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Innovative ideas Featured

5:30am EDT December 27, 2005
Patience is a virtue, and W. Thomas Green Jr. has found that sometimes patience pays off.

Although the founder and CEO of Greenway Medical Technologies had to wait three years before his company made any revenue, it is now growing rapidly — revenue increased from $8.8 million in 2004 to $17.6 million in 2005.

Green started the company in 1998 but didn’t see any revenue until 2001 because it took that long to build the product — software solutions for the health care industry. The goal is to integrate business and clinical functions to enable physicians to better serve their patients, more efficiently manage their practice and increase profitability.

Greenway Medical Technologies isn’t Green’s first business endeavor — he started check imaging company Greenway Corp. in 1994, but sold it in 1998 to focus on Greenway Medical Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Green about being a pioneer in a growing field and how he got the word out about his company.

Why is there a growing need for the medical technology that your company provides?
The biggest reason is because it saves lives. Depending on whose research you want to adopt, we’re losing a minimum of 44,000 to a maximum of 98,000 lives a year in this country due to medical mistakes. The majority of those can be prevented with IT systems.

Most people will tell you that health care is broken in this country and dramatic improvements need to be made. But no industry can be improved until you can measure it.

Medicare talks about wanting to pay for performance — pay [more to] the doctors who have better results. Well, until you can get medical results out of the paper folders and put them into databases, like a relational database, you can’t really measure it.

What challenges did you face as a pioneer in the field and how did you overcome them?
The No. 1 challenge any software development company has is ... if you get half way there and run out of money, then you don’t make it successfully. Greenway has raised more than enough funds. We raised in excess of $72 million to build this product. Being sure that you have the resources to complete the trip you start is the biggest challenge.

The second thing is to manage growth. Once you have built a product, you need to manage the growth so you are sure you can deploy and support the product at a high level of customer satisfaction. If you’re a doctor and I sell you a product and you have a room full of patients, but you can’t see them because your electronic health record is down, you are probably not going to be a happy camper.

How do you get the word out about Greenway’s new technology to expand your client base?
That’s a big challenge. We do that four ways. We have a direct sales force of 24 and that is all they do.

Secondly, we have an indirect sales force of our partners that has over 800 salesmen calling on physicians’ offices. The third thing we do is attend exhibits and health care shows and conferences.

The fourth and the most important is we take extreme care to have a satisfied client base. We back that up with proof from the Klas report. They rate all the systems out there, and we are the highest-rated electronic health record in the two fields that we play in. [Practices with one to five physicians and those with six to 25 physicians].

Clients’ references are huge. If you don’t have a good client base, it is very hard to increase your client base.

You provide clients with a free return-on-investment analysis. How has this helped you grow?
It has helped us retain customers, but I think that even more, it has helped us to get new customers.

President Bush said last year in his State of the Union address that we have to move our citizens to an electronic health record. It is one thing to say, ‘OK, do that,’ and it’s quite another to get the doctor to want to pay for it.

But if I can show you that a practice, which is a similar size to your practice, paid $200,000 for the product and is now doing two things, saving expenses and increasing revenue opportunities — let’s say the two of those together are $225,000 annually — then you made a pretty good investment and you are pleased with that.

The ROI proves that you did make a good investment, and it is a great sales tool for practices that are considering making that investment.

How do you plan to continue your growth?
If we continue to have significant revenue increases every year, we will keep doing what we’re currently doing, which is just trying to stay focused and offer the best product in the industry.

HOW TO REACH: Greenway Medical Technologies, www.greenwaymedical.com