[Interview with Adam Turinas, Practice Unite. 17 Feb 2013 via Skype]
[BR]: Hi Adam, thanks for making time for a call on a Sunday. You just released Practice Unite this week so, congratulations! Tell us, what is Practice Unite and who is it for?
[AT]: Practice Unite is the first mobile app designed to address one of the most important problems in US Healthcare – the Hospital-Physician relationships. And looking forward, the relationships with the patients, caregivers, and healthcare services. We found that profitable industries, including those in healthcare, are successful at managing the working relationships among decision makers and staff but in healthcare we still have a way to go and that is our opportunity.
So the headline is that Practice Unite will improve communications among physicians, hospital staff and the hospital system administration.
[BR]: We had dinner together, Adam, about a year ago in New Jersey with Kevin Carlson and the topic was around healthcare apps and now here you are one year later actually going live this week, so well done! Where did the idea for Practice Unite come from?
[AT]: My business partner is a practicing physician and he identified the problem that physicians and hospitals had no good, secure way to communicate the way most people communicate these days on their smartphones.
Out of frustration, he diagrammed out how the app would work. Once we had the concept fleshed out we approached a major hospital system here in New Jersey and conducted a test.
We were thrilled when one of the first people we interviewed told us that Hospital/Physician alignment is the #1 non-reimbursement issue today in healthcare. Another hospital administrator went as far to say, “This is a no-brainer, come back when it is ready and we’ll buy it”. That was enough for us. By November we had a fully functioning app and by December we had a pilot with 30 doctors and staff in a hospital in Jersey City.
The feedback was incredible. The average rating was 8.5/1o but the top complaint, if you can call it that, was that everyone wasn’t on the system yet. A good problem to have since our goal is to get everyone on the system too!
[BR]: There is no shortage of healthcare apps these days, it is a pretty noisy marketplace right now. What is so different about Practice Unite?
[AT]: Well, it is noisy but I disagree a bit, mHealth apps are certainly proliferating all over the place but these are early days and there are still tremendous opportunities. So when you say there is no shortage of mHealth apps that is accurate but I would instead say that there is a shortage of useful, widely adopted mHealth apps and there is where PracticeUntie wants to live. We can see PracticeUnite being widely adopted by the enterprise, in most cases, the hospitals, and solving the secure, HIPAA-compliant communication problems that exist today. So in that regard, the field is wide open and we think we do a pretty good job of solving a big healthcare issue.
[BR]: You spoke a bit about his already but a typical marketing questions are, “Who is going to use this and why should they care?” and “Who are your primary audiences and what do you allow them to do that they can’t currently do?”
[AT]: Great questions. Obviously we have primarily focused on the communication between doctors and other doctors within a hospital system but as I said, these are early days.
So the short answer would be physicians and staff within a hospital system but beyond that it begins o get very interesting. We can envision a communication platform that supports secure, HIPAA-compliant communication s between the hospital, physicians, healthcare professionals, payers…certainly also the patients but also caregivers, and healthcare supply companies. That is a very large ecosystem. What these people cannot do currently is communicate quickly, easily, and securely in real time and that is the opportunity.
[BR]: Tell me a little bit about your development process. How did you go about developing this app?
[AT]: Ours was a typical bootstrapping operation where we did just enough to get market feedback along the way. We contracted with a Digital Designer and a small development group in the Midwest and built our prototype based on my partner’s original interaction diagrams. Having a physician who does his own interaction design wireframing is key. (Laughs).
During this time we were very much in market testing so we would build a bit, test a bit, and repeat until we had our hypothesis either validated or disproved. It was all very agile and fast-moving.
[BR]: What do you have planned to get the word out about Practice Unite over the next year?
[AT]: Short term we are look forward to full hospital-wide implementations and beyond that, being in several more hospital systems this year. Beyond that, we are looking to build in communication that includes hospital staff, patients, caregivers, and healthcare supply companies. And anyone else in the healthcare ecosystem that we discover should be included, actually.
[BR]: What other aspects of healthcare are capturing your attention these days?
[AT]: You know, Bill, the biggest eye-opener for me was the current state of communication being used within healthcare today. In order to be secure and HIPAA-compliant it is not uncommon to have fax machines and pagers…yeah, really…these are in use as the primary communication mediums. I understand why this is…they are going with what works but, let’s face it, these people are also tech-saavy and are on IM, Facebook, Twitter, and their smartphones just like everyone else and they want to be able to have the same ease of use in their professional lives. That’s what Practice Unite aims to deliver.
You may also be interested in Happtique. Happtique is a mobile health application store and app management solution that helps healthcare providers, physicians, and patients easily integrate mHealth into treatment.