The document transfer and management process in the healthcare industry is archaic and full of holes.
John discusses innovation and opportunities.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning and have you introduce yourself as well as Concord.
John Harrison: I’m the Chief Commercial Officer for Concord Technologies. I grew up in South Africa and started my career there by founding a technology business focused on document-centric communication back in the early 90’s. I’ve spent many years in Europe and now I’m here in the US.
I’ve worked for some large document-centric technology companies, significantly, OpenText for many years. I joined Concord Technologies about seven years ago. Here, I am responsible for the sales and marketing organization, as well as product strategy and direction.
Sramana Mitra: What is Concord’s business?
John Harrison: We’ve been around for over 20 years already. The business started as an internet fax company delivering what we now consider SaaS for fax-based communication. It has evolved a long way over the years.
Today, we are a significantly dominant provider for fax-based communication in the healthcare industry, and carry a fairly significant volume of unstructured content. We’ve also evolved the business to provide document-centric workflow automation solutions for healthcare, basically taking the pain out of working with documents in a healthcare setting.
More recently, we began to leverage some AI technologies to take some of the heartache out of interpreting the data that is contained, and somewhat locked up, inside documents. We use automated services to surface the valid content out of document repositories or documents that are flowing through our platform.
Sramana Mitra: Can you back up for one second and give me a sense of what is the role of fax in healthcare IT today?
John Harrison: What a great question and one that I get asked many times. There’s a lot more fax in healthcare today than many people realize. The primary reason for it is a fundamental lack of interoperability between providers and platforms that those providers are utilizing.
Far too few of these various systems exist in healthcare that are able to digitally communicate with each other and exchange structured data. As a result of that, fax becomes a lowest-common-denominator mechanism for exchanging patient information or payment information between various providers.
In many cases, the participants in that process don’t even particularly realize that they’re sending a fax. There’s not much use of people printing paper out, but there’s a lot of communication that’s taking place between different software applications that, in the background, is using faxes.
What somebody is receiving on the other side is a PDF or an image of a document. There are many billions of documents exchanged by fax in healthcare today. One recent study that we ran estimated that volume at about 64 billion documents in the US alone every year.
Sramana Mitra: Talk about specific use cases. You can pick whatever illustrates best your value proposition in the healthcare IT workflow.
John Harrison: If you don’t mind, one minor digression before we talk to the use cases themselves. As we look at how these three pillars of focus come together – document-based communication, document handling, and extraction and recognition of contents – the fundamental thing that we’re getting out there is interoperability of data.
That is our calling and our purpose. While there are many organizations doing really wonderful work to improve the interoperability of data that exists in healthcare, we’re tackling that from a different angle. We believe that unstructured content in multiple forms will continue to exist in our healthcare ecosystem for a fairly significant amount of time.
We are approaching that problem of interoperability from the document perspective and from the unstructured content to say that if two systems can’t communicate effectively and they’re having to resort to exchanging unstructured data, what can we do with our technology to turn that unstructured material to something much more structured?
The fundamental purpose or calling for us is solving the fundamental problem of data interoperability in healthcare. To use that as a transition to the use cases, there’s a number of different ways that we see this technology delivering value to our customers.
If you think about something as very simple and fundamental as ensuring that when there is a piece of document-centric communication that takes place in healthcare, we’re simply making sure that those documents don’t get lost and that the important and critical data contained in those data is properly delivered to the end destination.
I’ll tell you a quick story about that that I think will illustrate that use case very well. A physician that we worked with told us a story of a patient that had come in to see colleague with a lump in her breast. She had an exam. The mammography lab found some concerning tissues and immediately sent a document-based communication back to the referring physician to say, “We saw your patient, but there is a problem. You need to reach out to this patient and help her seek therapy quickly.”
That document ended up not making it to the patient’s record and ultimately got lost in the receiving practices’s office. The patient assumed that no news is good news. As a result, treatment was delayed significantly. It ended tragically; the patient passed away. That’s a very simple use case.
That’s a very tragic story about how a simple thing like making sure that when you got this clumsy communication mechanism of documents being exchanged, every single one of those touchpoints should be closed out. Every single one of those documents needs to be delivered where it needs to be delivered.
Our technology will take those documents, automatically recognize the patient data, and associate those documents directly with patient records in a receiving EMR system to ensure that that’s a seamless end-to-end process. That’s one use case that we deal with a lot in our daily business.