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HIStalk Interviews Scott Coons, President and CEO, Perceptive Software

June 17, 2011 Interviews 2 Comments

Scott Coons is president and CEO of Perceptive Software, a Lexmark company, of Kansas City, MO.

6-17-2011 6-55-22 PM

Give me some brief background about yourself and about the company.

I’m an engineer and a computer scientist by education. I’m kind of boring, to be honest. I’m the founder of Perceptive Software. We’re the makers of ImageNow.

We’re in the enterprise content management space. We offer products and solutions around the management of enterprise content across multiple sectors, including healthcare. We’ve got a great team here and lots of happy healthcare customers that are using our product in a lot of different areas.

I was reading Web site write-up on Citizens Memorial Healthcare, an outstanding IT shop in a small hospital. How are they using your technology?

I don’t know all the details in their specific case. However, I’ve spent time with their CIO. They fully endorse our product as a core component to what they’re trying to get done. They really see us as an ECM platform that they can use everywhere in the hospital, from HIM to administration to order management to back office operations as well, including financial operations and human resources.

We preach vendor independence whenever possible. Obviously we try to build software that takes as little professional services as possible. Citizens has really embraced that. They have a strong IT shop and are ideally suited to be able to go in quick, integrate quickly in all the ways that they like to integrate, and then just expand throughout the hospital.

That’s really one of our approaches we take with all of our customers. Obviously we’re there to help them use the technology, configure the technology, optimize the technology any way they want us to. But at the end of the day, we try to build software that is more about the software and less about the professional services that go along with it.

Can you describe the different places in the hospital that your offerings might be found or how they might be used?

In general, it’s all about managing the content, whether that content is derived from paper or some unstructured information that needs to be accessed in support of some clinical process or back office workflow process. Any time you need to manage a workflow around that and have access to that content, we’re used. There isn’t a place in a hospital or acute care facility that our product’s not being used.

How much of your overall business is healthcare?

In terms of new business, it’s our largest industry sector, our fastest growing. I’d estimate at about 35% or so.

The debate continues on the value of the hybrid patient with some scanned components. How do you see scanned documents and workflow built around them fitting in with a completely electronic system creating and using discrete data?

In any enterprise environment, there’s always a collection of data above and beyond paper-based data, scanned-based data that needs to be managed and processed. I think in our case the ImageNow product line can manage any content no matter what its source. Our solution solves the problem of multiple systems needing to speak with each other and needing information for various content stores and various snippets of data. 

We can bridge the gap between disparate systems to do that, environments where they’ve started to centralize on one basic clinical system. There’s always the need to collect and manage a bunch of disparate data in support of that system. It’s more than just dealing with document images — it’s dealing with any type of enterprise content that helps the clinician provide patient care.

With the push toward interoperability, people are always assuming they will need complicated interfaces that may or may not be proprietary. It sounds like you’re saying that documents could be the interface between the systems.

Absolutely, they can be. You’ve got to solve the problem when somebody walks in with a bunch of data you’ve yet to capture into your systems. if it’s a good enterprise content management system, you can just bridge the gap and exchange data between multiple systems.

Interoperability is a big deal for us. We’re fully behind it and participate in various IHE Connectathons.  The engineering team is all over the standards that are emerging.

One of the things that most interested me when I interviewed Denni McColm from Citizens Memorial a couple of years ago was that the only paper they were handling came from outside hospitals that weren’t up to their level of automation. Do you find it interesting that they took that approach to avoid handling someone else’s paper?

It doesn’t surprise me. I think if you do your job and you build software and solutions that are easy to use, then the motivation is to get anything and everything related to the patient in one folder, if you will, so you have access to it. I’m sure they saw the benefit of getting everything into their content store even if it wasn’t originated from their hospital.

The company makes a distinction between not just managing electronic documents, but the information life cycle. Can you describe what that means to you and how it works?

I think that the interesting thing is, from content type to content type, it’s not always about keeping that content around forever. You have to put policies around how long you’re going to keep it, when you destroy it. That’s really the definition of the life cycle from capture to destruction.

It’s a big problem that a lot of the healthcare industry doesn’t always understand … the compliance regulations and whatnot. We have to make sure, based upon content type, that we can manage it completely through its life cycle and put policies around it for destruction. I think that’s a part of just being a solid enterprise content management product.

There are a lot of things that we do outside of healthcare that lend themselves to the healthcare space. The retention policy management suite that we have actually was derived in government and our financial services requirements, so we think it’s something that healthcare space needs. We have a lot of healthcare customers that are using it.

Speaking of that, what lessons that you’ve learned serving other industries that might apply to healthcare? And from what you just said, does that relate to regulatory or audit type capabilities?

It is heavily related to regulatory and audit capabilities. I can come up with hundreds of examples of where what we do and one industry is an advantage to another industry. You’re still building solutions specifically for an industry. You still have to pay close attention to the role of the user. We do a lot with persona-based development. 

But content that’s not closely tied to a core business system — whether it’s a clinical system, CRM, an accounting system, whatever the system might be — managing that content is the same across all industry sectors. It’s really how you put the workflows in place and understanding that role of the user that’s accessing the data needs the data at a moment’s notice. That’s where you really have to customize specifically for the industry, but there’s a lot of overlap. That’s why we service so many various industry sectors.

You mentioned your background as an engineer. It’s uncommon to see an engineer as an entrepreneur leading a company instead of the usual salespeople or suits. What are the advantages of that and how does that fit within Lexmark?

A great question. As you can tell, I don’t give a very good interview. I think that’s one of the disadvantages having an engineer lead the company.

This business is very systematized. Quality is extremely important to us. I think that’s an advantage that comes from being an engineer. Obviously I work very, very closely with the R&D department, being that I was the original R&D department. It’s about building really good software and being able to predict use cases that the customer or the industry can’t predict so that you’re ready for them as they grow into the software, that they leverage the software to serve new processes or new workflows.

But I think that one of the strengths of Perceptive is that we are highly technical. We build a product that’s very scalable, something that we’re proud of that we think is very easy to use. Our mantra is always to put content and context to whatever the problem is that we’re trying to solve.

As it relates to Lexmark, what’s interesting about that is that Lexmark is led by engineers themselves. That was part of the attraction when we first got to know them. I’m an electrical and computer engineering major and their CEO at the time was the electrical engineer. Their current CEO is a mechanical engineer. Their whole executive team is full of engineers. I think that we share a common bond to build really, really good product and to listen very carefully to our customers and have a really closed development cycle on what our customers want and really giving feedback, and then rolling that back into the product line. 

The Lexmark acquisition has been great for us. They understand we’re different. We’re software, they’re hardware. They were public, we were private. They were really big, and we were not as big. They’ve been extremely supportive in where we’re going and what we want to do. They’ve really gotten next to helping us grow and better our product into the markets we serve. They’re a great company and it’s a great fit.

As you were describing the advantages and disadvantages of being an engineer, I couldn’t help but picture you reading Dilbert, and I bet you do…

I do. <Laughs>

Do you have times where you can’t decide whether you’re going to identify with Dilbert or the pointy-haired boss?

<Laughs> I read it everyday, I laugh every day, and yes, I can identify to both characters. It’s a great comic strip.

For a company with an engineering culture, your Kansas City location has a lot of fun employee stuff, like video games and chair massages. How would you characterize the culture there and how does that translate into value for the customers?

I think there’s a passion here that is contagious.  Culture is always a reflection of the people. But is the culture attracted by or created by the people, or are the people attracted to the culture? I think it’s a little bit of both.

We try to hire the best and the brightest, those that have a very inquisitive mind, aren’t afraid to take risks if it means bettering the product for our customer. We really preach innovation. The culture is a reflection of that and they are a reflection of that culture. We have a good time. Our motto is to work hard and play hard. We’re about really building game-changing ECM products that our customers will enjoy, that our customers will put to use, and will have solid things to say about it. Everybody here at Perceptive believes in that mission. We enjoy what we do.

What issues in healthcare do you think will have an impact on how you conduct business in the next three to five years in terms of product development?

The government’s involvement in healthcare is always something that we closely watch. Meaningful Use, all those various topics are things that we have to be aware of. We have to be in tune with what’s going on.

No matter what the trend is in healthcare in the upcoming years, we’re in good shape to be able to handle whatever comes in front of us. As much as an industry might try to exorcise out paper, we have built a system again that can handle any type of content that’s related to the core mission of healthcare. We can manage that content and make it available and put a process around it. 

We feel good about where we are. Obviously you have to continue to work hard and listen to the customer and talk to the customer where they see things are going and what they need. We do a lot of that. We feel pretty good about where we are and where things are going.

Any final thoughts?

I appreciate the time. I think that we have a good story to tell and we appreciate the opportunity to tell it through HIStalk. We’re excited about where we’re going and what we’re doing. We want to thank all of our customers for their support over the last ten-plus years.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Sir, I beg to differ. You give a very good interview. I meet a lot of engineers in my patient population here and I’m generally impressed by them. I’ve always joked that the difference between a doctor and an engineer is that the engineer can kill more than one person at a time, but the more serious corollary is that both professions are answerable to an objective, and often quite unforgiving reality.

  2. The healthcare sector at Perceptive has had immense turnover in the last year or so. Perhaps I can attribute this to Coons not letting the healthcare experts make any decisions. This is reinforced by his statement “I work very, very closely with the R&D department”. Yes, Perceptive hires “the best and the brightest”, but once you’re there it’s as if you only had a high school diploma.

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