This is the first of 10 profiles provided by the North Carolina Technology Association highlighting its newest Beacon Award category, Ten Startups to Watch. The companies will be recognized during the organization’s November 6th NC Technology Awards Gala.

By Ann Revell-Pechar
Calling all healthcare providers: If you could increase clinical revenue by 17% in 45 days, facilitate instant, secure communication between all physicians and staff, and improve patient care coordination between disparate providers—all with one tool—would you? 
Add to that simplified workflow and automation of patient event notification—does that add value? 
According to DocsInk, a Wilmington, NC-based startup, this idea does indeed resonate… and is catching on fast. 
“The per capita cost of healthcare will go down instantly as we eliminate redundant services and limit errors caused by the lack of communication,” says CEO Julie Thomas, who built the tool with the assistance of physicians.
That’s saying something in the healthcare industry, where so many have tried to bring technology to bear on the profitability of outstanding care. Initiatives seem to be under way in every medical institution, as the industry itself strives to improve overall clinical operations, quality of care, and financial stability. This comes at a time when physicians and medical facilities have already made very large capital investments in an electronic health record system (EHR) and likely have been forced to make huge concessions in order to “meaningfully use” those systems. 

Beating Technology Fatigue 

According to Thomas, a big challenge has been to help potential customers overcome the technology fatigue that is so prevalent in the healthcare industry. But she believes that DocsInk is not a typical healthcare technology company, and customers across the U.S. prove it. They include Wilmington Health Associates locally, and Medical Center at Ocean Reef in Key Largo, Penn Medicine Cardiology in Philadelphia and Pediatric Consultants in Houston. 
“The typical results—those that are achieved by our end-users in about 30 days—quickly substantiate that DocsInk is not just another concession. Rather, it is the solution they have been waiting for,” Thomas says. “We listened, watched and learned before we started development, and created a product that is unlike anything else. ” 
What did they hear? It had to be simple. It had to make fiscal sense. It needed to address revenue, connectivity, communication, and quality of care all at once. 
No simple task, but there’s nothing simple about healthcare. So the team undertook a challenge—to create a solution that would be simple, provide a quick ROI, scale to all levels, and accommodate the needs and workflows of the end users… which ultimately benefits patients. 
“We are not an EHR or Health Information Exchange replacement, but our platform fills the gaps that have plagued the industry for years,” says Thomas. “We help physicians, healthcare administrators and health information technology professionals achieve their initiatives, in a way that makes sense for them.” 

Advantage: North Carolina

It’s not hard to get people to come to work for DocsInk, Thomas says. It is (proudly) based in Wrightsville Beach. But DocsInk sees all of North Carolina as ‘home,’ and therefore has easy access to some of the top medical facilities in the nation. Each of these is known for being open to innovation and dedicated to improving both the business and clinical care aspects of the healthcare industry. DocsInk believes that the state of North Carolina thinks big when it comes to healthcare reform—and that is a good fit for DocsInk. 
“We started this company to make a huge impact across the nation, and NC is a great base from which to grow,” Thomas says. “A year from now, we expect to see significant growth, with an established customer in every state. And we’ll be proud to point to NC as home when we do so.” 
While Thomas is quick to credit to her partners for making this start-up work, she is most grateful to all those who collaborated on the product, including physicians, healthcare administrators, and medical and business office staff. The product is already in use from coast-to-coast, and that success wouldn’t have happened had it not hit the sweet spot needed in the industry. 

Funded. More than most can say. 

When asked about funding Thomas is crisp and clear: “DocsInk took in a series A round of funding totaling nearly $1 million in January of 2013. Our company remains extremely well funded and securely poised for quick growth and scalability.“
Photo credit: Mark Steeman