Q&A with CEO Ken Comée on what’s next for CareCloud and healthcare IT

This year, CareCloud, the Miami-based healthcare technology company that provides a software platform for high-performing medical groups, has recently added two executives to its C-suite. It released a new product for the promising field of telemedicine, fueled with a $31.5 million financing round at the end of last year. And its chief executive, Ken Comée, says more company developments are in the pipeline for later this year.

“EHR [electronic health records] is where we started but now we are moving out into where the patient is involved. When you walk into the doctor office, they give you a clipboard. We are eradicating the clipboard” with sophisticated automation tools, Comée said, without revealing too many details about CareCloud’s product plans. “Patients are demanding ease of use when they go to the doctors. We see this as an opportunity for doctors to provide ease of use, ease of access; those are the technologies that will make the practices more efficient and drive customer loyalty.”

Comée took the helm as CEO in April 2015, relocating from California. Previously, Comée was CEO at Cast Iron Systems, a cloud integration company acquired by IBM. He was also CEO of PowerReviews, a leader in product ratings and reviews, also acquired, and CEO of Badgeville, a gamification startup. Before assuming the helm of CareCloud, he was a CareCloud board member, investor and operational adviser.

“When I came on board, there was such promise in the company, but something needed help. It was the classic ‘founder got it to a certain level,’ ” Comée said. “We had to fix a few things, slow things down and focus on building the right foundation for what we are now seeing — the growth engine. You will start seeing us getting very aggressive.”

CareCloud, founded by Albert Santalo in 2009, grew quickly to become one of South Florida’s most successful early-stage technology companies. It currently manages more than $4 billion in annualized accounts receivables. CareCloud now has about 250 employees, about 180 of them in Miami, Comée said. He declined to disclose revenues, only saying, “We are adding 40 to 60 new clients per quarter and I think that will continue to accelerate.”

The Miami Herald discussed the company’s growth, trends in the industry and what’s next for CareCloud with Comée last month. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Q. You arrived in April 2015. What was your goal for the company then and have your goals changed?

A. My primary goal then and now actually is the same — focus. There’s a tendency for early-stage companies to try to do too much. Success is about doing a few things really well. For CareCloud, that means building the best cloud solution in the market and having customers who rave about it.

Q. I see you have hired a chief revenue officer and a chief financial officer in 2017. Is the top management team now where you want it to be?

A. For the chief revenue officer, I went out and got a real pro. Greg Shorten had spent 12 years building Allscripts. … He is a terrific sales leader. …

My CFO, Shari VanLoo, and I worked together at my first company that I sold to IBM. As I look at this company and the opportunity to go public in three, four or five years, I need someone of her background and stature for that potential outcome. She has a lot of experience taking companies to market. Yes, my management team is set for now.

I think [going public] absolutely is in the plans. My competitors are 20- and 30-year-old technologies, and I have the best damn platform in the space. Personally, I would love to take one out public.

CareCloud CEO Ken Comée

Q. I think you just answered one of my questions about whether going public is in the plans?

A. I think it absolutely is. My competitors are 20- and 30-year-old technologies, and I have the best damn platform in the space. Personally, I would love to take one out public. I’ve had a couple of acquisitions and those are nice, but I would love to build a legacy company.”

Q. Healthcare is moving more and more to a consumer-focused model. How is CareCloud leveraging that trend?

A. CareCloud always has been focused on delivering incredible software to the people who deliver healthcare, whether it’s clinicians, practice administrators, billing professionals or others in the practice. With the paradigm shifting from a payer-provider to a provider-patient focus, we’re building technology that allows patients to have the same kind of technology that they have in other parts of their lives, whether it’s booking a restaurant, checking in for a flight or paying their bills online.

Because consumers are taking a more central role as money managers for their healthcare, we’re putting a lot of focus on supporting physician practices and their patients with tools that make it easy and convenient for people to view and pay their financial balances.

Q. It sounds like that is a reason for your recent move into telemedicine. Why do you think telemedicine hasn’t taken off like it was expected to?

A. People want to be able to access their personal physician when they can’t physically make it into the office, but until this point, telemedicine has been dominated by stand-alone service companies. It hasn’t become mainstream within private medical practices for two primary reasons: daunting upfront costs and uncertainty about what will be reimbursed by payers. With more insurers reimbursing for telemedicine and new guidelines coming online, the regulatory and reimbursement landscape is taking care of the latter.

We recently launched CareCloud Telemedicine to remove the other main barrier of burdensome upfront costs and time required to integrate telemedicine into the practice work-flows.

Q. You are also getting more involved in specialty areas now. Why?

A. There are certain nuances in clinical work-flow management that are unique to specific specialties. Now that physicians are using their second or third generation of EHR, they are asking themselves not just “how does this EHR work for me?” but “how does this EHR work for me as an ophthalmologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a rheumatologist?”

While meaningful use regulations have helped advance the adoption of technology in the medical practice, they have had the unintended consequence of cluttering EHR user interfaces with information that isn’t relevant for certain specialties. With the focus shifting from demonstrating use to demonstrating value, we’re in a great position to leverage the flexibility of cloud technology to give specialists an EHR solution that illuminates that set of information that they need to answer a specific question or to complete a certain clinical or administrative task.

Q. How is the millennial generation shaping your road map?

A. Millennials were born on digital. While they don’t yet use healthcare as much as older generations, they do expect to have the same kind of experience in the doctor’s office as they do in other aspects of their lives. Online health portals, telemedicine, online reviews, scheduling apps and e-payment options are just some of the ways millennials are using tech to manage their healthcare.

And, we’re in the very early days of digital health. For CareCloud, this means building a platform that gives physician practices the flexibility to bring on whatever technology will help them deliver that level of personalized service and support that their patients need. It also means creating tools that free up clinicians and practice staff so they can focus on delivering great outcomes and an excellent consumer experience.

Q. The small doctor practice is under pressure and we are seeing more consolidation. What does that mean for CareCloud?

A. Think about what it takes to consolidate a dozen brick-and-mortar doctor’s offices. You’ve got multiple physical locations operating on different EHRs, practice management, and IT systems to contend with — not to mention mountains of paper and fax machines. In the past, it would have been a monstrous, multi-year task to integrate all of these systems … even to get all the locations simply talking to each other! And of course, the resulting labyrinth of servers and software would do very little to streamline operations.

To realize the efficiencies and economies of scale inherent in the model, many of these practices are joining together to operate as one entity. These practices need to knit together geographically dispersed medical practices around a centralized technology backbone. They need to have patient data, billing and practice management, and other services managed from a unified platform.

This is where CareCloud comes in. With cloud-based technology, these groups can bring everyone together on a common, shared infrastructure. Physicians and administrative staff can access information via a uniform, universal browser rather than a complex patchwork of legacy systems. Systems can talk to each other via secure, open APIs. Groups can also create standardized playbooks for accounting, payroll, and marketing, allowing them to quickly ramp up new practices as they’re acquired and merged.

The power of cloud technology as a force multiplier for growth can’t be overstated. Cloud technology makes the entire consolidation model exponentially more attractive, feasible and cost-effective.

Q. More broadly, how does healthcare learn about disruption from other industries?

A. If you think about how you go about your everyday life — how you get information, make decisions, plan activities, connect with others — the Internet is woven into almost everything we do. Except for when we’re at the doctor’s office. There are so many opportunities for us to align healthcare to where the market and society has already moved and to leverage best-in-breed technology from other industries.

We’re working with some incredible strategic partners to apply best-in-breed consumer technology from other industries such as banking and retail to create an outstanding patient experience.

CareCloud CEO Ken Comée

Q. What’s next for CareCloud?

A. We’re going to continue to innovate around all the constituents in healthcare — the clinicians, the staff, the patients. We’ve historically focused on technology to support those working “behind the glass” and while we’ll continue to do that, we also are innovating “in front of the glass.” We’re working with some incredible strategic partners to apply best-in-breed consumer technology from other industries such as banking and retail to create an outstanding patient experience. We’re excited to be able to democratize this technology for independent medical practices.

Q. In your view as a relative newcomer — almost 2.5 years now — what is South Florida’s strength as an emerging center for technology, and where does it still need work?

A. There is a lot of entrepreneurial spirit here — that’s a strength that just keeps building on itself. South Florida can take a few pages from Silicon Valley in how it has nurtured a healthy ecosystem for innovation and startups. Silicon Valley succeeds by combining that entrepreneurial spirit with educational infrastructure and capital to fuel ideas and bring them to market. South Florida has these assets individually. They need to be brought together and become a humming engine to power innovative disruption across industries.

Q. Have you been able to find the tech talent you need?

A. The answer is yes. It’s not as prevalent and you have to dig for it but it’s here. I do believe there has to be a lot of thought and care put into creating the education curriculum around healthcare IT. This will be a booming space as we move from the old client servers of the world to a cloud-based world. If we can train them, we can hire them.

Q. What’s the best career advice you’ve received and from whom?

A. Promod Haque, a senior managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, offered some great advice that has stuck with me over the years. I share this often because it is so important and so easy to forget in the high-pressure environment of a startup. He said, “When you have a failure, remember it’s not about the person, it’s about the event. Don’t let failure scare you or define you. The freedom to fail is a unique and an essential part of innovating.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

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Age: 54

Title: Chief executive officer at CareCloud. Before assuming the helm of CareCloud in April 2015, he was a CareCloud board member, investor and operational adviser for three years.

Experience: Formerly CEO of PowerReviews, a social commerce network that powers customer conversations on more than 5,500 websites. Also CEO of Cast Iron Systems, a global leader in the cloud integration sector acquired by IBM. Comée also held executive positions at CollabNet, a software development pioneer in the cloud, and at product life-cycle leader PTC.

Education: Bachelor’s of science in finance from Santa Clara University and an MBA from the London Business School.

Favorite book: “The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown

CareCloud website: www.carecloud.com.


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