Kareo’s Right Place Right Time Story

Believe it or not, a lot changes from year to year, HIMSS conference to HIMSS conference, even if most of that change happens at the micro, or company, level. For example last year at HIMSS12, CEO of Kareo Dan Rodrigues indicated in an interview with Health 2.0 Co-Chairman Matthew Holt that his practice management software company wasn’t interested in pursuing an electronic health record.

“Look to us to add features, add products add services to our mix that will help us really improve a small physician’s business first and foremost. In terms of clinical functionality, we’ve got great partnerships in place,” Rodrigues said.

Fast forward one year later and Kareo was at HIMSS13 talking about its new, and free, EHR. But within those 12 months, the company didn’t exactly redirect its focus; instead, fortuitous timing led Kareo to acquire an EHR.

In the past Kareo had branded itself as a provider of financial and administrative operations software for small practices, which included everything but an EHR. It formed about a half dozen partnerships with companies like Practice Fusion, Quest Diagnostics, and WebPT to ensure that its software easily integrated with these systems. And in 2011, it started to talk with Epocrates about a potential partnership as well.

Epocrates, which has been around since 1998, is best known for its physician tools like its drug reference app and anatomy guides. A connection with Kareo started after Epocrates entered the EHR business with the launch of a small practice electronic record. But last year, just after HIMSS12, Epocrates said that in order to streamline its focus, it was exiting the market. That left former Chief Medical Information Officer of Epocrates Tom Giannulli, MD, in search of a home for his project.

“The timing was really serendipitous I guess in that Epocrates decided to exit the business right around the same time, and we had already built that relationship and had that discussion going,” Rodrigues said. So Kareo acquired the Epocrates technology, including a rich clinical knowledge base, and incorporated it into a new version of the EHR. Giannulli also joined Kareo as its CMIO.

The company decided to make the EHR the free component of its new freemium model. “We thought this would be a great platform, put it out there, provide it for free, and build trust with doctors. Then we can earn their business for the other things that we do,” Rodrigues said. Kareo currently has about 17,000 physicians using its practice management software. After announcing its EHR, the company said it had 950 signups for the system in the span of a week.