High-flying entrepreneur sets sights on hospital IT
By Brian Bandell
iCare CEO Jim Riley started the company after his success with Sunrise-based Learn.com.
Jim Riley doesn’t have to be working 11 hours a day, building a new company from scratch. After selling Sunrise-based Learn.com in 2010 for $125 million and keeping most of the proceeds, he could have retired in style. But relaxation is not in this fighter pilot’s DNA. Riley’s new venture is iCare.com LLC, which re- cently leased 16,000 square feet at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. It qualified for $120,000 in public incentives to create 30 jobs, and Riley said he has invested $10 million of his own money
into the company so far. It is on track to have 40 employees by the end of January. His task is ambitious: to convince hospitals across the nation to ditch the server-based electronic health record (EHR) systems they purchased for millions of dollars in recent years and switch to iCare’s new cloud-based EHR system, the first of its kind for hospitals. Riley has never shied away from risks. After graduating from the University of Florida with an engineering degree and starting a software
iCare: Idea for the new company was rooted in a health care scare
iCare’s Jim Riley, who was a pilot for the California Air National Guard, owns a fighter jet minus the missiles.
company, he joined the California Air Nation- al Guard at age 27 and flew F4s. “I always wanted to fly, and I had the opportunity to do that,” he said. “I had a ball for 10 years, flying all over California. I did it on the weekends, so it was like a flying club for me.” Now, Riley owns his own fighter jet – minus the missiles, of course. He also takes pride in his battery-powered Tesla Model S, an innovative car for an executive who likes forging new ground. “I’m a tech nut,” he said. “I love anything new.” Riley founded Learn.com in 1998, making e-learning software and cloud systems for education management. By the time he sold it, the company had 330 employees and $30 million in revenue. “When we sold it, I was pretty much set for life and then some,” Riley said. “I took six months off and then started another company.” The idea for iCare came about before he sold Learn.com and was rooted in a health scare. Riley’s father was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. Although his father survived, Riley was shocked by inefficient records management at the hospital making copies and strapping them to the gurney.
“The whole system seems to be 20 years behind,” he said. “I felt like it was a calling. It’s almost selfish. I thought of the day when I’m in the hospital and I don’t want to be subject to such an archaic system. I hate the fact that my 13-year-old at school has better technology for social networking than most hospitals do for care.”
Bringing a cloud to a new industry
Don Cook, iCare’s chief marketing officer, who had a similar job at Learn.com, said it’s like bringing the cloud to a whole new industry 12 years after doing it for education. Many hospitals are buying EHR systems, especially with government incentives to purchase them through 2015 and, after that, lower federal payments for not using them. However, the current EHR systems require huge on-site datacenters to house the programs and store the data, plus staff to manage them. Cook said a cloud system could do it with remote servers and without extra employees.
“Hospitals want to be out of the datacenter business,” Cook said. According to a recent report by consulting firm KLAS, one in three community hospitals that launched an EHR system in the past year are dissatisfied with their vendor and said they made the wrong decision. The author of that report, Paul Pitcher, noted there is an opportunity for emerging vendors with newer IT solutions to displace older legacy vendors with poor performance.
Riley believes that, once the government incentives run out in 2015, many hospitals will realized that their EHR systems are too expensive to maintain, and iCare will have many opportunities to win clients.Its system is based on the Veterans Health Administration EHR, which is used at many hospitals. It can be accessed via web browser using an iPad or laptop that hospital staff can wheel around. Users will pay a monthly charge, with little upfront expense besides training.
iCare is putting the finishing touches on its EHR, and will launch the full marketing campaign at the March 3 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in New Orleans.
Cook said iCare is looking for developer talent to help it prepare its system for hospitals.