Up and Comers: Healthcare IT Vendor Companies On the Move

May 23, 2010
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The healthcare IT world is vast, with a tremendous range not only of sizes of vendor companies, but also niches and types of vendors. For every mega-vendor, there are literally dozens of smaller players that often make up for what they lack in size with outsized impact based on unusual technology or a unique vision or combination of characteristics.

In addition to our profiles of the very large vendor firms our readers consider the most interesting, this year we once again offer glimpses of companies that are making their mark both in terms of success and with regard to unique footprints or approaches in the industry. Below, please find nine capsule profiles of “up and comer” vendors whose trajectories you'll want to watch going forward.

dbMotion: Approaching semantic interoperability

Bill Fera, M.D., is very much a physician on the move. As vice president of medical technologies and medical director of interoperability at the vast 20-hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) health system, Fera is constantly shuttling around working out clinical informatics issues with his clinician, IT, and executive colleagues. He certainly doesn't have time to waste on navel-gazing or on any technology that doesn't take him and his colleagues where they want to go. But Fera considers his work over the past three years on semantic interoperability-the technological foundation to allow for unified, integrated views of patient information across multiple platforms-to be some of the most important of his career. And that work has all come about through UPMC's partnership with dbMotion, Pittsburgh, Pa., which continues to occupy a virtually unique place in the clinical IT galaxy as a facilitator of IT that really makes a difference in busy physicians' work-lives.

“I think they're obviously way ahead of the curve in terms of talking about semantic interoperability,” says the 39-year-old Fera of the founders and leaders of dbMotion. “A lot of people are still thinking that interoperability is connecting an EMR and a lab; or aggregation. But the dbMotion people are about not only gathering information, but presenting it in a cohesive framework, so that you as a clinician can actually benefit from it.” In fact, the U.S. launch of semantic interoperability emerged out of intensive work that Fera did with clinical informaticists from dbMotion during late 2007 and into 2008, and which has continued to evolve forward since then. The result? Physicians at any UPMC facility can bring up patient imaging exams, labs, and medications from any UPMC-affiliated facility, via a single-screen view, anywhere across the system, improving patient safety, clinician workflow, and efficiency, all at once. The hard work that birthed this innovation involved Fera's sitting down over several weeks with dbMotion informaticists to stitch together the underlying semantic, or vocabulary, connectivity from across numerous clinical systems.

The vision for all of this came out of the mind of Ziv Ofek, the founder and CTO of dbMotion. Ofek, a modest technology whiz with a love of healthcare and clinicians, says, “For so many years, we only focused on how to put data into machines-EMR, CPOE, etc.-to try to define processes, mechanisms, and approaches. Around five or six years ago, people started to realize that just putting the data into machines wasn't the entire solution; I can put data into machines, but I can't take it out or use it efficiently. And people started talking about putting the patient into the center, but it was really just rhetoric. Because if the patient is in the center, we need to focus on the people who are treating the patient, and their processes.” As a result, a journey that began with Ofek's part-time project to help a physician in Israel optimize her access to data became a decade-long, ongoing quest to create a better clinician experience when it comes to accessing and using patient information at the point of care.

dbMotion is still a relatively small company, with five current hospital and health system customers in the U.S. (including the UPMC health system, which has a minority ownership stake in the vendor), plus the Canadian province of Manitoba, as well as a hospital network in Brussels, Belgium, and a 14-hospital system and two other hospital organizations in Israel. But Ofek and his colleagues have no doubt that the company will continue to gain traction, as more and more hospital and health system leaders here in the U.S., as well as globally, come to understand the critical role that semantic interoperability will play in creating true interoperability of systems, and in optimizing clinician workflow.

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