His physician-designed, cloud-based system attracts buyers.
By Jerry Helzner, Senior Editor
Florida-based retina specialist Dan Montzka, MD, 49, has always been something of a “techie.” At the University of Minnesota he was an engineering major. As a fellow at Wills Eye Hospital, he was instrumental in putting instructional material into a CD-ROM format. So it should not come as a surprise that when he looked at the available ophthalmic-specific EHR systems over seven years ago, he thought he could design something better and more physician-friendly.
“For example, as ophthalmologists, our patients are older and often present with significant pathology,” notes Dr. Montzka. “The EHR systems I looked at utilized static templates that were pre-defined or user defined,” which he found limiting in terms of clinical documentation. “It’s impossible to anticipate the countless combinations and permutations of disease that patients may present with.” He addressed this issue with patient-specific adaptable templates that can significantly reduce typing while generating granular data. “It’s not perfect but does allow for significant improvements in the speed and specificity of clinical documentation.”
Dr. Montzka’s initial effort, first installed in his own practice, was good enough to attract five other practices that purchased the system. “I started with a client-server system, which was the only option at that time,” recalls Dr. Montzka. “But I was also talking to some venture capital groups who said that Web-based software was going to be the wave of the future.”
Dr. Montzka persisted with the client-server model for a while. “I did not believe that Web-based software was robust enough to handle the significant demands of EHR software. But conversely, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow, costly development cycles on the client-server platform.” At just about that time, he found a kindred spirit and fellow innovator in Roland Feijoo, who had been developing his own company, Extensys, to achieve critical capabilities in managing IT infrastructure, providing system security and in Web hosting. Dr. Montzka and Mr. Feijoo soon merged their companies to form MDIntellesys.
“Dr. Montzka had deployed some absolutely ingenious solutions to complex issues, but it was on a legacy technology platform,” says Mr. Feijoo. “We agreed to partner with Dr. Montzka based on a move to cloud computing technologies and the development of a new business model.” After committing to the new direction, Dr. Montzka determined it was in the best interest of current and future customers to stop selling while they retooled everything to enable delivery on a secure cloud, including building out two data centers, a year-long risk that has “totally paid off,” Mr. Feijoo says.
“The merger with Extensys was our key to success,” asserts Dr. Montzka. “When medical practices run into problems with EHR, often it isn’t the software. Quite frequently, it’s the IT infrastructure that they struggle to manage. With Extensys, we have full control of the IT infrastructure.”
Plus, the merger with Extensys allowed MDIntellesys to offer its customers a cloud-based EHR that requires no big upfront investment for hardware, charges only monthly fees based on the number of practitioners using the system and operates with no contracts. The MDIntellesys EHR also has an HL-7 integration system and is compatible with many client-server EHRs and Web-based practice management systems.
“Essentially, we handle all security and support services,” Dr. Montzka says. “All the practice has to do is provide Web access. Our imaging module is very popular with our users and can handle multiple FAs and OCTs.” Due to bandwidth considerations, images are stored at resolutions optimized for computer display and not full-page high-resolution printing. However, clinics have access to their images from any computer with an Internet connection. Most users are very willing to accept this trade-off, he says. The ophthalmology-specific system has been attracting much interest, with inquiries growing exponentially and more than 50 systems currently installed, including Queen’s Hospital in Ontario. The system is applicable to all ophthalmology practices.
Another benefit is that the system allows users to exchange new ideas, treatment approaches for difficult cases and basic insights through a proprietary database that has been likened to an ophthalmology-based Wikipedia — driven by the physicians who contribute the information.
“Our company is now working with the Drummond organization to have our system certified,” says Dr. Montzka. “We are fully committed to achieving and maintaining certification so that practices that use our system can receive full ‘meaningful use’ bonus payments. However, we view the bonuses as simply an added benefit and should only be one of many considerations when choosing an EHR.”
The primary reason to consider a cloud-based system is not cost savings but “the significant added value of an easily updated, collaborative solution,” asserts Dr. Montzka. “We are just beginning to tap into the potential of cloud-based EHR systems that leverage the combined resources of a community of users.” He asserts that “it is only a matter of time until all high-end EHR systems will be cloud-based.”
In any event, the cloud-based model is catching on quickly, with both GE Centricity and AthenaHealth indicating that they are planning to launch ophthalmology-specific cloud-based EHR in the next year. Established ophthalmic-specific EHR providers such as NextGen and Medflow will also be offering cloud-based alternatives to their client-server systems.
Meanwhile, Dr. Montzka still maintains an active clinical practice but has found it necessary to reduce his clinical hours to keep up with his duties as CEO of MDIntellesys. “The shift is going to continue as the company grows,” says Dr. Montzka. “But my focus is on making our system more efficient for physicians and that can only happen if I continue to be involved in clinical practice.”
More information is available at www.MDIntellesys.com.