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AT&T to operate AMA's online physician platform

Under what is being described as a "collaborative agreement," AT&T will take ownership and control over the American Medical Association's physician platform, integrating it with the company's health information exchange.

The platform currently operates under the name Amagine, but it will be merged into AT&T's Healthcare Community Online when the changeover is complete.

The two platforms run on technology created by Covisint, a division of Detroit-based technology company CompuWare. The AMA will continue to serve as a collaborative partner, offering physician outreach, input into new content and guidance on new solutions. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The merging of products is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

The AT&T Healthcare Community Online was launched in 2010 as a health information exchange. Since then, new tools and applications have been added for its users, which are mainly large health care organizations. Randall Porter, assistant vice president of AT&T ForHealth and AT&T Business Solutions, said the company is not disclosing the number of its subscribers.

But AT&T announced a major client that recently signed: the Indiana Health Information Exchange, which includes more than 80 facilities, 19,000 physicians and 10 million patients. Baylor Health Care System in Texas also will roll out the product to its facilities and physicians, Porter said.

The two platforms will continue to operate separately as co-branded solutions for the next six to nine months. Porter said the AT&T Healthcare Community Online will be co-branded with the AMA, including the use of the AMA logo. Although the Amagine name no longer will be used for the platform, the AMA retains ownership of the name itself.

AMA Chair-elect Steven J. Stack, MD, said that while AT&T will own and operate the combined network, the deal is being viewed as a collaboration because the AMA will remain involved in the growth of the platform.

The AMA will offer input into content and solutions and head outreach efforts to small physician practices, the main user base of Amagine, which has about 6,000 subscribers.

Dr. Stack said the partnership will allow users of the current Amagine platform to access a variety of clinical tools that otherwise were unavailable to them. He said the combined platform also will make care coordination easier because it will deliver clinical tools, such as data analytics, and connect small physician practices with hospitals, payers, patients and other ancillary organizations into one health information exchange platform.

Because of meaningful use requirements under Medicare or Medicaid and the rise of accountable care organizations, physicians are being asked to operate as part of a large health care community that includes hospitals, pharmacies, patients and other ancillary services. To meet stage 2 meaningful use and beyond, the exchange of information will be required to take place outside organization and vendor boundaries, said Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health information technology.

The combined platform also will help physicians achieve another main component of stage 2 meaningful use: patient engagement. Porter said the platform will include tools to communicate and exchange data with patients. A day after the partnership with the AMA was announced, AT&T Healthcare Community Online launched HealthyCircles, a platform that will connect patients to their care team. The company also announced a partnership with tele-health company VoCare, which connects physicians with patients and caregivers.

Porter said new technology partners will continue to be sought, and the AMA will play a role in that.

Dr. Stack said an important extension to a platform such as this is mobile capabilities, which AT&T will help deliver.

"With the respect to the investment of time, effort and resources ... we really hope those will bear the fruit that we wanted it to bear, which is to provide services to a community that so much needs it," he said.

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