With $7.5M Series A, Healthfinch To Keep Evolving Automation Software

When Jonathan Baran started a healthtech company in 2011, he says he saw its mission as “evolving healthcare.” So he and co-founder Lyle Berkowitz chose the name Healthfinch, a nod to the species of birds Charles Darwin discovered during a voyage to the Galápagos Islands.

Healthfinch, which makes software to automate routine tasks performed by physicians and others who care for patients in clinics, is itself evolving. For the past few years, the Madison, WI-based startup has focused on creating standalone applications for things like fulfilling medication requests and planning patient visits to the doctor’s office. Now, as part of a $7.5 million funding round announced Monday, Healthfinch has introduced Charlie, a framework linking the apps together whose moniker was also inspired by the man who helped develop the theory of evolution.

“All of these applications are going to work better together,” Baran says. “What you’re going to see from our product line moving forward is apps are going to start to take a back seat and what’s going to emerge in the forefront is this Charlie platform.”

Participants in the Series A round included several Chicago-based funds: Abundant Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners, Chicago Ventures, Jumpstart Ventures, and OCA Ventures. Baran says Adams Street, which led the round, is the only participating institutional investor that didn’t partake in the $1.5 million round Healthfinch raised in March. One explanation for the Chicago connection could be that Berkowitz, Baran’s co-founder, is a physician and chief medical officer of innovation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital there.

Healthfinch has now raised a total of more than $10 million. Baran says there’s currently no timeline for the startup’s Series B round.

The 29-person company also plans to use the latest financing to add staff, in particular engineers, Baran says.

The applications Healthfinch develops are designed for use in clinics, not hospitals, he says. The first product the company released, called Swoop, aims to streamline the process of reviewing prescription refill requests. Physicians are typically assigned to comb through requests from patients who take chronic medication, and Baran says that Swoop can help reduce the amount of time doctors spend performing this task—about 30 minutes a day on average. This happens by a physician first setting a list of rules, which might be tied to the date of a patient’s most recent visit or the last time lab work was done. When all conditions are satisfied, lower-level providers such as nurses have permission to order refills.

Other Healthfinch offerings include a module that helps make doctor appointments more efficient by alerting patients ahead of time that they’re due for a particular set of lab tests, for instance. That way, results will be waiting for physicians to review when patients show up for visits, Baran says, potentially eliminating the need for follow-up appointments.

Healthfinch’s software has processed more than 2.6 million tasks to date, and more than 2,000 physicians are currently using Swoop, says Karen Hitchcock, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Baran declined to comment on other clinical tasks that stand to be improved through technology. However, in June, Healthfinch chief operating officer Sanaz Cordes told Xconomy that the company could “essentially rinse and repeat [its] methodology” to improve processes for routing test results and consult requests. Baran did allow that Healthfinch’s algorithms and rules engine have potential to help automate work in those areas.

In order to license Healthfinch’s software, a health system must be actively using an electronic health records (EHR) system, says Baran. He says the startup has set up integrations with two EHR vendors—Epic Systems, also located in the Madison area, and Allscripts (NASDAQ: MDRX)—and is currently working on connections to Athenahealth’s (NASDAQ: ATHN) software.

Healthcare has lagged behind many other industries in moving data from paper to computer servers, Baran says. However, now that many of the country’s largest healthcare organizations have gone digital, there is vast potential to improve the lives of patients, as well as those of physicians and other providers.

“We’re on the other side [of the transition] now,” Baran says. “In the health IT industry, we’re at the tipping point right now where we finally have data that we can begin to do things with.”

Asked about other companies working to address the same types of problems as Healthfinch, Baran says has yet to hear of any head-on competitors. That might well change, and in the meantime Healthfinch will need to stay a step ahead of large EHR vendors, which can allot more resources to solving a specific issue than most startups, even well-funded ones. Because in capitalism, as in nature, only the strong survive.

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