Dr. Jonathan Bertman is a family physician in Rhode Island and the founder of Amazing Charts, AfraidToAsk.com and HealthAccessRI. He is a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Brown University and the president of South County Family Medicine Inc. in Hope Valley.
Bertman talked to providence Business News about his company’s humble roots, the future of electronic medical records and what affect they’ll have on hospitals.
PBN: Could you explain a bit about the technology you offer your customers?
BERTMAN: Amazing Charts develops electronic health record (EHR) software for small-to-medium-sized medical practices. Users include primary care physicians, medical specialists, other clinicians, and their staff. The company’s software is available either as a client/server system that runs locally in the office, or as a cloud solution hosted remotely. Amazing Charts also offers services for medical practices, including medical billing and off-site backup.
PBN: The company has some humble roots (your garage), how has Amazing Charts grown since its inception?
BERTMAN: Amazing Charts got its start when I decided I was drowning in paper charts. I looked at Electronic Heath Records systems that were available, but was discouraged by their obvious lack of being easy to use, and frustrated by their unaffordable prices – far above what my solo family practice could afford. Angered by what I saw as the health IT industry taking advantage of physicians in small practices, I purchased a copy of “Visual Basic Programming for Dummies” and started writing my own software. After proving it worked in my own practice, I put Amazing Charts online for others to purchase – in the way I had hoped to find an EHR: free to try, easy to use, and cheap to buy. Since that time, more than 6,000 independent medical practices have implemented Amazing Charts.
As with any business, a fundamental best practice is listening to market drivers, your stakeholders, and above all, your customers. And oftentimes there comes a time when you have to reevaluate your business model to ensure continued success and growth. We realized that being a small company in a market dominated by much larger companies, we were at a competitive disadvantage. We never had the resources to develop the software functionality demanded by our customers, and we lacked the sales channels to expand our market share quickly. So in November 2012, Amazing Charts was acquired by Boston-based Pri-Med, a national CME provider. John Mooney (Pri-Med’s founder) and I saw eye-to-eye on how to grow together without sacrificing either of our founding philosophies or distancing our loyal customers. What’s more, we are now working to create medical educational offerings that underscore patient knowledge and needs-based assessments as central to improving medical learning and healthcare delivery.
PBN: Your company hopes to finish 2013 with 20 more employees than it started the year with. What has led to your success?
BERTMAN: The key to our success has historically been an unrelenting focus on affordability, usability, and fairness. These are three key differentiators between us and our competition. Affordability is critical for small practices and primary care physicians, many who are neck deep in the bureaucracy of practicing medicine. By providing an affordable EHR system, Amazing Charts helps these practices stay private. Usability is another key issue for EHR users because so many systems have been designed by programmers and not doctors. Amazing Charts has been rated No. 1 for usability in multiple studies and surveys because it was designed from the ground up to work the way physicians are trained in medical school. Finally, Amazing Charts historically has followed the tenets of “Kind Capitalism.” Kind Capitalism is about being usable, affordable, and fair to the community that makes up Amazing Charts (clients, employees, partners, vendors, etc.).
PBN: How do you think Electronic Medical Records are going to shift the way hospitals operate?
BERTMAN: EHR systems have already changed how doctors operate. For example, systems like Amazing Charts provide clinicians with decision support. These evidence- and rules-based recommendations are delivered to the clinician in the exam room while they are seeing the patient. Broad examples include contraindication alerts that let a clinician know if a particular medication or treatment is not recommended for a particular patient given their medical history; or suggestions to help a clinician come up with ideas as to how to manage or treat a patient's condition. Getting lab results delivered electronically and electronic prescribing of medications are additional broad benefits of EHR systems. The more information at the point of care that is made available to clinicians, the easier it should be to assist patients in reaching their health and wellness goals.
PBN: What does your system offer hospitals/doctors that they don't get elsewhere?
BERTMAN: We offer a highly usable and affordable Electronic Health Record system that allows physicians to practice medicine the way they already do. Unlike many EHRs whose design are surprisingly unlike the manner in which clinicians practice, Amazing Charts is focused on building the perfect tool to allow clinicians to provide high-quality, evidenced-based medicine, in a way that takes the attention off of figuring out which keys to click – and instead lets doctors and patients develop the relationship to allow for health and wellness. I find that most EHR companies are focused on building the best tool to generate revenue for company shareholders. In contrast, Amazing Charts is looking to improve the overall health of our clients, by making their lives easier, and their patients, by presenting critical information through a tool that works the same way clinicians think.