NurseLineMD: building a much needed tool
Sherri Sanderson created an online service to streamline communication process between patients and their doctors and nurses. After experiencing multiple high risk pregnancies and being frustrated with the amount of time it took for her to get responses to her questions, Sanderson decided there had to be a better way and launched NurseLineMD, a company that can help moms everywhere get quick answers to their health questions. Patients can submit their requests anytime, from any device, and medical staff can respond quickly so that urgent questions are not left unanswered.
So what did it take to get a company like this off of the ground? Sanderson tells us all in the following interview:
What led to the formation of your company?
My pregnancies were high risk. During my second pregnancy, I had frequent ultrasounds checkups in the doctor’s office, and there were several times I had to call in to speak to a nurse about various pregnancy problems. Each of these phone calls required me to tell and spell my name, give my date of birth, describe the problem I was having, and leave a phone number for the nurse to call me back. This process resulted in back and forth phone tag between the nurse and I, sometimes not connecting within the same day. I became very frustrated by this process, and during one visit, asked my doctor if he had a secure online system where I could log in and put my message in, and be notified immediately when the nurse replies.
My doctor was intrigued, and said he would love to have a secure patient communication system. The system would provide great benefits for his office. The full-time nurse he employed that spent most of her day listening to voicemail, writing down messages, and returning phone calls could instead utilize the secure communication solution. This would streamline processes, improve office efficiencies, and allow her to spend more time with patients who are in the office. In turn, this system would alleviate the rush of morning phone calls, because patients can submit their requests anytime, from any device, such as evenings or weekends, from their smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers.
This fosters the medical relationships between patients and providers because patients feel more connected to their doctors through instant notifications. NurseLineMD was born from this idea. Our DoctorDirect solution is a robust, yet easy to use solution, ONC-ATCB certified in privacy & security for Meaningful Use.
What were the challenges to getting to market?
We see constant repositioning by competitors in this industry being driven by both economics as well as legislation. The diversity in the current economy has required us to rethink how Information Technology solutions are delivered. Everyone is faced with new changes from managing human capital, regulations and the skill sets required to effectively navigate and execute within a very dynamic environment. Just like everyone else, we face the same challenges, but as a small company, we have more agility and can adapt to changes – both economically and technologically.
We have also followed legislation and regulatory guidance as well as how mobility has impacted the way people access information. We could have jumped immediately into the market and continued to develop our concept at the customer’s expense, but we wanted to get it right the first time and provide a solution that would create value in an industry struggling to find real meaning of “meaningful use”.
We have also noticed a pattern of small practices being consumed by large healthcare operators in order to survive, whether that means access to billing codes they were going to lose, integration of new technology or even sustainable volume or diversity in the practice. When this happens, there has been a noticeable “corporate” presence and the patient to doctor interaction can at times suffer as a result.
Tell us about your team. What is your leadership style?
Our background is Government and corporate IT service delivery ranging from Cyber Security, to application development and Enterprise solutions. We have in-depth experience in many IT related environments which give us a better position to deliver quality solutions for this type of environment. When we engage a potential customer, we must understand their business and then understand their needs. If it looks like we are not the right fit for them, we will let them know that we are not the solution they are looking for and suggest another product. If we are a right fit, we will focus on delivery and execution that continues support the customer even as their business priorities change.
We are always willing to build relationships before business. We know that we are young in the Healthcare industry, but are very knowledgeable about managing projects and application development initiatives in the federal arena. We balance mobility with accessibility and security. Data integrity and data assurance is baked into everything we do.
What surprises have you encountered so far?
Originally, we had identified our market as General Practitioners, ObGyn’s and Pediatricians. Ironically we saw a significant amount of interest from practices that we had not originally considered as an “early adopter” like Dermatologists, Cosmetic Surgeons, Orthopedics, even Pharmacists. This was very exciting for us and that’s when we realized we had something unique. We also saw a huge increase in patients calling us asking if their doctors were part of the DoctorDirect program. There seems to be a subtle movement among Americans to “own” their healthcare and demand more access to data…specifically their own. The real question is who really owns your healthcare data? We believe it should be the patient and in exchange, they will exchange more meaningful data with their doctors.
What encouragement do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Don’t build a lifestyle company, create something that has purpose and can really change the world. We have seen many companies created in this industry with the main focus of being bought out by a large player in the EHR/EMR market, but what we hear from the community is the lack of customer involvement and solving the most basic business needs. You must want to grow organically with your customers and form strategic relationships where you can continuously evolve your products to align with the challenges your customers face.
As a responsible business owner, you must be passionate in order to succeed. As you grow, never forget what it took to get that first sale and never let your customer base become just another sale. Build relationships that enable you to understand how your customer can be successful and help them achieve their goals.
Don’t grow so fast that you forget why you are better than your competitor and continue to reflect on the core beliefs of the company. As you grow, your company will develop a culture, that culture with reflect how you do business, how you do business is how you will be measured against your competition.