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HIStalk Interviews Dan Schiller, CEO, Salar

January 4, 2013 Interviews No Comments

Dan Schiller is CEO of Salar of Baltimore, MD.

1-4-2013 7-58-26 PM

Salar has been through a couple of acquisitions. Explain what happened and how the company will operate going forward and the changes Constellation Software will make.

To say it’s been an interesting ride is an understatement. In the last 15 months, Salar has been purchased three times.

Initially we were bought by Transcend Services, a transcription company, in August 2011. Our hope was to create a budget-neutral documentation transition solution for existing Transcend customers by moving them off transcription and on to TeamNotes, Salar’s electronic physician documentation platform. Before we were able to formalize and launch this strategy, Nuance purchased Transcend to expand Nuance’s share of the transcription services market. This was early 2012, and we became a small blip on the larger corporate radar.

While we may not have been given the visibility we wanted, we used this time to focus on our internal processes, customers, and R&D. I think it was time well used. We’ve emerged with a new Web-based platform that we’ve deployed over the last few months to a new customer.

That brings us to our acquisition in early December by Constellation Software, Inc. We think Constellation is an ideal partner for us. They’re focused on growing vertical market software businesses that provide mission-critical solutions. They have a solid track record of purchasing and nurturing software companies in many industries. Most importantly, they believe in us – the strength of our solutions and our team.

So no immediate changes. They’re going to let us do our thing. I believe we already have the best electronic clinical documentation and billing workflow solution on the market, and with Constellation’s support, I believe we will be even stronger on the other side of 2013.

 

You’re a programmer moving into an executive leadership role, which rarely happens since the business world often ends up being like Dilbert and the pointy-haired boss. What are your priorities for the company and what parts of the job are you looking forward to?

I might feel out of place if this were a clothespin factory, but I know how to build software pretty well. Technical innovation has always been key to Salar’s identity, so it’s natural that a software engineer has always been at the helm. Hey, if you call in the middle of the night, you might still catch me on Tier 3 support. I hope to keep up my spot in the rotation for as long as I can.

My main priority is keeping us innovative, agile and relevant in front of all the change this industry will see in the next few years. We have always felt that, at their core, initiatives like Meaningful Use, ICD-10, and quality-driven payment reform are documentation problems, which are right in our wheelhouse.

The bottom line is that I’m eager to leave behind the mess of the last 15 months and lead this company into a very exciting future. I am fortunate to have a smart group of people who are passionate about solving real problems. With their support, this is going to be fun.

 

Salar’s selling point in documentation with TeamNotes has been a form-type metaphor that users could customize to look like familiar paper forms. How are users responding to that, and what kinds of devices are they using it on?

We all know that there are still large facilities using paper documentation, so that metaphor still translates to some degree. But TeamNotes has evolved far beyond just mimicking paper notes, and that’s been driven largely by the evolution we’ve witnessed in how comfortable physicians have become with technology. They want it to work for them, not against them.

For example, they want the ability to interface clinical data within their notes, jointly author notes with the entire care team, and capture structured data. Our newest version of TeamNotes enables physicians to do all these things, and do them on their preferred desktop, laptop, or mobile device. As our template content has become richer with each implementation, all of our users benefit.

 

Where do your documentation products fit with a hospital that’s already running a major EMR?

All of our customers already have major EMRs in place. In each case, the EMR was not able to fill their inpatient documentation needs functionally or achieve acceptable physician adoption rates. In most cases, the documentation tools are not intuitive and too rigid to fit varying clinical workflows. With Salar, each hospital has developed notes that are intuitive, reportable, and effective in their unique workflows. In our opinion this is how you achieve physician adoption of electronic clinical documentation.

There have been a lot of great strides within the industry to develop CLU and CAC tools to accommodate notes coming out of the EMR because they were never structured well in the first place. To get any sort of specificity out of a flat unstructured note, you’re required to use some expensive tools or employ smart people to deduce what happened at the point of care. This specificity needs to occur at that point of care, in the physician’s hands, and the outcome must be represented in a structured, discrete way.

These CAC tools are tremendously capable, but are employed in the wrong place in the process. By embedding CAC capabilities into the documentation workflow, Salar helps hospitals realize the full potential of their EMR investment.

 

How do you see your market and products changing as healthcare reform continues over the next several years?

For the short term, the customizability of our documentation platform makes us ready for everything we’re going to see in the next year or so. For ICD-10, we’re incorporating NLP tools from HLI and other vendors to accomplish meaningful front-end CDI at the point of documentation. For Meaningful Use or any other report-heavy regulations, the ability to add specific fields overnight is going to allow customers to handle these changes without any additional overhead.

Looking out a little further, we will be focusing on the front-end CDI loop in TeamNotes. By incorporating more computer-assisted tools to physicians, as well as providing for more complicated workflows with CDI staff, we believe we can truly maximize the value of these tools for both hospital and physician.

We’re very interested in how Physician/CDI/Billing workflows develop and how we can facilitate a more efficient process. We’re also very interested in the ACO model and what needs to be provided from both a reporting and a documentation perspective. We think we’re in a good position to accommodate multiple reimbursement models because of our customizable templates.

In the longer term, we’re looking at how other workflows within hospitals – and workflows between hospitals and other care organizations – are starting to blend. There are many processes that have been overlooked and underserved from a technology perspective, and for the good of the patient population, should be optimized. We can’t wait to solve these problems.

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