In part one of this two-part series, we talk with Maryland health IT executive Chris Meenan about his company Analytical Informatics, Inc. (AI), and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. This is part of a broader interview series.
Chief executive: Chris Meenan, Co-founder and CEO, Analytical Informatics, Inc. (AI)
Location: Baltimore, MD
Started in: 2011
- AI’s core product is a platform technology called the AI Bridge. This software aggregates data from a variety of hospital information sources and provides the foundation for a suite of software-based tools designed to improve quality and provide analytics for use in health care.
- AI has built over 30 applications to solve various challenges in hospital settings, including patient wait-time monitoring, workflow optimization, and quality improvement tools. AI’s software is designed to improve communication and operational efficiency in health care. The software solves a number of health care problems by helping hospitals and other providers get real-time access to the information they need.
Goal: The next step is to expand the number of software tools that are available so that they can be used in a variety of health care settings
Customers: Academic hospitals, community hospitals, hospital systems, existing health care IT vendors
Revenue: Privately held
Funding: Initial seed funding from founders, product revenues; received Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) award from TEDCO
Tell us something about your personality. How do you have the stomach to run a start-up?
It’s hard to start a company. It involves long hours and lots of challenges. The majority of people who do it fail. You have to ask yourself – why? Why would you give up the family vacation and a “normal life”? When my co-founders and I asked ourselves why start a company, we did it because we really wanted to change the world. My background is in technology; I worked in the commercial IT industry outside of health care for years in systems engineering, so I know what works in other industries. I watched friends of mine struggle with technology in hospitals as they tried to care for patients and save lives. I wanted to fix this. What if we could make the software that makes clinicians’ jobs easier? That’s what inspired me. That gets me through long days and nights and keeps me going.
Tell us more about the key problem you hoped to address when you started your company.
In our day-to-day lives, we’re all used to having our smart phones in our hands with all kinds of information readily accessible. It’s easy to find a good restaurant or book an airline flight right from your phone. In health care though, it’s not that easy. For health care providers, getting the data they need to take care of patients or even look at their own operations is oftentimes a real challenge. Several recent national studies have talked about how much time physicians waste fighting their IT systems, and struggling to get the information they need. If you are going to improve health care, you have to make it easier for clinicians to get real-time access to data, and display it in an intuitive and discoverable way. At Analytical, we want to make it easier for clinical teams to access the data they need to improve their efficiency and productivity, reduce costs, and streamline patient care.
Can you provide some specific examples of the types of efficiencies in health care your products can address?
For example, hospital administrators might want to know in real-time how long a patient waits in the waiting room. If a patient has waited too long, someone could ideally intervene and help improve the patient/customer service experience. This can be a real problem today for hospitals to solve. Even if providers know how long patients typically wait, the information often comes out in a monthly or paper-based report. There is usually no real-time tool to show how long a patient has been waiting. We know the data is there, and Analytical is solving the challenge of how to make it available to an operational manager who can use it to improve customer service.
Another good example would be around the appointment scheduling experience. We’re all used to booking airline flights, picking your departure time and figuring out all of the details around airline travel. But what is your experience if you want to schedule an MRI as a patient? You have to call and make an appointment, wait some period of time, with little information about what you need to do to prepare for the exam or what you need to do if you need to reschedule, etc. Analytical offers a tool on our platform developed by SchedFull, one of our development partners, to solve this problem. The SchedFull tool automatically reminds a patient of his or her exam via email or SMS, and offers patients the opportunity to be notified about an earlier appointment if one becomes available. The tool also offers hospitals a better view of their no-show rates, and helps them optimize their scheduling efficiency.
Another example might be around ordering physician or provider analytics. For many large hospitals, its important to know all that you can about which physicians in the community refer patients to your hospital. In other industries, there are many CRM tools designed to help organizations understand their customers, what their behavior and ordering patterns are, etc. Our new Referring Provider CRM tool, scheduled for launch this fall, provides hospital departments with comprehensive information about community providers, even using predictive analytics to model future referral patterns.
Analytical offers many more types of tools either built by the company itself or licensed from leading universities or innovative development partners. The software tools are focused to solve specific challenges in a variety of health care settings.
I understand that AI licensed the technology from University of Maryland, Baltimore to create a suite of software-based tools designed to improve quality and efficiency in health care. What do these do and what do they mean to you?
The tools that my team developed at University of Maryland School of Medicine were designed to be used in conjunction with operational quality initiatives at the University of Maryland Medical Center and have been proven to improve quality and efficiency in real-world clinical environments. For example, the modality utilization software improved efficiencies around CT and MRI scanners in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine. Other tools focused on reduced patient wait time and improved patient satisfaction. The fact that a leading academic institution, like the University of Maryland Medical Center, has vetted these tools and was able to see real quality improvements helps people understand their value.
What sets you apart from other companies?
At Analytical, we understand clinical customers and the operational challenges health care providers face on a daily basis. We worked in hospitals solving these types of clinical challenges for many years, so we understand the “problem space” very well. We want to help open up the software market in health care to a broad ecosystem of small companies and universities to solve the variety of challenges that exist. The barriers are high for most small companies wanting to get involved and solve specific problems in health care. These companies often lack access to sample clinical data and the resulting integration costs to hospitals are typically high. We make it easier for hospitals to have access to a broad variety of tools to solve their unique challenges.
I still have a faculty role at the University of Maryland School of Medicine so I can still stay current and have the opportunity to participate in new challenges at the UM Medical Center. One of our traditional jobs at Maryland was to integrate and aggregate data from lots of different information systems, so we developed a unique core competency. As we designed our platform technology, we created it to be very flexible and use standards to integrate with many different types of systems. Our product aggregates data from all of these different sources and transforms it to makes the data look the same underneath the hood. Our system does all of the heavy lifting, and the applications that work on top of the platform are all portable (meaning they work at any hospital site)… Like Apple and Google, we also offer a software development kit (SDK) so that hospitals or other startups can create their own tools if they like.
We also have partners across the spectrum. We’ll continue to build at the University of Maryland where we launched from last year. We are also working closely with a team at Johns Hopkins, where they’ve already built ten new applications in one year using our technology. The University of Utah Health care and Indiana University Health are also using AI tools as well as building their own tools. We also started a consortium earlier this year of clinical informatics innovators all building tools to solve health IT challenges.
This article is based on a conversation between Chris Meenan and Jamie Lacey-Moreira in July 2013. Read part two of Jamie’s interview next month.
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