Optician chain Specsavers has selected eClinicalWorks to provide electronic patient records for all its 500 stores in the UK and another 1,200 internationally.

The deal marks what could be a significant entry into the UK market for US supplier eClinical Works, which specialises in cloud-based electronic patient records and patient engagement platforms.

Specsavers will use eClinicalWorks’ system, delivered through a private cloud, as a global platform; linking customers’ vision and hearing information with the retail side of the business.

“At Specsavers, we have over 1,700 stores in ten countries,” said Phil Pavitt, chief information officer at Specsavers.

“Our previous system varied between stores and had multiple versions, so we wanted a single, modern platform to streamline our operations worldwide and support our further growth.”

Girish Navani, co-founder and chief executive of eClinicalWorks, told Digital Health News: “This is a big move, bringing a different approach to retail in healthcare. It gives us feet on ground in the UK.”

He added: “This is not just an EPR side. We want people to get hearing and sight tests done, online booking, and the convenience of online healthcare. We want to start getting the consumer to begin using healthcare technology to make services more convenient for them.”

Navani said that all 500 UK Specsavers stores will implement eClinicalWorks during the third quarter of 2016.

Asked about plans beyond Specsavers, Navani said: “I’d like to get into the GP market, that’s my next thing. That’s with a cloud-centric approach and seeing if can have an impactful change in how healthcare is delivered.”

The company, which has 115,000 clinicians using its systems, claims to be the second biggest cloud-based health software company in the US. The latest version of its platform is eClinicalWorks 10e.

“In the US, our customers range in size and speciality, including physician practices, health centres and out-patient departments of hospitals,” said Navani. “We look forward to leveraging our experience with the health service in the UK.”

Questioned about whether the UK GP systems market would be difficult to break into, he said: “The harder it is to break into the more it excites me. 

“I think there is a real opportunity in the UK primary care market for an innovative, cloud-based solution, with minimal capital costs and easy customisations, that doesn’t leave the patient out.”

He said that in the US eClinicalWorks had successfully competed against GE and Siemens in the ambulatory care market. 

“My gut tells me that the systems and capabilities in the [UK] market are a pretty low bar to overcome – we will have to be part of the interoperability framework and have local people; which we now have thanks to the Specsavers deal.” 

One of the attractions of the UK was the low adoption of cloud solutions to date: “We didn’t target UK specifically but asked what other country can we have an impact with digital healthcare and bring it in in.  And we looked at where they don’t yet really have cloud players.”

In addition to the GP market Navani said eClinicalWorks will also be making moves into the acute sector.  “We will get into acute market too by next year.”