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iMedica banks on physicians to get revenue stream flowing


Not all wireless-info-tech software-development companies are exhibiting at this year's HIMSS meeting. With the explosion of healthcare-related conferences hosted by everyone from Microsoft to Gartner, the question becomes, Will this

Not all wireless-info-tech software-development companies are exhibiting at this year's HIMSS meeting. With the explosion of healthcare-related conferences hosted by everyone from Microsoft to Gartner, the question becomes, Will this conference get my message to my target audience? And for those firms that target physicians as buyers, the HIMSS audience of administrators and CIOs misses the mark.

Such is the case for iMedica, one of the many relative newcomers to the healthcare vendor ranks. Because iMedica has chosen the specialty-specific route for product development, HIMSS doesn't offer the focused audience that this smaller company seeks to introduce its latest software, PhysicianSuite 3.1.

"We elected not to exhibit at HIMSS this year," said Margit Chapman, vice president of marketing, client services, and business development. "We have a very focused physician sell. As we move our way to larger practices, we will probably participate next year."

According to Chapman, the three-year-old, privately held firm chose to market to the physician practice segment rather than take on the more aggressive competition in the higher-dollar hospital market. The firm has further specialized by developing its first applications for cardiology and internal medicine, with ob/gyn and pediatrics next in line.

"Our focus is subspecialties in cardiology and internal medicine," Chapman said. "Right now we are developing products for family practice that should be ready by March 2001."

iMedica opted to use a modular software approach to tailor PhysicianSuite to smaller operations that are suspicious of "new" technologies. Essentially, PhysicianSuite is a wireless charting, coding, referral, and prescription system that resides on a touch-screen portable computer. The product's four software modules (PSDoctor, PSNurse, PSManager, and PSPatient) are built around iMedica's Knowledgebase, which holds the specialty-specific content that the applications access. By using the various applications to record patient and practice data, the customer essentially builds an electronic medical record that incorporates HCFA-compliant coding.

The software runs on Fujitsu LifeBooks that share a base server. iMedica chose to go with LifeBooks rather than personal digital assistants or smart phones, according to Chapman, because the Fujitsu device offers more functionality (e.g., input options include touchscreens and an attached keyboard) and has a larger screen.

"We researched Palms because of market enthusiasm (and found that) the real estate is not adequate for the entire medical record but more for performing discrete functions," she said. "We have plans to look at other form factors, and we are not constrained by operating systems. We want to accommodate the style of our users, which may mean migrating to different devices."

Using wireless LAN technology from Lucent, the LifeBooks communicate information to the server, which also serves as primary backup. The server itself is connected to the iMedica secure data vault via the Internet. The customer has the option of backing up data to the iMedica data vault to provide redundant data storage.

"We found the client-server architecture to be more attractive to physicians than pure Internet," Chapman said. "Physicians feel better when data are stored locally. In our product, data are stored at two points within the practice, then over the Internet in our secured vaults, whose security technology is patent pending. Storing data in our vaults also has a functional purpose, because authorized users can get access to the information in the vaults when they are off-site through iMedica.net."

The firm offers the software and hardware via a subscription-based pricing scheme ($10 per user per day) and has signed contracts with 10 sites thus far, according to Chapman.

"Our hybrid-ASP model has been very well received," she said. "We bundle the hardware, software, and service together with a per user price. Our customers can deploy more modules as they learn the applications and want to extend the software functionality."

Like its competitors in the wireless market, iMedica is also actively investigating partnership possibilities. Firms with practice management products or other areas that iMedica does not serve would be particularly desirable allies, according to Chapman.

"We focus strictly on clinical documentation, prescription writing, and the patient encounter," she said. "There are many other components, other products that are complementary to what we do, and we are looking company by company to see if we would be better off partnering than doing our own development."

iMedica, which has around 50 employees, has completed a third round of financing and is looking forward to generating its first revenue from customer contracts in January 2001. The firm is not ruling out an IPO.

"Our best move right now is to get grounded in a solid client base," Chapman said. "We're doing pre- and postmeasurements of product impact. If we can walk away from our first 50 companies with data on how much money is saved, that will make us attractive to the public market and potential acquirers."

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