September 18, 2014

Healthcare Innovation/The Business Side

Healthcare by the Numbers

The future of healthcare? Vast stores of data integrated and analyzed to help manage patients' health -- and anticipate employers' insurance needs.

Amy Keller | 5/9/2011

Ted Willich
As competition in the prison-health field increased, COO Ted Willich expanded MDI's business to include a web-based health data warehouse and analytics service. [Photo-illustration: Ryan Ketterman]
The evolution of Ponte Vedra Beach-based MDI Holdings mirrors the fast-changing complexities of the nation's healthcare system. Founded in 1992 in California as a provider of billing services for physicians by Ted Willich, his father Richard Willich, and a group of investors, MDI was struggling within three years of its creation. Then, a jail captain in Colorado confided to one of the investors that he was having difficulty providing healthcare services for his inmates beyond those supplied by the jail's in-house physician.

Ultimately, Willich and his father, who serve as COO and CEO, respectively, built a provider network tailored to the needs of both inmates and outside healthcare providers. MDI's timing couldn't have been better. Around the same time, the Federal Bureau of Prisons adopted a similar approach to inmate healthcare, and for five years, MDI had very little competition and accumulated a wealth of contracts. "We were just knocking it out of the park," says Willich.

In 2003, the firm moved to north Florida to take advantage of the area's workforce and the proximity of prominent healthcare players like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Aetna, Humana, Baptist, Shands and Mayo Clinic.

But as competitors crowded into the prison-health field, Willich, 45, realized MDI needed a new line of business. Drawing on its expertise in customizing networks for prisons, the firm in 2008 began building provider networks for self-insured entities like hospitals. Hospitals typically use their own physicians as providers, but not every hospital has staff physicians in specialty areas like pediatrics or obstetrics, for example. MDI fills in the gaps by contracting with outside pediatricians and obstetricians — and managing co-payments and deductibles so the outside providers don't get stuck with a lot of bad debt.

The next year, MDI shifted further, positioning itself on the cutting-edge of the healthcare evolution. Capitalizing on the IT platform it created to handle its corrections work, MDI rolled out a web-based health data warehouse and analytics service called Viewpoint that helps employers reduce costs, manage risks and anticipate their healthcare needs.

The number-crunching system works by extracting data from disparate sources for individual employees, ranging from health insurance claims to prescription databases, employer eligibility files, lab test results and health risk assessments. Then, the information is translated into a consistent format and loaded into MDI's proprietary database. The client data — which customers access through a secure web connection — is housed at MDI's headquarters, which is built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and equipped with generators that can provide energy for up to 10 continuous days. Once assembled, that data can be used for everything from monitoring disease and managing care to benchmarking and predictive modeling.

One component of the analytics program is a graphic tool called E.A.R.L., which allows users to display a specific patient's medical history (including diagnoses, claims and pharmacy information) in an animated presentation featuring a rotating human body and a timeline that runs across the screen. Different colors identify the severity of affected organs, bones and other body parts, allowing users to hone in visually on high-risk situations.

Case managers can use the Viewpoint analytics to monitor high-risk, high-cost patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes. A search engine flags those who fail to get their insulin prescriptions refilled or don't make prescribed doctor visits, and case managers can intervene to get the patients back on track before they become ill and require costly hospitalization.

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