Hearken back to the early days of the electronic highway. Bill Bartzak founded MD On-Line Inc. with a simple strategy of converting medical claims from paper to electronic.
The result would speed up transactions between doctors and insurance companies, helping doctor get paid quicker. Cutting edge as that technology seemed in 1995, Parsippany-based MD On-Line now offers much more.
"We've evolved from just a claims process company to a complete office solution for the doctors," Bartzak said. "Now it's everything that a doctor needs to run their practice as a business. We give them those services. It's really a one-stop shop."
Those services include supplying doctors' offices with practice management systems, or software that simplifies scheduling and streamlines billing, and electronic medical records systems, digital versions of paper charts containing a patient's medical history.
MD On-Line's broadening repertoire is fueling expansion that has resulted in nearly tripling revenue in the last three years to about $32.5 million. That growth helped earn the company recognition as a finalist in New Jersey Technology Council's Impact Company of the Year award and the No. 15 spot on the NJBIZ ranking of New Jersey's 50 Fastest Growing Companies.
Progress has surpassed the expectations of Bartzak, whose original goal was to attract 1,000 providers as clients. MD On-Line now has about 80,000 providers and is adding about 500 to 1,000 new clients a month, mostly doctors' practices ranging from one to five members. It's an attractive niche: Bartzak estimates that about half the new clients his company adds do not have a system for processing claims electronically.
"We're bringing them on the electronic highway," he said.
That fast-moving highway runs on web-based technology, with data stored in the cloud, elements that Bartzak says enable MD On-Line to remain nimble and less reliant on hardware. The highway has its share of bumps too.
Electronic medical records, a transition intended to make patient record-keeping easier, received a push from the Affordable Care Act, which mandates the conversion.
But many practices have been slow to switch, despite the availability of government subsidies, because of the adjustment is so time consuming. Bartzak takes it in stride, noting that health care is often a "slow-moving ship."
Mahmud Hassan, a Rutgers business school professor who studies health care, says businesses in this area should prosper long term because the conversion to electronic medical records is bound to create savings.
Hassan said creating handy databases of patient medical histories will eliminate duplication — like when specialists and general physicians order the same tests — which are billed to same insurance company. EMRs are also intended to make it easier for doctors to track patient data and more quickly identify when preventative screenings are due.
"In the long run, it will increase efficiency, save money and it could increase quality," Hassan said. "But obviously there is an initial investment. That could be daunting."
The road ahead for MD On-Line includes new ventures. Its next foray is creating an electronic repository for patient instructions on how they want to be treated in end-of-life situations. Known as advanced directives, most such instructions are now contained in documents, sometimes out of reach of family members when tragedy occurs to a loved one.
Doctors are increasingly required to talk to patients about such matters, part of the process of obtaining continuing medical credits. But Bartzak said only about one in three doctors now are educated in how to have such conversations.
Bartzak suggests the following scenario: "Do you want to put mom or dad on a ventilator? Or do you want to let them go in peace?"
"The job of the doctors moving forward will be to educate the patient before it gets to that point," he said. "Our job is to teach the doctors on how to talk to patients about this and then eventually fill out the forms with the patients and upload them into the repository."
Bartzak said creating a centralized repository on advance directives that can be accessed nationwide is planned for the end of 2014. To help implement, MD On-Line has medical writers on staff it has added through acquiring a continuing medical education company.
The company plans more acquisitions, including clearinghouses and additional practice management and electronic medical records systems, Bartzak said.
"We have to keep reinventing the company and seeing what else doctors need as part of their practice," Bartzak said.
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