Health IT Drives Growth for Small Software Firm
Dr. Randall Oates of SOAPware and his administrative assistant Fay Sanford access an Electronic Health Record on a tablet computer.
Dr. Randall Oates describes himself as “not a guy who has a lot of faith in government.” However, he has been pleased over the last year to see “explosive growth” in his small business—in sales and in hiring—which he attributes to federal investments in health information technology (IT) by the Recovery Act.
He started his company, SOAPware Electronic Medical Records, in 1984, largely as a hobby to accompany his work as a health care provider. The company has grown by 80 percent in the first half of 2011, Dr. Oates said, due to increasing numbers of medical providers seeking incentive payments for adopting health IT in their practice.
Incentive Payments for Certified Electronic Health Records Technology Adoption and Meaningful Use
Through the Recovery Act’s Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) projects that nearly $18 billion will be paid in incentive payments nationwide from 2011-2021 to eligible health care professionals and hospitals who adopt and meaningfully use certified EHR technology. The availability of these funds has led to an explosion of demand in the private sector as providers look to acquire the systems and equipment that will allow them to qualify for the incentive payments.
SOAPware is one of 565 vendors and developers with certified EHR products on the official Certified Health IT Product List. See the list of certified EHR products and their vendors and developers here. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has set up Regional Extension Centers (REC) across the country to help providers select and adopt the certified EHR best suited for their practice. The RECs also received Recovery Act awards.
Increased Jobs Result from Certified EHR Implementations
In addition to experiencing growing sales, Dr. Oates has hired new employees in 2011 to keep up with the need for sales and support. SOAPware has grown from 30 full-time employees a year ago to employing 54 people today. Dr. Oates anticipates doubling the current number of employees again over the next year. Despite moving to a new building in 2006, the company has already outgrown the facility.
“The parking lot is overflowing,” Dr. Oates said. “I’ve been out looking for a satellite facility we can use. This past year has meant huge growth for us, and we’ve had to figure out how we can scale very quickly. But, these are the kind of problems I like to have.”
SOAPware is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., home to such large employers as Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods. Although SOAPware is not the biggest employer in the area, Dr. Oates is still proud to provide good jobs for the community. He also notes that SOAPware provides economic stimulus for Fayetteville by bringing in visitors from out of state for training and meetings.
In Milford, Del., one of SOAPware’s long-time clients, family physician Domingo Aviado is also contributing to the economy. Dr. Aviado recently upgraded the SOAPware system that he has been using since 2001 in order to qualify for the new Medicare incentive payments, and has made upgrades to the computer hardware in his offices.
He is planning to purchase a new server and new computers. Hiring additional staff for data entry is also “stimulating the economy,” said Dr. Aviado, who stressed “that my staff are the ones that ultimately make all this work.”
“It’s not just the software vendor making money,” Dr. Aviado said. “I’ve had lots of people knocking on my door to sell me hardware upgrades. This does add another middleman in the health care pie, but the economy needs it.”
For more information about the CMS incentive payment programs, go to http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms/
For more information about ONC EHR-related programs, see http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=2996&mode=2