Shareable Ink: Q&A with Founder and CEO Stephen Hau
Shareable Ink allows doctors to record patient data on iPads stored on servers, instead of the old way of paper files in manila folders.
Stephen Hau was driving through Montana in 2010 when the idea and name for his new company came to him: Shareable Ink. A year later, the health-care information technology firm established by Hau, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology electronics engineer and computer science graduate, was recognized by Forbes as one of America's most promising companies. Today, the Nashville-based business has 50 employees and continues to expand, recently experiencing 300 percent growth during its second year of operation.
Shareable Ink, what is it all about? Doctors have long used pen and paper to compile medical files for their patients, but paper files are on their way out. The Shareable Ink technology allows doctors to write data on iPads and store the information on servers, so it's much easier for physicians to retrieve the information. With Shareable Ink, doctors still use a familiar paper-like template to record their data on the iPads. We don't want to change the past behavior of the physician "“ we want to keep them comfortable in their new recording methods.
How does this technology work? Our company currently has 1,200 clients ranging from full health systems and hospitals to individual doctor offices, and we have devised a digital pen that physicians can use on iPads for patient files. On each iPad, Shareable Ink provides a patient-form template that looks exactly like the paper forms that these doctors have always used at their individual practices or hospitals. Several doctors today are merely filling the form on the iPad with a digital pen, instead of writing on a paper form with a ballpoint pen.
Can you describe the digital pen in more detail? The digital pen is equipped with a small camera, so every stroke written by the physician is immediately stored and converted into typewritten text on a cloud-based server. Also, the pen can be used for scanning paper documents that a physician might want to save in a patient's new data file. For example, if a patient has 50 paper pages in their old manila folder file, a physician might decide that one or two of those old papers are important for the new data file, so those particular documents will be scanned by the digital pen. Then the 50 paper pages can be shredded because all important information on the patient is now in the cloud database, which Shareable Ink oversees.
Are physicians on board this new technology? Doctors are intolerant of any distractions that take them away from their patients or slow them down in any way, so the goal at Shareable Ink is to make their work flow just as fast when they are recording their data on iPads, plus it now allows them to retrieve information much faster. That's exactly what our technology is all about. Doctors are actually quick to accept change "“ physicians are historically receptive to adopting new technology. Our 1,200 clients have welcomed this digital data because it improves efficiency and the quality of patient care, plus it greatly cuts costs.
What about doctors who are more resistent to change, how do you get them to embrace it? The digital pen can also write on paper documents, and the writing on those documents can be retrieved from the pen and then scanned into a database. The computer deciphers an individual doctor's writing style and transcribes the data into readable text. Most doctors are using the iPads, but we also supply the technology for those who still prefer paper documents. All doctors just have to use the digital pen to make everything work.
And the significance behind the name "“ Shareable Ink? Doctors used to write with ink pens on a patient's file, and now they use a digital pen to store clean data that can be immediately retrieved and then shared with their medical peers, if desired. Thus, Shareable Ink. We also have a three-minute YouTube video with a demo that shows how it works.