Startup Insider: Diagnotes

Dave Wortman, chairman and CEO of Indianapolis-based Diagnotes, co-founded the company in 2011 after spending years focusing on early stage technology and life science companies and realizing the magnitude of the communication problem in healthcare.

"I've had a variety of experiences in the startup and early-stage world, which also go to informing the way I look at the challenges in healthcare and how I approach them," Mr. Wortman says. "I can see it through a very broad lens, and I can see analogs in other industries that we can use to our advantage as we work to transform healthcare."

Diagnotes is a mobile, HIPAA-compliant communication platform that helps hospitals, health systems and physician practices facilitate, track and manage all patient-related communications. The company currently has about 20 clients, with the most recent being Chicago-based Hospice on Call and the Indiana University Health system in Indianapolis.

Mr. Wortman spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about why communication is important for providers and what it's like to start a healthcare company.

Note: Interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What sparked the idea for Diagnotes?

Dave Wortman: I began to talk with people about the issues they have faced in healthcare. I had some colleagues who were interested in the healthcare space as well. I've been an entrepreneur doing startups and early-stage companies my entire career and had always been interested in healthcare, and it seemed as though the time was right, given all the changes that are underway in the healthcare space for bringing some new thinking, some new technologies into the industry. My conversations with people were fascinating, and I spoke with patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses, staff, and there was a universal thing in what they shared with me. In every case, they had stories to tell about communication issues they faced in trying to either connect with a healthcare system if they were a patient or a caregiver, or coordinate with colleagues if they were on the provider side. I had not experienced that before in other industries. So the deeper I dug into it, the more I recognized there was an opportunity here, a significant problem to be solved. When I then began to look at the data, it makes a very compelling case for communication problems contributing significantly to both the cost of healthcare as well as issues of quality and delivery. All of that led me into making a commitment to Diagnotes and building a modern, mobile HIPAA-compliant platform.

Q: What is effective about Diagnotes' solutions?

DW: Unlike many technology companies, we began not with a view of the technology but rather a view of the problem in communication within healthcare, so a focus on the workflow doctors, nurses and staff execute today and the issues and inefficiencies associated with those and the problems that are generated as a result of it. So our view of the workflow from beginning to end, we believe, sets us apart and helps to establish ourselves within the healthcare space.

One of the elements of our platform is the ability to securely send messages to individuals or groups with attachments, be they photographs or documents, and to select the people you want to communicate with from a directory. One of the things we found out early on is if you're a nurse on the floor and you need a consult with a cardiologist and its 2 a.m., you don't know who's on call. That led us to fully incorporate the call schedule — its management, display and availability — into our platform. If you go on you recognize that in that same circumstance, the cardiologist would like to be better informed about who the patient is. That's a difficult thing historically to be able to do. A nurse could put all that information in the message itself, but more effectively what we've done is connect to the medical records system so the nurse can identify the communication in the context of the patient's medical record and share a summary of the patient's history with that consulting cardiologist. So he or she as soon as they open the message not only sees what the nurse has said in the message, but also can see allergies, current medications and things of that sort.

Q: What has it been like to found a healthcare startup?

DW: I have done a number of startups and early-stage companies in my career, so I do bring that experience to bear in a healthcare startup. The challenges in healthcare startups are many. We are offering solutions to an industry that has been using tools and technologies that have been around for quite some time, and yet is faced with the need to change rapidly. So the pace of change is really high, and the challenges even outside of the space we work in are significant. One of the things that many will tell you about doing a healthcare startup is that healthcare institutions and the clinicians who are working in those institutions are reluctant to change. It very difficult to bring new technologies to bear. My experience is different. My belief has always been if you bring solutions to people that truly improve their ability to carry out their jobs, that truly improve their own level of satisfaction and in doing so through them their patient's satisfaction, or customer's satisfaction, that they will adopt them and adopt them readily.

Q: What is coming up this year for Diagnotes?

DW: I would say the most important thing that we see, or the biggest movement we see, is in the area of patient engagement. Our view has been for some time that the definition of a care team must include the patient if we're truly able to transform the industry in ways we would want to, driving the improvement in quality and reductions of cost at the same time. Involving the patient as an integral part of the care team and the caregivers in our view is an important element of that.

We have incorporated in our platform the ability not only for provider staff to be able to communicate with each other, but for them to be able to communicate with patients and patients be able to communicate with them, all in a single integrated solution. And recognizing that the care team is indeed centered ultimately by the patient. On a more macular level, we are bringing tools and technology and approaches that have been used in other industries that have helped transform other industries now into healthcare.


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