the US towards more open interoperability standards across healthcare IT, including for EHR vendors – and given that EHR integrations are based on an open standard FHIR-based data exchange platform – development overheads for Patient Success are minimal for MEDITECH (and far lower than they would have been for the ‘native’, MEDITECH-branded solution). As a result, MEDITECH has almost nothing to lose by supporting the Luma Health integration.
Clearly, MEDITECH is taking a different approach, for now at least, to building its Alliance than rival vendors like Epic and Allscripts and their partnership ecosystems. Its initial focus on building Innovator and Accelerator status portfolios speaks of a ‘quality over quantity’ strategy that most EHR vendors, who are much further along the journey, have moved away from.
But these are early days for the MEDITECH Alliance.