PETALUMA -- WellFX, a startup that seeks to integrate a private social media platform with health care providers, announced that West County Health Centers has officially signed on to use the service for its patient population.

The group of federally qualified health centers, with several locations throughout rural western Sonoma County, is the first formal provider to sign on for the service, which was launched in June by founders Jock Putney and Jeff Thompson after securing $5 million in venture capital.

Mr. Thompson previously started a social network, YoHolla, which ceased operations in December 2011.

WellFX (888-993-5539, hopes to target specific patient bases with a HIPAA-compliant social network that helps coordinate communication between providers and patients while promoting wellness, thus leading to better outcomes.

"Engaging and motivating patients to change behaviors that result in improved health care outcomes is the holy grail of primary care," said Dr. Jason Cunningham, medical director of West County Health Centers. "The potential we see in WellFX is enormous -- it is a tool to effect profound change whereby the provider can act as both educator and facilitator of improved patient behaviors beyond the boundaries of the health care visit."

The platform adopted by the health care provider will "create an extension of the health center" by connecting patients with one another, while being supplied credible information, driven by the provider, about any given condition, according to WellFX.

Success of the platform will be measured in the short term by patient adoption and feedback, the company noted. Over time, the level of patient activity will help determine its success, while the long-term metric will ultimately be the outcomes for patients -- improved hemoglobin levels in a diabetes patient, for example.

 "West County Health Centers have been known for innovation in health care and the communities they serve since it founding," Mr. Putney, CEO of WellFX, said. The health centers were one of the first FQHCs to adopt electronic health records.

WellFX has set its sights on large range of providers, from FQHCs to individual practice associations.

In 2011, West County Health Centers saw roughly 12,300 patients through its seven locations and had nearly 50,000 patient visits, according to its annual report.