Health IT

Touch-based, mobile EMR (and then some) for dermatologists coming to other docs this fall

In the highly fragmented EMR market, how do you build an efficient product that doctors actually want to use?

Maybe hire physicians in your target markets and join up with an entrepreneur who co-founded Blackboard, the popular virtual education company with more than 9,300 international clients and a $1.6 billion buyout?

That was Modernizing Medicine’s approach in developing its touch-based, mobile Electronic Medical Assistant (EMA), a cloud-based electronic medical record system with additional capabilities customized for small and midsized specialty medical practices.


EMA is meant to automate certain processes for doctors, like writing prescriptions, filling out lab request forms, coding, dictating notes and billing. The company’s first offerings are made for the fields of dermatology, ophthalmology and optometry, all visual-oriented specialties that lend themselves to an intuitive, touch-based platform. Additional products will launch this fall — one for plastic surgeons in late October and a soft launch for orthopedic surgeons in November.

Co-founder and chief medical officer Michael Sherling, who’s also a practicing dermatologist, said the number one goal of EMA is to save doctors time and, as a result, money.

After spending nearly a year looking — with frustration — for an EMR system that suited his needs, he met Dan Cane, a co-founder of Blackboard Inc., who would become the company’s CEO and provide guidance in developing a specialty-specific EMR. Together they formed Modernizing Medicine in 2009. An initial $3 million in seed funding for the company came from its own customers, Sherling said, and was followed by a series A in 2011.

For a visualization of how the system works, scroll to the bottom of this post for a demo video. Once a patient’s information is entered into the system, a dermatologist can use the iPhone or iPad applications to quickly write or dictate notes, add diagnoses and take photos that will be linked to a diagnosis and saved in the patient’s record.  EMA is pre-programmed with hundreds of symptoms, diagnoses, medications and lab orders, and it learns which ones dermatologists use the most over time and generates drop-down menus and sidebars of the most common ones to save time.

“Instead of sequential documentation, our model is a 30-second interaction,” Sherling said. “A doctor can touch a diagnosis, put it on a virtual body and add notes.”

At the completion of a visit, it generates a visit summary, a fully coded billing form, an educational handout for the patient and pathology requests or e-prescriptions as needed. To help doctors with their documentation needs, it can also generate a Meaningful Use report that will tell them which requirements they have not yet met. Patients, meanwhile, have access to an online portal where they can enter medical information or review their care plans.

The EMR market is highly fragmented and comprises more than 1,000 players. Several of them offer specialized EMRs designed for Modernizing Medicine’s target markets including doc2MD, NexTech EMR, MDS Medical, Dermanaut, First Insight and MyVisionExpress. But part of the battle these and other health IT companies are facing is that many specialists are reluctant to go paperless. In 2011, a survey of nearly 600 American Academy of Dermatology members found almost one-third of them had no plans to acquire EMR technology.

Sherling noted that, two years in, the company has about 10 percent of the dermatology EMR market — what equates to about 1,500 providers using its product.

“Our competition is saying, ‘how can we get the biggest markets the fastest’ and looking at Meaningful Use,” Sherling said. “We’re doing the exact opposite of what our competition is doing. We’d rather own the majority of a small market than a smaller portion of the large market.”

The company, located in Boca Raton, Florida, has 90 employees including several doctors who work with coders to develop the products. Sherling said it’s looking to hire between 30 and 50 more people before the end of the year.

Modernizing Medicine also hopes to continue creating partnerships with companies like VisualDx, which allowed the company to embed a library of medical images in its platform to help dermatologists diagnose uncommon conditions. In the future, Sherling said, the company hopes to provide users with feedback and data to provide better evidence-based care.

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