Quirky Software Companies

I was 3/4 of the way through a follow up piece on the Physician’s Practice Reimbursement Survey when I realized that some of the data is so goofy that I ought not really say much about it. That is, I can’t really reach a conclusion about Pediatric Surgeons averaging $5 for 99212s through 99215s.  Is that actually possible?  I don’t think so.
Instead, you get this comedy from our great weekly, Seven Days. Scroll down to the third article or just read below. John and did not coordinate our outfits the other day, I promise.
From the article:

Viruses are generally to be avoided in the computing world, but they helped launch Physician’s Computer Company (PCC). The Winooski firm got its start in 1982, when a local pediatric practice wanted to computerize its student immunization forms. Their medical software provider wouldn’t design a program for them; a nurse suggested that her son might be able to do it.
The docs hired 19-year-old John Canning and his friends, Jay Schuster and Ari Shinozaki, to create software that would track immunizations and computerize billing and scheduling. The college students finished the system during the summer of ’83. They went back to school and did customer support over the phone from their out-of-state dorm rooms: Canning at Rochester Polytechnic Institute; Schuster at Cornell; and Shinozaki at Princeton.
When other pediatricians began requesting their services, they realized they’d found a market.
Twenty-five years later, PCC is a nationally respected provider of pediatric practice management software. Nearly 200 practices with offices in 40 states use its “Partner” system. PCC now counts 42 full-time employees, including Canning and Schuster, and generates just under $5 million a year in revenue – not bad for a business that started out as a summer project for college students.
Chip Hart, PCC’s Pediatric Solutions Manager, explains that the company doesn’t have much competition in the pediatric software market. “It’s not a pond you would fish in,” he says. Pediatricians are poorly paid compared to other medical specialists, he continues. Most medical software companies – such as IDX – target hospitals and doctors who make more money.
Over the years, PCC has evolved to serve the needs of its niche market. In addition to developing software, PCC also sponsors conferences to train pediatricians to manage their practices more efficiently. Most pediatricians, after all, go into medicine to help kids, not to run a business. As medical billing becomes increasingly complex, these docs need skills that aren’t taught in medical school, and PCC helps provide them.
The company also does customer support. Hart estimates that PCC fields 1500 support calls a month. The issues range from “the printer paper is jammed,” to “our computer system is crashing.”
These are serious issues in any workplace, but even more so in offices where doctors are caring for sick kids. “We guarantee support 24/7, 365 days a year,” Hart proudly notes. “We’re the only people in this business who do that.”
Indeed, PCC has won several awards from KLAS, a national firm that evaluates medical software vendors – including one last year for receiving the highest customer rankings of any medical software vendor over the past decade.
These designations are based on customer reviews. The pediatricians who participate in KLAS surveys regularly give PCC very high marks.
New Jersey pediatrician Jill Stoller completed a KLAS research survey in 2006, and offered a comment for a PCC press release announcing its High Scorer award: “I don’t think there is any other company out there that comes close to providing the type of software and support PCC does.”
If PCC’s customers seem happy, so do its employees. Turnover is low. Hart, who attended Burlington High School, has been with the company since he graduated from Middlebury College 18 years ago. “There are four people like me,” he says.
Their multiple offices in Winooski’s mostly empty Champlain Mill have a funky, creative feel. The main space retains the mill’s exposed brick and wooden beams – along with an Aztec temple mural and a Corona parrot, leftovers from the Mexican restaurant that vacated before PCC moved in 10 years ago.
Employees share DVDs through a company rental library, often eat meals together in the office kitchen, and decorate their cubicles with plants, original art, Hello Kitty figures and dog beds for visiting pooches. There’s no dress code.
PCC’s laid-back corporate culture belies its ambitious plans for the future. The company is about to release new features for its software that will serve both administrative and clinical functions – a big deal for pediatricians seeking to computerize patient chart notes. Hart predicts that the new Electronic Health Record could double the size of the company in the next 18 months.
Canning recalls that, when he first started the company, his parents would ask him, “When are you going to get a real job?” He doesn’t get that question much anymore.

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