drchrono Taps the Power of the iPad To Bring Electronic Health Records

Update: Doctors and patients can now access health insurance information on Apple mobile products, such as the iPhone and iPod touch; and can process payments by plugging a Square Card reader. 

“We’re a non-health care company in health care,” says Michael Nusimow, chief executive of drchrono, a two-and-a half year-old Silicon Valley-based seller of electronic health records (EHRs). “We’re a tech company looking for tech solutions.” That’s a daring statement to make in front of doctors who are largely averse to anything that interferes with the time-honored practice of sitting face-to-face with a patient while holding perhaps a clipboard.

Drchrono’s goal is to take away that clipboard and place an iPad in the hands of a doctor. While competitors such as Practice Fusion also allow doctors to access EHRs on an iPad, Nusimow and co-founder Daniel Kivatinos have built their EHR specifically for the iPad. That allows them to build more features, such as speech-to-text and drawing.

Nusimow says that more than 8,000 health care professionals–practices with one to five doctors, have signed up and that number is climbing rapidly (it includes office administrators). Drchrono’s monthly plan ranges from $0 for limited features such as scheduling and email reminders, to $800 for back office stuff, such as billing and some claims processing. Not surprisingly, the majority of drchrono’s customers have opted for the free plan, but Nusimow says that “many” are upgrading to one of the paid plans–although he won’t disclose how many. Despite a largely non-paying clientele, he describes the company as being “ramen profitable”—a term apparently coined by Paul Graham, founder of start-up incubator Y Combinator, which has nurtured drchrono. It means breaking even and having enough left to eat ramen noodles–but is not saying a whole lot about the break even part.

A few things should help: In July, the government certified its EHR for “meaningful use.” As part of the HITECH Act, the government is encouraging doctors to adopt EHRs by subsidizing their purchase to the tune of $44,000 per doctor. To qualify, they must meet a set of requirements that show meaningful use.

Today, the company announced an additional feature which allows doctors to sign in patients using an iPad, and automatically integrates the information with a patient’s EHR. Drchrono has recently raised $1.3 million from billionaire Russian investor Yuri Milner’s DST Global, General Catalyst, Charles River Ventures, 500 Startups and angel investors. (Milner invested $50 million in patient scheduling start-up ZocDoc around the same time).

Nusimow and Kivatinos bring a distinctly techie background to the task. They’re both software engineers who roomed together at Stony Brook University in New York. Three years ago when his father became ill, Nusimow took time off from work at Bloomberg to accompany him to various doctors. On a visit to New York-Presbyterian, he was struck by a doctor who had his back turned to them for 20 minutes while he typed information into an EHR. Another spent 10 minutes reviewing his father’s drug list. “Technology wasn’t speeding things up; it was built like an enterprise system and the doctor was secondary,” he says. “Doctors have to ignore the patient because they’re engrossed in the technology.”

He and Kivatinos quit their jobs and started developing simple web-based applications for scheduling and billing–nothing groundbreaking. It wasn’t until January 2010, when Apple made iPad application kits available to software developers that the two started writing an iPad-based EHR. They were ready with their first version when Apple released the iPad in April of that year.

Tablets have been pitched to doctors before. A Toshiba model, for example, was 10 times more expensive and heavier, and had 10 times less battery life. That technological leap could serve as an additional impetus for doctors to use electronic health records. According to health care industry analyst Chilmark Research, close to 25% of medical providers now use the iPad.

Original article can be found on Forbes.