In May 2006, Spheris completed the acquisition of Vianeta Communications, a developer of enterprise clinical documentation technology for hospitals, health systems and group practices, transforming the company from a provider of medical transcription services to one with a first-class technology platform.
"We wanted a platform built on XML and able to work well in HL7 interface standards and enhance HIPAA compliance with security and privacy," says Spheris CEO Steve Simpson. "We did the acquisition because we needed to have a solid, consistent platform that we could build off of and use as a foundation for continued development."
The acquisition also put the company in a position to be able to offer a strict technology play, for those healthcare organizations that had their own staff of transcriptionists in house. "We can sell this separately if they don't need the service behind it," he says. "This put us in a position to compete and win head-to-head with technology-only companies."
He says that now the company has the technology to go with its extensive workforce of transcriptionists.
From May to October, Spheris went to work enhancing its new platform, until it released the rebranded "Clarity" offering in late 2006. With the acquisition and integration as a focus, Spheris' financial performance was largely flat from 2005 to 2006, with revenues inching up and earnings moving ahead modestly. But that's just fine with Simpson, who says 2006 was the year Spheris positioned itself for the future.
"We think 2006 was a transition year that has set us up for growth as we move through 2007," he says.
A number of factors have Simpson bullish on the company's future, not least of which is the aging of the baby boomer generation and the expectation that a greater number of elderly will increase the number of doctor and hospital visits. Additionally, he notes that currently there are two ways for information to get into an electronic medical record (EMR), and the most prevalent is still medical transcription, now facilitated with speech recognition technology, supported by medical transcriptionists.
"We think we still offer the fastest way to get that information into an EMR," he adds.
In April, Spheris joined the "Clinical Documentation Architecture for Common Document Types (CDA4CDT)" project, an industry effort designed to create universal guidelines and templates for the most prevalent dictated clinical documentation. Spheris signed on as a "benefactor" and contributor to CDA4CDT. The company will review and analyze clinical documents and provide abstract findings to CDA4CDT to guide the group's efforts. The project was initiated by the American Health Data Institute (AHDI), American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and M*Modal, and is being managed by Alschuler Associates LLC.
The Spheris Clarity suite is made up of seven applications that can be deployed in an integrated solution or independently:
Dictation capture system
Front-end speech recognition and conversion system
View, edit, e-signature, voice file sharing tools for physicians
Document management suite for HIM professionals
Production application for MLS professionals
Management and monitoring tools for MLS supervisors
Automated document distribution via printers, fax and EHR/HIS