When doctors share sensitive medical information with colleagues or patients, the process is surprisingly difficult. Strict privacy laws mean each email address needs to be verified, every cellphone number double-checked. Sometimes—God forbid—the unlucky physician is forced to rely on fax machines.
But Dr. John Abrahams, who previously founded healthcare technology companies that produce medical and surgical devices, saw this inconvenience as an opportunity. Why not create an app that makes the process seamless? So Abrahams, who also runs a private practice in Harrison and serves as chief of neurosurgery at Northern Westchester Hospital, set to work on a solution in 2010.
Abrahams brought on founding CEO David Crane in 2012 to shepherd the project. The duo outsourced the software development and financed a launch with capital from Abrahams and other angel investors. The unveil came in late 2013, when the team went to market with the HIPAA-secure MDChat app, a messaging platform that allows healthcare professionals to communicate securely with each other and with their patients using any browser or mobile device.
“There was no good, secure method of sharing this kind of information between colleagues and patients,” Crane says. “So that’s what we built.” The app allows users to share documents, photos, and even radiology images, with everything stored in a cloud library. The platform makes money by charging providers—hospitals or doctors—for service, but it’s free for patients. The service now has more than 3,000 users at several hospitals and physician practices in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. “The pipeline is growing like crazy,” says Crane.
The growth is due to the headaches that MDChat eliminates. “[The app provides] protection from big fines for HIPAA violations,” he explains. Though there have been hurdles (navigating a space with countless regulations and long sales cycles), Crane says Westchester’s offerings—such as the Westchester County Association’s Blueprint Accelerator, which helps nurture startups—has been a boon. “[The WCA] has done a tremendous job creating visibility and opportunity for startup companies in Westchester,” Crane says.
And though the app’s roots are in Westchester, its team operates in a decidedly 21st-century fashion: There’s no physical headquarters. Instead, employees meet, work, and banter virtually—not unlike the app’s users.
So, does the architect use his own creation? Indeed. Abrahams encourages patients to stay in touch via MDChat after surgery and share photos documenting their recovery. “How cool is that?”