When 23-year-old flight attendant Adrian Acevedo left a free clinic in Las Vegas, he got the advice that's familiar to anyone who's been tested for HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease: Wait two weeks and they'll call if there's a problem. "Those were the longest two weeks of my life," he said.
But what if you could get those results on a mobile app? Meet Healthvana, a 4-year-old company that provides clinics and patients with software to access and update medical test results electronically. For patients, it's a mobile app that lists HIV and STD results in a way that's easily accessed and digested. It's also shareable to future doctors, sexual partners or even all of their online social network if they so choose.
Since launching with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in January 2015, the service has partnered with over 12 clinics and reached nearly 10,000 patients. With the ever-rising popularity of mobile apps and online dating -- particularly so-called "hookup" apps -- being attributed to Rhode Island's 33 percent increase in HIV cases, 79 percent for syphillis and 30 percent for gonorhhea, Healthvana seeks to empower the "connected generation" with digital health records and reduce any anxiety caused by the old system.
"What Uber truly did was reduce anxiety. Before, with taxis, you had to call. And you always wondered, 'Is it going to be able to fit my luggage?', 'Will it arrive on time?' It's lofty step by step, but we're doing the same thing in healthcare," said Healthvana CEO Ramin Bastani.
How Healthvana Works
When a patient arrives to a Healthvana-powered facility, he or she fills out the traditional paperwork. The staff verifies the information and sets them up with the system as the patient is tested. The patient will receive an email which lets them create account with a unique username and password. After his or her results are ready, the patient will receive an email notification. The patient can then open the app, log in and see the results under a "My Records" tab.
Under each test, the app lists when the last results are from and when they should return to a clinic. If a test is positive, the app will direct to other certified resources. The clinic has full control over what data is received and how, Bastani said. For example, participating offices currently do not inform patients of positive HIV results through the app. Instead, they will notify patients with a phone call and in-person visit.
The Healthvana app also serves as a health record. Previous exams taken in a Healthvana-powered clinic are available and include the time, location, doctor's name and test results -- similar to what you'd see in your 'Order History' on online food ordering app Seamless or 'Past Classes' on the group fitness app ClassPass.
The app also has a searchable map of clinics. These locations have been curated by the Healthvana team and are also available on the company's desktop site. The listings include service options, operating hours and -- powered by crowdsourced reviews along with "secret shopper" investigations run by Healthvana staff -- average wait times, cleanliness and friendliness ratings and submitted reviews. The listings are similar to what you'd find on local business recommendation site Yelp. Facilities with Healthvana software are highlighted.
Mapping The Barriers For Clinics
Bastani has been on the social side of technology since he graduated from the University of Southern California in 1999. He started with Qpid.me in 2010, later branded as Hula, a service where he would coordinate patient requests for health records that often involved faxing documents.
"Who has fax machines anymore? Well, doctor's offices, that's who. We wanted to make it simpler," Bastani said.
That idea developed into Healthvana, a software package that reaches both clinics and patients. Bastani spent the first few years studying the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) -- the United States' federal regulations on healthcare privacy -- in all 50 states, since policies vary. For example, Oregon has a mandatory seven-day waiting period for test results, whereas California has a deadline of two-to-three weeks.
To map out those barriers, Bastani worked with a team of knowledgeable health and legal professionals, including co-founders former startup attorney Sean Crockett as chief operating officer and medical developer Jonathan Kawa as chief technology officer along with former Peace Corps member Carly Johnson as operations manager. Advisors include HIPAA attorney David Harlow, Google's former chief health strategist Dr. Roni Zeiger and Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, the former director of San Francisco's STD Prevention and Control Services.
Healthvana began by piloting the app in different facilities nationwide and recently secured a partnership with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a non-profit that provides HIV prevention services and testing. Currently, Healthvana is operational in 12 AHF locations throughout California and Florida and has 10 partnering clinics set up for the coming months in Dallas, Washington D.C., Cleveland and the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
As an international flight attendant for American Airlines, calling a clinic during their business hours can be problematic. "I never know where I'm going to be in two weeks, what time zone I'm going to be in, where I'm going next," Acevedo said.
Thousands of Americans-- including Acevedo -- call to inquire about their test results each day, even if they were negative. For example, one clinic reported to Healthvana that they received about 100 calls per day. Shortly after they adopted the software, that number dropped to 14.
But not every clinic has been willing to adopt the service. Some are strapped by limited budgets. For others, it's an unwillingness to adhere to shifting models and technological adoptions such as increased clinician training.
"Some [clinics] are very much in the way of not changing. What they’ll soon understand is people are going to go to clinics with the best features or where they feel the most comfortable and that can include having technology like us," Bastani said.
From Taboo To Instagram
For the patient, Healthvana provides instant gratification, online accessibility and the aesthetically pleasing view that millennials have come to expect in modern services. Just take the aforementioned ride-hailing app Uber, food-ordering app Seamless and group exercise app ClassPass as examples. Indeed, Bastani markets his company as a "patient engagement platform" and boasts that 70 percent of the 10,000 people who have used Healthvana have accessed their test results within the first four hours of availability.
"Sexual health is such a taboo subject, such an uncomfortable topic. If we can reduce patients' anxiety, it goes a long way in getting them engaged in their results," Bastani said.
And in the age of social networks, some Healthvana users have even chosen to share their results publicly. Instagram user Phokusonmi, who declined to provide his name but identified himself to International Business Times as a 30-year-old Miami resident, posted his clean bill of health on the photo sharing app Instagram:
Healthvana doesn't currently provide share options to Facebook or Instagram, but users can take their own screenshots on their phones and upload the images to social networks. "If they choose to share the information, they can. What they do with it is up to them," Bastani said. "The first problem to address was helping patients have access to the information for themselves."
Bastani said he hoped the app would encourage more people to take actions extending from getting routine STD tests to being more transparent with their health status. He likened the app's "Test XX days ago" inclusion to a feature on the once-popular social network MySpace where users were told when other users last logged into the website. "That single piece had a huge impact on how people used MySpace," Bastani said. "Imagine people getting tested more often because it shows up as a time stamp."
It is the person's choice whether or not to share their status. Popular "hookup" apps like Tinder, Hinge, Grindr and Scruff currently don't have a formal option to list sexual health status. But one day health records could be integrated, as mobile app developer David Semerad told Newsweek.
'I Have My Results Right Here'
Healthvana began with a focus on sexual health, but the company expects to incorporate more medical information beyond that soon, Bastani said. The app includes results for HIV and a battery of STDs (gonorrhea, syphilis and chylmadia) and will soon include pap smear results and HIV treatment. In the future, Bastani said he hopes to add vaccination records and more medical information outside of test results.
For example, the app does not offer online booking for health appointments -- a service currently provided by wealthy startup ZocDoc -- but that's in the works. "Every single company is going to overlap and should be stepping on other companies' toes. What a lot of these healthcare providers want is a whole package," Bastani said.
For Acevedo, it's about convenience. "I'm good about my health, so I always knew when I was due for an appointment. But now I can look back and remember exactly," he said. "I told some people, 'You have to check out this place. They use this app, and I have my results right here.'"