Start Me Up HIT Event

I had the pleasure of attending Start Me Up HIT conference yesterday in Madison. Overall it was a really fantastic event with a turnout that far exceeded expectations. The organizers didn’t start planning it until about six weeks ago so it’s amazing how they pulled off such a successful event. It was organized to coincide with the Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison this week.

There were a couple of very cool things about this conference. First, the conference was initiated by — and in large part coordinated and promoted by — local health startups and entrepreneurs. The main drivers behind this were Mark Bakken and Drew Madden at Nordic Consulting, Jon Baran at healthfinch, and Dan Wilson at Moxe Health. My hats go off to them for pulling this off on such short notice.

I’ve spoken with all of the guys behind the conference in the past about health startups in Madison and in Wisconsin more broadly, and all of them have a vested interest in creating a community and culture to help recruit to and retain people here. There’s also talk of the City of Madison helping to sponsor a co-working space dedicated to health IT, ideally facilitating networking and connectivity between companies and individuals.

Epic is obviously a monster draw of people, but it’s also a massive drain as people leave Epic. The numbers given yesterday were that Epic brings in 2,000 new employees to Verona every year and that it also loses 1,200 employees in that same time. We’re starting to see some success, Nordic being the biggest, but Asthmapolis and healthfinch are also starting to get some impressive traction.

The second cool thing about the conference was that it featured all local startups and went a long way to making additional connections. The format worked well, with a mix of panels covering topics specific to startups. The panels covered contracts for pilots, selling to CIOs, and partnering with Epic.

The “Partnering with Epic” talk was not a panel. Tim Thompson from Epic did a presentation, apparently the first he’s ever done at Epic, about how they work with other vendors. My favorite image was the one above, which was one of Tim’s slides about Epic’s partner strategy. There were actually some great points from Tim’s talk. I’ve tried to recreate them below.

  • If you want to work with Epic, just support standards, preferably HL7. It sounds so easy. I think in practice it may be a bit more challenging.
  • If you want to work with Epic, sell your product to an Epic customer and make sure your product is high on the customer’s priority list.
  • Epic will happily offer standard interfaces for free if those interfaces are included in the customer’s existing Epic license. I read that to mean that interfaces are free if they were paid for in the past. If not, Epic will sell them an additional interface, but Tim said this cost isn’t something he’s seen as a big hindrance.
  • The list of companies wanting to showcase at the Epic User Group Meeting is very big. There is no standard process for how companies are chosen, but Epic wants a broad representation to showcase to its customers.
  • Epic doesn’t buy, they build because of 1) the system was originally designed to be an integrated suite, and 2) it thinks it can do it best.
  • If you are not an Epic customer, Judy can’t help you. She is 100 percent focused on customers, not partners.

Aside from the panels, there were eight companies that pitched for five minutes each, then had a Q&A with a panel of CIOs and investors. The eight companies are listed below. (Disclaimer – I presented my company at the event).

Forward Health Group is addressing the metadata problem in healthcare. It takes messy data and turns it into clean data that health systems can use to design metrics, create visualizations, drill down to different levels in the data, and ideally improve adherence to guidelines and overall outcomes. The goal, according to CEO Michael Barbouche, is to help customers realize the value of their data. Forward Health has had lots of recent successes and is now working with MGMA.

Clinical Healthcare is similar to Forward Health in that it wants to help doctors and systems make better decisions. It differs in that it captures data at the point of care instead of examining historical claims data. It provides tools to physicians to monitor treatment plan adherence.

Elli Health aims to disrupt primary care. Founder Jay Mason identified challenges in finding available appointments while he was working on his former startup MyHealthDirect. To address access challenges, Elli has the exclusive license for a point-of-care decision support tool that enables the majority of primary care visits to be delivered via LPN. Higher-acuity patients are supposed to be ruled out and referred, while lower-acuity patients can be treated at a fraction of the cost. I’ve spoken with Jay before and know there is a large, international vision for Elli.

Healthfinch is on a mission to improve and preserve the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. I wasn’t voting , but CEO Jon Baran gave my favorite presentation of the day. The mission for healthfinch is to reduce non-reimbursable time for clinicians to zero. The initial product is a prescription refill wizard.

CenterX wants to become the new national e-prescribing network and wants to do it by remaining neutral. CEO John Reinardy, who ran e-prescribing at Epic before starting CenterX, is my hero for taking on this challenge. It makes so much sense to have a better e-prescribing platform, one that is agnostic and provides useful data to patients and providers. He’s battling giants, but has made tons of progress with his team. Hopefully he can get over the tipping point and get the major chains to jump on with him. is my company. In my 100 percent non-objective opinion — and not actually seeing the presentation as I was giving it — it’s an awesome company and the presentation was fantastic. We’re a technology platform, or backend-as-a-service specifically built to meet the needs of healthcare, giving developers APIs they can use to quickly cloud-enable health apps and services. was the big winner of the day, according to the panel of CIOs and investors. The company offers a Patient Guidance System (PGS). The PGS is an online platform that helps patients before and after healthcare events (surgeries, admissions, etc.) follow evidence-based guidelines. It extends the reach of providers. Very good presentation and well timed solution.

SA Ignite is TurboTax for meaningful use reporting. It automates the process of Meaningful Use reporting. It works with any EMR. There is not much to say about this except that it is a brilliant idea and has done a great job executing so far.

Mixed in throughout the day, whenever there was a lull between panels or getting microphones setup, were one-minute pitches. Names of companies were randomly chosen, I think out of a bowl, and representatives got up to pitch ideas. Most of them were pretty impressive.

What’s exciting is that this is slotted to be the first of many future such events. Based on the success of yesterday, it will be great to see how things grow and evolve. Thanks again to all the organizers.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

  • Beth

    The CenterX CEO is Joe Reinardy (not John, as printed).

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