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Improving information exchange Featured

6:17am EDT December 27, 2005
When Dennis Swartzlander and Fred Richards co-founded HealthCare Transaction Processors Inc. (HTP) in 1996, their goal was to develop software to help health care customers improve efficiency, profitability and service quality.

Today, HTP has grown into a company with 37 employees, $4 million in revenue and a staff of software engineers that loves the opportunity to change an industry.

“People working for a large corporation get very small pieces of the problem to solve. Here, people are able to see a big problem, and from start to finish, build a solution,” Swartzlander says.

Smart Business spoke with Swartzlander about how he manages information technology trends on behalf of his customers.

How has information exchange in the health care industry changed since you founded HTP?
The need is being more recognized every year. There are cost-saving and quality-of-life-saving opportunities by using health information exchange as other industries use information technology. Health care has been significantly behind in adoption of automation of health care information exchange.

To what do you attribute that?
The industry is very fragmented. There are all kinds of medical providers and entities on the funding side — the commercial insurers, the government programs and the multiple state programs. So it’s been very difficult to focus on information technology.

How does that affect medical providers?
A very small percentage of revenue goes toward information technology. People recognize now that there will be financial savings by reducing the number of repeated lab tests. Radiology images are often repeated because they’re lost.

The main thing is that people’s records will be available to physicians [in a] more timely [manner] so they can prescribe the right care and fewer labs will be lost.

How does HTP adapt to changes in technology?
We have engineers who are very aware of the latest software tools and information technology engineering approaches, and if it makes sense for our customers, we can very quickly add that to our solution. It’s easier in many ways for a small company to adapt to the changes.

A larger company would take up a much bigger project and have more time to make decisions to change. The more customers you have, the harder it is to move everybody to a new generation of software. We’re in that position right now where we can move very quickly and keep our customers up-to-date with the best information technology approaches.

How do you do that?
Microsoft has a database technology, and the latest version runs on 64-bit servers. We’re the first company in the Great Lakes region that Microsoft saw move to the new hardware/software platform, so we were pioneers.

We were able to do that because we had a very large customer with well over 1 million covered members.

How did that benefit your company?
Having this new database technology enabled us to process much more rapidly. Claims are a key part of it — inbound claims and outbound payments.

We can process currently about 15 million transactions per month. We can do it very cost-effectively with modern servers and the efficient software that we use.

How do you make customers aware of changes in national health care transaction standards?
The software we provide for our customers is shared software in a run as application-service provider. We have regularly scheduled new versions of software. We’re committed to our customers to support any change that is introduced because of standards changes. That’s why we’re in the business.

It’s very difficult for an organization to do it themselves. We have 40 health insurance payer customers, and by us doing it for 40 of them, it’s much more efficient than each one of them trying to make the changes themselves.

How do you update your technology based upon your customers’ needs?
There’s a feedback cycle. In any information technology business, the sales executives pick up needs from customers that nobody else is meeting, and then they bring it back to our company. We’re finding a very good acceptance of breaking new ground in using health care transactions to get medical claims paid.

The more hospitals use us, they (are happier with the results) but they say, ‘Oh, by the way, could you also give us this feature?’ And engineers here design it and program it. In the next release two or four months later, we have that new feature.

It’s a cyclical process of customers learning how to use our software and then making suggestions on how to make it even better. We want to revolutionize the way information technology is used by our customers.

We are trying to bring very cost-effective solutions that don’t cost too much but give a lot of capabilities. We can add those capabilities by hearing what the customer market tells us. We’re very market-responsive.

HOW TO REACH: HealthCare Transaction Processors Inc., (888) 487-8010 or www.htp-inc.com