5 thoughts from ExtendMed CEO Amy Ravi

Amy Ravi was looking for a way to merge her two passions: healthcare and education. So in 2000, she brought them together to found Evanston, Ill.-based ExtendMed.

Ms. Ravi currently continues to serve as founder and CEO of ExtendMed, an information technology company that seeks to simplify the online medical education process. The company helps its clients — medical communications agencies, medical associations and pharmaceutical companies — provide their audiences with medical education and training solutions. ExtendMed is nestled near Northwestern University in Evanston, less than 15 miles north of Chicago.

Here, Ms. Ravi shares which three CEOs she admires most, why Wednesdays are significant and how technology plays a role in healthcare.

Question: What is one of your daily routines?

Amy Ravi: I want to focus on Wednesdays. Wednesdays represent a day that's a good work-life balance. They're a great example of an opportunity to strategize with clients and external customers of ours as well as internal staff.

I start my day with a swim, and I have breakfast with my sons [ages nine and 11]. Then I have a key client meeting. In the afternoon I spend time with a changing team of people internally. We use that meeting to discuss hot projects and ways we can serve our clients, innovate with technology and see how it fits in with our overall strategy.Amy Ravi, ExtendMed

Q: How does ExtendMed strive to bridge the gap between technology and healthcare?

AR: I've really been interested in turning technology into solving a practical business problem.

This started in my early days after getting my degree in psychology. I was a dream researcher at [Chicago-based] Rush University [Medical Center], where I was quickly challenged by statistical limitations. I then moved into a technology role as director of corporate information. We were just starting to look at electronic health records. We were taking paper-based processes and moving them online. It was a culture shift for hospital organizations.

When I wanted to start a business, I was looking to contain that momentum and combine my interests in education and the healthcare industry. Sixteen years ago, people weren't always as ready to jump into technology as early as we had hoped. But we saw the opportunity to enter the market through some other programs supported by more of the commercial sector and pharmaceutical companies.

Q: Which other CEOs do you admire and why?

AR: I'll start with a broad leader who I think is a tremendous leader in a hard market sector: Jim Sinegal, founder of Costco. What's great about him is that he's managed to achieve high growth and create one of the strongest corporate cultures I can think of. He has an insistence in focusing on the long-term and not just trying to achieve immediate benefits. That's been shown as much in his mistakes as in his successes.

Another person is a woman leader named Katharine Graham. She ran The Washington Post at a critical time in history. What stands out for me with her is she had a lot of courage. The Washington Post was a family newspaper, and although she'd been to school and trained as a reporter and publisher, her father handed over the business to her husband. Her husband had mental health issues, and she gracefully ran the paper until she was handed over the reins when he committed suicide. She put into place some really strong editors and helped expose the Watergate scandal.

Personally, I look up to Pat Skarulis, CIO of [New York City-based] Memorial Sloan Kettering [Cancer Center]. For many years, she was my best mentor and such a strong leader. Pat taught me how to motivate teams to deliver exceptional results. She was the CIO at Rush when there wasn't a CIO before her. Within the organization, she was able to build a strong committee and consensus around being an early EHR adopter.

Q: What are some challenges you and your company have faced along the way?

AR: We've gone through several iterations of our company. One was about 10 years ago when environmental factors took hold. The industry and government cracked down on pharma companies and the role they could play in influencing accredited education. In the process, there were a number of medical education firms that shut down. Our business ended up shifting — we shifted our target market and focus within the business.

Another interesting iteration of our business is the technology shift. Sixteen years ago, when we proposed video to our clients, they gave us a deer in the headlights look. Now video is part of our solution for almost every client. What [our clients] are looking for is a more value-based offering that might include webcasts but is really offering a means of engaging physicians consistently.

Q: What is one word, phrase or idea you think should be used more in healthcare?

AR: One thing I'd like to see more pronounced in healthcare and throughout our education product is the idea of coordinating care across healthcare professions over a longer period. There have been so many pushes against coordinated care, and it's harder to think about it when EHRs don't do a lot of data sharing. But we need to be thinking about the person holistically. The challenge is to build up the systems to support that.

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