New Zealand's Orion Health growing rapidly:
Orion Health believes it has become New Zealand's largest export-oriented software developer after growing revenues 40 per cent to $42 million in the year to March, over- hauling Christchurch's Jade Software.
Chief executive and majority- owner Ian McCrae says the 270-strong firm, most of whose staff are employed in Auckland, has its largest ever pipeline of work ahead of it and may take on as many as 40 university graduates this year.
The company has just scored a deal worth $5.5 million over three years to supply medical records software and middleware to the Canadian province of New Brunswick, having previously won a similar contract in Alberta.
A larger win, believed to be with a hospital in the United States, may be two or three months away.
Orion Health's flagship products are its clinical records system Concerto and software integration engine Rhapsody.
Hospitals and health authorities overseas are using electronic patient records to store all information about patients' medical histories and treatment plans, so information can be easily accessed and updated by primary and secondary healthcare providers.
Orion Health achieves this by pulling patients' medical information into a Java- based portal.
A different approach is being taken in New Zealand, where medical information tends to be shared between GPs and hospitals on a "needs be" basis.
This is possible in New Zealand, Mr McCrae says, because healthcare providers are better connected than in other countries, though he expects the adoption of centralised electronic patient records to happen here in time.
"New Zealand and Denmark lead the world in having a very good health information network across the country, so every GP would get their lab results electronically and receive discharge summaries from hospitals and reports from radiology clinics electronically. The amount of electronic communication between primary care providers and others is huge."
Mr McCrae says future developments in the medical records market are likely to revolve around building more decision support tools into software, so clinicians can be better prompted about the actions they may need to take, and putting in place the technology that would let patients securely access their own medical records over the Internet.
"It is an area where a lot of countries are experimenting, and that seems to be the direction many regions of the world are heading toward.
For healthy patients there aren't too many advantages, but if you have an ongoing chronic condition like diabetes you are probably tracking your lab results and medications quite closely and have a tight dialogue with your health providers.
For those patients in particular that sort of stuff is useful."
If he wasn't running Orion Health, Mr McCrae might be a spokesman for the Wiki movement. He says Orion has benefited greatly from maintaining its own internal Wiki – an online encyclopedia – which it uses as a knowledge base when developing and implementing software, providing customer support and for administration.
"We are 'Wikiafying' everything really, from human resources records to our board papers and all our project work. It is working really well."
Mr McCrae says the secret to success in overseas markets is execution.
"It is a huge challenge to get offshore and it seems to me only a handful actually make it. We have been at it since 1999 when we opened an office in Los Angeles."
Orion sold its software to smaller customers that for one reason or another were less attractive to rival vendors and worked hard to ensure the implementations succeeded.
The customers it is now winning are "the best you can have", he says.