Tech startup CEO says Epic’s App Orchard is huge for standardization

Jon Keevil, CEO of Madison-based IT startup HealthDecision, says Epic’s new App Orchard is “a huge step toward standardization” in the electronic health records industry.

He spoke to a crowd of a few dozen yesterday as part of Forward Fest, a multi-day string of events and social gatherings in Madison highlighting tech and startup communities.

HealthDecision provides diagnostic decision-making software for a variety of serious medical conditions, and was one of the first companies to join the App Orchard program and go through its app-vetting process. Epic’s new platform, which went live in March, features apps from third-party developers that conform to certain standards for intercommunication.

“The cool thing we’ve experienced first-hand is that the business models are now aligned,” Keevil said. “The Epic mechanism is going to have a portion from the proceeds from our relationship with customers, and they’re going to be tremendously helpful in that relationship with customers.”

Keevil worked in heart medicine for 16 years as part of UW Hospital and Clinics. He left last year to put all his time into growing the company.

When originally building out the diagnostic tools the company now uses, Keevil says he wasn’t envisioning a marketable business model.

“At first, I made these [tools] because I needed them, I just wanted them,” he said.

Now, HealthDecision’s support system has been in active use for seven years, and the company was involved in one “fairly substantial” research collaboration with Dartmouth University, Keevil said. He added that Dartmouth is looking into “multi-center research projects with one of our tools as well.”

“We’ve got some maturity with us, but I think the other way to look at this is we are still new and we’re still a startup from the perspective of really building out a customer base,” he said.

UW physicians and patients have been using the company’s software since 2010, and its interoperability makes a significant difference for physicians in that kind of clinical atmosphere, Keevil said.

“Anything that pulls someone out of that workflow is just costly,” he said.

Needing to jump onto separate devices for important health information can be disruptive not only to the patient, but to the clinician’s own train of thought, he said.

“Not only do I have to maybe explain to the patient I’m not texting my wife, but I also am out of the system and it’s just harder to remember and all that,” he said.

This is all critical, he says, because physicians are always pushing the limit of their capabilities.

“If they’re not, then somebody will find something more for them to do — so by definition, they’re stretched to the edge,” he said. “They have to learn how to manage in the most efficient way possible, and you gotta respect that.”

–By Alex Moe