Jonathan Baran, who graduated from UW-Madison with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering, did not always know he wanted to start his own company. However, as he began to work on a project involving medical devices in developing countries, his entrepreneurship mindset developed.
“I got intrigued with the concept of starting a business to bring new technology out there and get it to market,” Baran says.
During his master’s education, he worked on starting a business for medical devices in developing countries. While this endeavor did not pan out, it left Baran, as he says: “dead set on starting something.”
Baran, who always had an interest in the overlap between medicine and engineering, considered using the electronic medical record as a platform for applications.
“I was intrigued by what the next generation of healthcare information was going to look like,” Baran says.
In August of 2009, Baran teamed up with fellow UW-Madison alumnus Ash Gupta. The two knew they wanted to make applications for healthcare but did not know where to start.
“We honestly had no idea what we were doing,” Baran says.
Baran remembers that healthfinch, the company he and Gupta ultimately founded, had its original office in the Engineering Centers Building. He laughs as he says that their first legal bill was sent to the ECB.
“They said you can’t do that,” Baran says, still laughing.
Baran and Gupta realized what they needed was a physician to help them determine what kind of application would be beneficial to doctors and to the healthcare system. In 2011 they met physician Lyle Berkowitz and he joined their team.
“It turned out be a perfect fit,” Baran says about Berkowitz. “That’s when healthfinch became what it is today.”
Healthfinch revolves around making primary care physicians more efficient. Baran says physicians become burnt out from all the work they have to do outside of patient care. Healthfinch’s application RefillWizard lightens doctors’ loads by making sure they waste no time on prescription refills.
Before physicians can refill a prescription, they have to review a lot of information. To save doctors time, RefillWizard accesses a patient’s electronic medical record, pulls out his or her data and runs it through rules and protocols. If certain boxes are checked, it then delegates the work to a nurse.
At the end of 2011 healthfinch received its first client and by 2012, says Baran: “We had a product out there in the wild.”
Currently, healthfinch is working with clients in Los Angeles, San Diego and Minneapolis. However, healthfinch is still based in Madison.
Last year healthfinch won $250,000 at the 2013 Allscripts Open App Challenge.
The competition judged applications created by innovators, using the Allscripts Open Electronic Health Records software, with the goal of improving their own application through outside help. RefillWizard took the top prize.
“When you are looking to break into a market, you have to pick a small area that people care about and do it really really well,” Baran advises beginning entrepreneurs. “I can definitely say we are the world leaders in prescription refill technology.”
Baran credits his success in part to the flexibility and expertise he found in the UW-Madison College of Engineering.
“I couldn’t have been where I am today without my advisors in biomedical engineering,” Baran says.
According to Baran, healthfinch is just getting started. The company plans to build more applications to improve care and increase efficiency in the healthcare system.