Versatile launches healthcare IT arm as health goes digital

BY Grant Welker

Photo/Grant Welker
Photo/Grant Welker
Versatile Healthcare Solutions, a new arm of the Marlborough IT company, seeks to take advantage of information technology playing a larger role in health care.

With two decades of information-technology experience, the Marlborough company Versatile took a look at the growing IT field in health care and made a confident bet.
With its expertise and name recognition in IT, Versatile launched a new health information technology services arm in March, and it doesn’t expect a slow start. Versatile officials said they expect to double its healthcare IT business in 18 to 24 months.
“We cover a unique niche in the market,” said David Christianson, Versatile’s senior vice president. “We’re on an aggressive growth ramp.”
Versatile had experience with health records and information-technology infrastructure in the health field, but with Versatile Healthcare Solutions, the move is now official, and the company’s healthcare portfolio has grown by about 60 percent. Versatile launched Versatile Healthcare Solutions with the help of acquisitions in the past year that gave it a chance to formally enter the field working with medical practices and ambulatory care, two areas where Versatile found an unrealized market.
Technology has only recently advanced to the point where doctors are able to use it in a way that helps patients, said John Barker, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
Doctors in the field have also seen the potential.
“To say the revolution has occurred is not correct,” Dr. Craig Lilly, a critical care physician and pulmonologist who also conducts research at the UMass Medical School. “The revolution is just starting to occur.”

A delay in broader adaption of IT in health is a matter of waiting for doctors and patients to be comfortable with bringing computers into an exam room, doctors said. Patient confidentiality is one factor that slowed use in doctors’ offices compared to, say, Airbnb or Uber, where people can go online to rent a place to stay or a driver to get around.
A survey last year by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology found that 10 percent of patients still withhold giving some information to health care providers because of privacy or security concerns. Likewise, 74 percent said they were confident that safeguards are in place to protect their medical records from unauthorized viewing.
“It’s an exciting time for IT because health care is just starting to catch up with the rest of the world,” Lilly said.

It was only last fall, for example, that UMass Memorial Health Care launched Epic, its $650-million electronic patient records system, which covers 3 million records and required hiring 125 workers for the upgrade.
The costly switch to electronic records was done primarily to improve coordination of patient care and to enhance the experience for health-care providers, said Eric Alper, UMass Memorial Health Care’s vice president and chief clinical informatics officer. Before the Epic launch, systems even within UMass had difficulty connecting with each other, like the emergency department with the ICU. Now, the healthcare system can even pull up patient information shared through other area systems, like Reliant Medical Group and Partners HealthCare.
“Healthcare workers now do most of their work using electronic systems instead of on paper,” Alper said. “Our providers can now see all documentation about a patient in one place, including a single medication and allergy list, all images, electrocardiograms, etc.”

As the largest healthcare system in Central Massachusetts, UMass Memorial Health Care has an ability to keep those services in-house. Many smaller offices or networks do not.
That’s where the largest potential is seen for Versatile, whose list of clients does include some relatively larger systems, such as Lowell General Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Versatile also has offices in Tampa, Fla., and in Island Pond, Vt., a small town in the northeast reaches of the state which Christianson said is a underserved health care IT market.
Versatile Healthcare Solutions has a team of two dozen for managed and technical services, including providing a call center for remote access and on-site dispatch to clear up IT problems.
“We’ve certainly seen the advent of care being delivered at the edge,” Barker said.
Versatile has found that doctors have recently gone from being concerned about using IT in health care in a meaningful way to seeing it improvse care.
“The real punchline,” Christianson said, “is that we make technology work so clinicians can take care of patients.”