ViMedicus can be described as a “Series A startup”, yet led by Tom Churchwell, one of the most influential VC investors in the area, it won’t be at that stage for long. This healthcare startup requires little startup capital, but will then then be greeted by powerful partners in order to compete in a new technology marketplace mandated by the federal government.
Medical records need to be digitized. The Federal EMR Electronic Medical Records Mandate has set a deadline of 2015 – and whether that’s iron clad or not – the writing is on the wall, our medical records have to be digitized and medical systems must communicate with each other.
We sat down with Tom Churchwell to discuss how ViMedicus’ suite of mobile apps can provide the missing piece: a universal and simple user interface for doctors and nurses. Churchwell had studied research that showed doctors spending two hours per day struggling with medical record software. “They were cutting corners and making mistakes, not through any fault of their own, but because the software was so hard to use. Our sole charter is usability; make it so easy that 80% of doctors/nurses will use it – and then give them decision support.”
The Software – Version 1 – Launch in March 2012
ViMedicus will be launching their web-based mobile apps (opposed to truly native apps) to be available on every major mobile platform. The initial release will be a single app for primary care physicians.
Leveraging a strategic partnership, a first test group of about 600 doctors in the Midwest will use the ViMedicus app. The use case for this initial version has powerful implications. One common scenario the software would prevent is that of a “frequent flier” emergency room patient, one who goes from hospital to hospital receiving the same treatment and medication for a single issue. No one is aware of the duplicated effort until Medicaid receives the all the bills from all the different hospitals. Since Medicaid doesn’t cover duplicated medical efforts, the hospitals have to absorb the cost. With ViMedicus’ system, everyone is able to communicate instantly. Doctor’s using ViMedicus’ app on a mobile device will immediately see the patient’s name and medical records, complete with recent hospital intake information.
The Vision for Version 2 and beyond
The vision is to expand to medial specialties, have contextual apps, and be positioned to work with new medical data as it slowly comes online in the next two years. The “contextual” use will serve up the appropriate data based on where the physician is. When a doctor wakes up and turns on his tablet at home, he sees what non-emergency (but urgent) issues arose overnight. At the office, it serves up his full set of patient records, and during hospital rounds, it can (once the data silos of the hospitals allow it) stream the hospital monitoring data and combine with his mobile medical records.
Again, ViMedicus is only contributing the UI (user interface). Churchwell explained all the underlying technology for Electronic Medical Records exists; it’s just not easy to use, and not available on wireless devices in a simple app. HIE – Health Information Exchanges – already allows diverse medical software systems to communicate. “So it’s not a technical challenge, it’s a usability challenge. We’re working with academic centers, like UIC and particularly Northwestern’s sim lab to offer a creative leap in the creation of a universal front end. “
The Scale Up
“Small companies need big partners”, said Churchwell. Being the CEO of this small startup, while serving as managing partner of Midwest Venture Partners (and a resume that includes, but is not limited to, working for Donald Rumsfeld during the creation of NutraSweet), he is able to play the role of both the small company and big partner simultaneously. His experience gives him a Rolodex of friends, partners and connections to die for. With existing partners in Peoria, they are gearing up for a test run with the three hospitals in the city. “Peoria has a sophisticated medical system and is a representative microcosm of the medical communities in middle America.” After the test rollout is complete, they will continue to iterate and increase the functionality.
The “Payers”, which include the Federal Government, large corporations and insurance companies, will ensure that these standards regarding web-enabled and digitized medical records will happen at some point. The details aren’t clear, but the days of medical data stored in silos that can’t connect or share information will soon be prohibited, and providers penalized. Therefore the race is on become the industry standard for software related to medical records and other new, mandated technologies. ViMedicus, unlike other small startups, has the investors, partners and resources lined up in order to fight the larger battle which lays ahead – the ability to get the software in front of healthcare providers, get feedback, continue to iterate, and increase the implementation and use by doctors and hospitals.
Hopefully technology and better communication systems will spread to other aspects of the healthcare experience, and days of being asked fifteen times per hour, “Are you allergic to any medications?” may soon come to an end.