Celebrating 20 Years

A History Of Patient Engagement

GetWellNetwork was founded in 2000, a difficult year. The dot-com bubble burst, dragging the stock market with it. All across America, tech companies and start-ups folded, leaving little to show for their work. Despite the uncertainty, in one Maryland hospital, a patient identified the need for technology to inform better care. It was the perfect storm from which a new concept — “patient engagement” — would emerge.

Twenty years later, we reflect back.


August 2000: By a patient, for patients
Following aggressive surgery and chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 28, Michael O’Neil drew on his own experiences to found GetWellNetwork, on the premise that a more active and involved patient is a better, healthier patient.

May 2001: Introducing IPC in the industry
Interactive patient systems that encouraged patient activation, input and feedback didn’t yet exist. GetWellNetwork developed a concept called Interactive Patient Care (IPC) and went live with its first client. This was the start of “patient engagement” as it is known today.

March 2002: Bridging the digital gap with an HL7 integration
The first time any IPC system connected directly to an EHR to personalize the patient’s experience based on their own data came about with GetWellNetwork’s HL7 integration. This represented the industry’s first opportunity to personalize and tailor care based on specific patient needs.

February 2004: Putting interaction into interactive care
The introduction of the GetWellNetwork Patient Pathways workflow engine marked the first time that an IPC system could guide a patient through their own experience, based on patient responses and feedback. In other words, the technology could now automatically prompt patients to take actions based on what they did or didn’t do.

April 2004: ONC is established
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) was created by President George W. Bush via executive order, with the purpose of promoting and overseeing a national health information technology (HIT) infrastructure. This was the first time that national coordination of HIT was encouraged.


October 2006: CMS implements the HCAHPS survey
CMS implemented the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey, meant to measure patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience. This was the first national standard for collecting and reporting on the patient experience.

July 2007: Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 encourages HCAHPS participation
By tying Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) annual payment updates to the collection and submission of HCAHPS data, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 created an additional incentive for acute care hospitals to participate in the survey.

May 2007: Google’s Universal Search debuts
Google’s Universal Search represented the first step in changing the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) into today’s familiar search experience, later used by countless healthcare patients researching providers and leaving online reviews.

June 2007: Launch of the iPhone
Apple launched the first generation of the iPhone, bringing mobile-based experiences and on-demand expectations to many industries, including healthcare.

December 2007: The Great Recession begins
The Great Recession had a large impact on healthcare, with reduced demand for elective procedures leading to an overall decrease in healthcare revenue, and a greater number of patients without the means to pay their medical bills.

July 2008: Pay-for-performance debuts
In the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Final Rule, CMS included payment provisions that covered 10 Hospital Acquired Conditions, introducing value-based care and pay-for-performance to the industry.

February 2009: Use of EHRs incentivized by Congress
Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which included provisions about meaningful uses of electronic health records (EHRs).


March 2010: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is signed into law
President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), creating the most extensive overhaul and expansion of the medical system since 1965.

March 2010: Legal support for Value-Based Care
The ACA established the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center, designed to lower healthcare costs. The law also created the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), enabling Medicare to reward providers that lower expenditure growth while achieving quality standards.

September 2011: Veterans Affairs enters the Interactive Patient Care space
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs moved into the patient engagement space, awarding its first IPC contract to GetWellNetwork. This marked the first time that the VA used IPC technology to help engage, educate and empower veterans in their own care.

November 2012: Making care information accessible
By enabling patients and families to share information about care concerns, GetWellNetwork’s Interactive Patient Whiteboard helped to improve quality of care and patient satisfaction.

March 2014: Taking patient engagement global
The concept of patient engagement went global as GetWellNetwork expanded into the Middle East, later followed by the UAE, Canada, and Australia. King Faisal Specialist Hospital also became GetWellNetwork’s most integrated client, using the platform as the centerpiece of all HIT systems in one of the Middle East’s largest and most reputable institutions.


February 2016: Patient engagement brings in smart technology
As digital technology advanced in the consumer world, healthcare began to adapt and adopt HIT that played well with it. Smart TVs, for example, made it easier to reach the patient population with less hardware equipment required.

May 2017: FDA creates a digital health unit
The Food & Drug Administration announced the creation of a digital health unit, meant to better address the rapid innovation in digital technologies.

June 2017: Patient engagement on the go
GetWellNetwork moves into the remote patient monitoring space with the launch of GetWell Go, a mobile patient engagement solution, and the subsequent introduction of GetWell Loop.

October 2017: Opioid crisis declared national public health emergency
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services declared the ongoing opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency, enabling HHS to “appoint specialized personnel…work with DEA to expand access for certain groups of patients to telemedicine for treating addiction…and provide new flexibilities within HIV/AIDS programs.”

April 2019: Amazon Alexa becomes HIPAA-compliant
As consumers grew to expect seamless interactions with technology in life (like the iPhone’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and more), they began to expect the same in healthcare. Amazon rose to meet consumer expectations, taking advantage of voice technology to simplify healthcare interactions in a HIPAA-compliant way.

July 2019: Collaboration with Cerner
By collaborating with one of the largest EHRs, GetWellNetwork helped healthcare organizations deliver a more connected, higher-quality consumer experience across the care continuum. The combination of these two technologies enabled broader care coordination for patients throughout their episodes of care.

June 2018: AMA addresses Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The American Medical Association passed its first policy on Artificial Intelligence during the 2018 Annual Meeting, setting priorities, identifying opportunities, promoting development, encouraging education and exploring the legal implications of the burgeoning field.

2020 onwards

March 2020: COVID-19 declared global pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic, causing industries to grind to a halt worldwide. Hospitals lost billions in elective surgeries and outpatient visits as lockdowns were imposed and patients stayed home.

April 2020: A win for telehealth
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapid increase in the use of telehealth technologies, allowing providers to care for patients without being physically present. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act further expanded consumer access to telehealth services.

August 2020: 20 years of patient engagement
With two decades of incredible advances pushing the industry forward, the next twenty years represent an equally exciting time for patient engagement. What technologies are on the horizon? How will patient care evolve? GetWellNetwork is grateful for the last twenty years of supporting and empowering patients, and excited to lead the charge forward.

GetWellNetwork turns 20! GetWellNetwork Founder + CEO, Michael O’Neil has steered the company through a number of obstacles — weathering an ever-changing regulatory landscape, the Great Recession and even a global pandemic. His secret to success: #TeamPurple. The resilient and tenacious village of employees who bleed purple in support of our mission to make healthcare better for patients and families during the most important moments in their lives. Check out some of the faces “behind-the-scenes” and the challenges and triumphs — personal and professional — that our family has shared over the last 20 years.

Following surgery and chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Michael O’Neil emerged humbled, inspired and ready to finish the graduate studies interrupted unexpectedly by cancer. Steering the final year of his J.D./M.B.A. program from business plan to life mission, Michael founded GetWellNetwork to tackle an unaddressed problem in healthcare: educating, engaging and empowering patients and families to take control of their healthcare journeys. Today, he leads the global digital health technology company as founder and chief executive officer.