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.
Here’s why you shouldn’t start a startup
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Building your own startup and being your own boss sounds tempting, but be sure you make these considerations before starting out.
2020, a year for our generation that will most likely be marked in infamy for decades to come. At least I hope that this is the bottom of the barrel, because if there’s even further to go… Those fallout shelters are starting to look homey.
A lot of people, myself included, are looking for different options for new careers. Maybe it’s time to place some faith in those back-burner dreams that no one ever really thought would come to fruition. But there are some things about starting up a new business that we should all really keep in mind.
While you can find any number of lists to help you to get things going, here’s a short list that makes beginning a new business venture a monumental effort:
- You need to have a unique idea with an impeccable execution. Ideas are a dime a dozen. But even the goods ones need the right business-minded person behind it to get things going for them.
- Time, time, and more time. To get a startup to a point where it is sustainable and giving you back something that is worthwhile, takes years. Each of those years will take many decisions that you can only hope will pan out. There is no quick cash except for a lottery and you have to be extra lucky for those to get you anything. This whole idea will take years of your life away and it may end in failure no matter what you do.
- You have to have the stamina. Most data will show you that startups fail 90% of the time. The majority of those are because people gave up on the idea. You have to push and keep pushing or you’ll never get there yourself. Losing determination is the death of any business venture.
- Risk is a lifestyle. To get anywhere in life you have to risk something. Starting a business is all about risking your time and maybe your money to get a new life set up. If you can’t take risks for the future then you can’t move up in the business world.
- Bad timing and/or a bad market. If you don’t have a sense for the market around you, which takes time and experience (or a lot of luck), you won’t make it. A keen business sense is absolutely necessary for you to succeed in a startup. Take some time and truly analyze yourself and your idea before trying something.
- Adaptability is also a necessity. The business world can be changed at the drop of a hat, with absolutely no warning. Rolling with the punches is something you have to do or every little change is going to emotionally take a toll on you.
- Lastly, not all of this depends upon your actions. If you start something that relies on investors, you’re likely going to get told “no” so many times that you’ll feel like it’s on repeat. Not everything is dependent upon your beliefs and whims. You need to be able to adjust to this and get people to see things from your point of view as well. But ultimately, it’s not all about you, it’s also about them.
These are just a few ways that starting a startup could stress you out. So, while the future could be bright, stay cautious and think twice before making any life changing decisions.
Restaurants: Going digital is simple with these tools
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) In 2020, restaurants going digital is critical. Luckily, it’s also easy, safe, and may even save you money.
So, you own or manage a restaurant and you have yet to “digitize” your menu for COVID-era safe ordering? No problem! Transitioning your menu and service to the virtual realm has never been easier. There are a ton of options for restaurants to choose from to keep your customers feeling at-ease, your front-of-house staff happy, and the whole service experience streamlined for all parties involved.
A free app with over 500 restaurant partners and 5k+ active users, AAHI is a user-friendly platform that uses QR codes to share menus and NFC for contactless payments. AAHI boasts a 25% order increase for participating restaurants and who can say no to that, especially during these tough times. Additionally, you’ll be cutting down on operational costs by around 30% (better tech equals less need for servers!), and your laid-off staff will be able to collect unemployment if they need to.
Another free (up to 200 views a month) app with an emphasis on curbside pick-up is Orderlina. Customers scan a QR code, which takes them to the same menu they would see if they were going to eat in, making it an integrated experience. A bonus is that the app links your menu to your social channels. I always say, free marketing is never a bad thing! Plus, you’ll be more likely to gain followers and receive micro-content from satisfied customers. Win-win!
Especially with winter right around the corner and outdoor seating becoming an increasingly limited option (especially depending on where you live), everyone in the industry is eventually going to have to make the shift to digital – the question is when. Physical menus have become a thing of the past. Not only are they potential vessels for spreading COVID-19, but if you are using disposable paper ones, you’re undoubtedly creating unneeded waste. Same goes for the exchange of cash, or card payments that require contact. Good riddance!
The common goal across the entire industry right now is to stay open and bring in capital in whatever capacity possible, while also maintaining a healthy staff and a pleasurable, safe experience for patrons. That’s going to require some adjustment and creativity compared to service pre-COVID. By converting to digital, you are putting your best foot forward into the uncertain future for the restaurant industry.
Scientifically check your risk for burnout with this free quiz
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) This new tool lets you take a free self-assessed, science-based burnout test to give you an idea of how much self-care you need.
Concerns of keeping self-care and mental health in a positive spot – specifically in relation to burnout – have been a hot topic of discussion. While COVID-19 has exacerbated these concerns and stress levels, the issue of burnout has been around for quite some time.
Work burnout is often discussed within terms of work-life balance. Simple ways to avoid that crash are enforcing a hard stop on reading or responding to emails at a certain time of evening, or to continuously clean your workspace. Easier said than done, but it is critical.
But sometimes you have to look at the nitty gritty. Sometimes you have to ask difficult questions about your job and your personality in order to understand how burnout is impacting you. This can now be done with Global IT Burnout Index, a free, science-based assessment to tackle your stressors before it’s too late.
This is geared towards people working in tech (as the website reads, “burnout in tech is high and real”), but is useful for any industry.
To begin, you simply start the quiz and answer a few questions about yourself and your job (e.g. “I find it difficult to relax after a day of work” and then you answer based on how strongly you agree or disagree).
There are 10 total questions, and no personal information is asked (no name or email). It is open data, meaning it will help people on the other side better understand burnout; but, it’s totally anonymous.
The quiz takes no longer than 2 minutes. At the end, it will give you a number out of 6 measuring your burnout rate. The higher the number, the more likely you are to experience burnout.
Burnout has the ability to manifest physically and mentally, and can take a toll on your body and mind. Knowing if you’re experiencing high amounts of activity that can lead to burnout can help you know if you need to take precautions to change things in your life or job.
For those of us working from home, the situation is a Catch-22. You aren’t currently forced into a stressful commute. But it’s harder to pull yourself away when 5pm (or whatever your end time is) rolls around.
For people in the office or on site, it’s the same thing. You get to socialize (safely, obvi) with your coworkers, but there’s those on-site pressures.
No situation is perfect, but understanding if you’re in a situation where you could use a change or some help is incredibly important – especially these days.
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