The United States may have a world-leading medical research industry, but the American Academy of Family Physicians estimate that the nation will experience a shortfall of close to 150,000 physicians by 2020. Government initiatives to address this deficit will bear fruit over time, but telemedicine and Electronic Health Records (EHR) are the workforce and asset multipliers that provide immediate alleviation today.
The exponential rate of adoption of this technology over the last few years shows no signs of abating. Almost 90 percent of the office-based physicians worldwide now use EMR-EHR technology to simplify access to accurate patient data and to improve workflow.
The latest cloud and app technology gives both patients and healthcare providers access to searchable records in real time. Clinics can leverage existing staff and their irreplaceable experience to break geographical revenue barriers.
Patients benefit from virtually limitless access to medical talent and second opinions, giving them the knowledge and the ability to make informed decisions for their unique needs and circumstances.
Patagonia Health is an integrated EHR, practice management and billing solution on a single platform. Established in 2009, it has already become a well known challenger in the industry and aims to become the largest EHR in their market segments.
The company is the brainchild of Ashok Mathur, its Co-Founder and CEO. He spoke to us about his passion for what he does, Patagonia Health’s “Connecting People, Process and Technology” approach and how he was inspired to start his journey into EHR.
‘Natural’ Inspiration and Selfless Dedication
The choice of a remote, sparsely-populated region in South America as the name for a cutting-edge U.S. technology company surprises some people. The beauty of the name notwithstanding, Ashok did not simply pluck the most appealing one from a list; on a solo trek across the wild Patagonian region, nature infused in him the belief and desire to launch Patagonia Health.
Speaking about the end of his grueling trip, Ashok recalls, “When I came back, it was so clear to me that I could start a company; it wasn’t something that I had considered or planned.”
Ashok has almost two decades of experience in healthcare and IT. An engineer by training, Ashok loves building innovative, cutting edge solutions and has passion for customer service. The indefatigable CEO has also held the positions of Head, North America Software Development for Sony Ericsson Mobile and Managing Director, Nortel Networks, International Software Operations.
When he tells the story of Patagonia Health’s first years, Ashok reminisces about the selfless group of people who came together to do something in which they believed. Along with a skeleton crew and his co-founders, Abhi Muthiyan, CTO and Sonali Luniya, VP Customer Experience, they built a company with a strong foundation. The technical innovation continues to be driven by Abhi’s passion for the need for easy-to-use technology. Sonali’s drive for client satisfaction is based completely around the needs of the end users. “Our theory is that happiness is contagious and if our customers are happy, our staff is happy and our service levels remain high. They all worked at no cost, and instead took stock options without any guarantee of success; we were just a startup in a world populated by big players.”
Today, Patagonia Health follows the same rationale for recruitment.
“We have to have the right people, those who empathize with our clients’ problems and concerns, and are not just looking to close a ticket. We do not simply hire software developers; we invest in customer service personnel, and vet them for values that align with ours,” reveals Ashok.
High-Tech & High-Touch
“Coming from the telecommunications industry where technology is always at its latest iteration and leading from the front in innovation, I was shocked to discover in 2009 that the medical industry was using legacy systems over 20 years old,” Ashok reveals.
Forsaking the easy approach of creating a basic subscription service, Ashok decided to go towards the more challenging and considerably more capital-intensive route of designing Patagonia Health’s offering, in what he calls a ‘high-tech–high-touch’ mold.
However, instead of jumping headlong into designing systems they think their clients need, Patagonia Health takes a grassroots approach to software development. At every juncture, they revert to the drawing board to discover ways to make their system better for everyone in the chain.
It is through their conversations with healthcare professionals on the ground every day that they discovered the chronic difficulties in accessing data, the type and amount of information that best served their needs, the problems with duplicate data and issues caused by redundant forms.
2009 was the perfect time to adopt a revolutionary attitude – the proliferation of apps combined with the rise in cloud solutions meant that their target audience was ready for change and familiar with the agents of that change. As a result, Patagonia Health’s use of widgets proved to be a resounding success.
Through their software updates that are delivered every 6 weeks, far more often than comparable systems, Patagonia Health has proven itself to be the perfect partner for both patients and clinical staff. Separate widgets are available for each end user, and they are able to exercise unprecedented control over the type and quantity of information they see.
It is the perfect blend of sophistication in technology and simplicity of use.
Solving Old Problems, Simply
One of the most common reasons for misdiagnoses, and negative drug and drug-allergy reactions is that traditional systems rely excessively on self-disclosure from patients. That absence of formal historical medical data regarding health conditions, medication, and congenital diseases meant that there was no way to track potential problems.
Patagonia Health’s solution is to create a unified system. Here, relevant medical data is made available upon the patient’s treatment consent to healthcare professionals at any medical establishment using the network. Technology allows real-time data to be shared between doctors and clinics so the patient is always afforded the highest level of appropriate care.
Gone are the roomfuls of paper files, replaced by electronic health records presented in a searchable database format, allowing every practice to fully leverage its potential to provide the best care for its patients while increasing the agency’s revenue.
Patagonia Health has been able to carve a niche for itself because enterprise editions of traditional practice management and legacy softwares are geared towards larger businesses. They are beyond the reach of these niche markets such as public health, community health, and behavioral health agencies, and are often not even made available to such clients.
The Past, Present and Future
Ashok Mathur is successful by anyone’s measure. However, the CEO is always quick to point out that his journey has been one of collaboration, good fortune, and great people who have helped pave the way for Patagonia Health’s success.
He refers not just to the staff who built the company from scratch in 2009, but also to his clients who placed their faith behind a fledgling startup, knowing that there was a possibility that they would be left with an incomplete software system if Patagonia Health folded.
“If we went bankrupt, they would have lost. People took a risk with us at the county level. Indeed, even today, they must wonder what might happen if we get acquired by a bigger company, and yet they continue to work with us. This is a phenomenon you only see in America and we are so fortunate to have partnered with fantastic people at every juncture.”
When asked if work culture has had an effect, Ashok says, “I try to create an atmosphere where every individual and team success is celebrated. We have fun while always striving to improve and learn. Those who join us share that passion for learning, winning and enjoying themselves along the way.”
Patagonia Health is already in the top 5 percent of growing companies in the U.S. With more than 95% of existing EHR-EMR systems still using legacy software, there is virtually limitless potential for Ashok’s company to be a part of the huge shift from legacy classic client servers to cloud-based, app-based solutions, and the entrepreneurial success that necessarily entails.
The future is bright indeed.