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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 17, 2000. All rights reserved.
Mednet Healthcare Technologies
Imagine this scenario, and how often it might occur
in an aging population: A 75-year-old woman who lives alone, call
her Mrs. Green, suffers from arrhythmia, a type of irregular heartbeat
that is either harmless or fatal depending on the circumstances. Suddenly
she experiences dizzy spells and shortness of breath.
Since Mrs. Green can’t always be under medical care, her physician
has referred her to the Ewing-based Heartcare Corporation, which offers
a trans-telephonic heart monitoring service. Now, whenever she has
symptoms of arrhythmia, such as lightheadedness or chest pain, she
places Heartcare’s handheld recording device to her chest and then
calls Heartcare’s 800 number, where a technologist pulls up her file
and produces a fast electrocardiogram (ECG) over the phone. If the
ECG looks lethal, the technologist notifies the Emergency Medical
Service (EMS) in Mrs. Green’s area, and then calls her doctor. If
the ECG appears to be within normal boundaries, the technologist simply
notifies Mrs. Green’s physician.
In this scenario Mrs. Green’s ECG is normal. Her symptoms are likely
the result of too much caffeine. Heartcare spares her an unnecessary
visit to the emergency room. One day, however, her arrhythmia could
be more serious, and Heartcare could save her life.
Mrs. Green is a composite of the many patients who rely on tele-medicine,
a growing field in which Heartcare Corporation has become a significant
player. Founded in 1990 by former bacteriologist and biomedical salesman
Frank Movizzo, Heartcare now has 1,000 arrhythmia patients and 6,000
pacemaker patients who rely on its call-in cardiac monitoring service.
Its sister company, Unimedical, manufactures portable, battery-powered
instruments used in conjunction with the telephone service: Hearttrak,
a hand-held recording device, Pacetrak Plus, a device that works in
conjunction with pacemakers, and Hearttrak XL, a self-issued Holter
Test for 24-hour heart monitoring. Together, Heartcare and Unimedical
make up MedNet Healthcare Technologies, a 52-person umbrella company
for the two tele-medicine firms, which recently moved from Pennington
to 100 Ludlow Road.
Arrhythmias affect millions of people, and while most are not life-threatening,
they can claim about 500,000 lives in the U.S. each year. Common treatments
include medicine and implantable devices, but when symptoms are recurrent
or difficult to diagnosis, physicians often turn to tele-medicine.
"A lot of doctors can’t capture the arrhythmia," says Chris
Taconet, the company’s 34-year-old president. "The patients come
in with the complaints but the doctors can’t locate it. A lot of nursing
homes ship people out to the hospital and then the symptoms stop and
they have to get them back to the home."
An arrhythmia transmitter costs roughly $700, and the telephone service
about $300. Many hospitals or physicians loan it out to their patients.
With Mednet’s diagnostic tools, a patient who has symptoms of arrhythmia
— cold sweats, shortness of breath, chest pain, or racing pulse
— can get an instant ECG from home and identify the problem. "Whenever
they feel these symptoms, they can capture it right away," says
Taconet. "If there is lethal arrhythmia, we call 911 and dispatch
them to their home and stay on the phone with them. If it’s not lethal,
we immediately call the doctor and send them all the information."
Frank Movizzo founded Heartcare in 1989 and immediately found a market
in nursing homes. Born in Brooklyn, the son of an army engineer, Movizzo
proved himself a first-class biology student on more than one occasion.
At 12, he had an unusual opportunity to perform an impromptu caesarean
on one of his tropical fish. He used airplane glue as anesthesia,
and wax for stitches. Both fish and babies survived. "I was always
interested in the human body, medicine, and science," says Movizzo,
who earned a degree in biology from Long Island University, Class
of 1974, and then moved to Florida and worked for Cordis Corporation.
In the 1980s, he switched to pharmaceutical sales, marketing pacemakers
for Cormatic. It was then that he realized the potential of tele-medicine
and moved back to Philadelphia to start a cardiac testing laboratory.
In 1989 he founded Heartcare.
From the outset, Movizzo focused on building the 24-hour cardiac monitoring
lab, and left production of the hand-held monitoring instruments to
San Diego-based Instrumatics. A critical move in the company’s development
was the decision to manufacture its own electronic monitoring devices.
In 1994, Steve Adamsky, a salesman who had emigrated from Ukraine,
suggested closing the loop on the business by making it complete with
its own manufacturing division. A former sergeant in the Soviet army,
Adamsky had come to the United States with his wife and child only
a few years before, and had contacts with other Ukrainian engineers
recently emigrated to the United States.
"I knew that Frank was paying a lot of money for the equipment
we used and I had friends who were engineers and could make this equipment,"
he says. "So I asked him if he had any old equipment that he was
getting ready to trash, and I brought home a box and got some parts
from Radio Shack and gave them all to my friends. Instead of just
talking about it, I gave him the actual working prototype." Adamsky’s
two Ukrainian friends — Stan Biletsky and Oleg Kovtounenko —
were hired soon after. Biletsky is now the director of information
services; Kovtounenko is a manufacturing supervisor.
At about the same time the company was overhauling its production
model, Taconet, a former salesman for Savin Corporation, suggested
expanding Heartcare’s market outside of nursing homes. "When I
started they were just doing pacemaker and arrhythmia patients in
nursing homes and I decided to do multiple markets," says Taconet,
who studied business at South Eastern Massachusetts College. "I
said let’s start selling doctors these services. It’s a huge market
and babyboomers are just coming around the corner."
In the past five years, Mednet has seen its revenue jump significantly
— last year it grossed $8 million — in part because it has
been able to lower expenses by manufacturing its own units.
But that has also pit Mednet against former partner Instrumatics as
well as a handful of other companies that make cardiac monitoring
devices such as Syracuse-based Integrated Medical Devices Inc., and
Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based firm that provides a variety of medical
services. Raytel Corporation, the San Mateo-based 24-hour cardiac
call-in center, remains Mednet’s primary competitor on the patient
service end. Mednet plans to get ahead on the value of being a one-stop
shop. "Because we make our own software, we can tailor it to our
lab," says Taconet. "It allows us to get away from a transactional
selling — saying here’s my product — to consultive selling,
where you’re really sitting down and saying what’s best for you."
Like any high-tech company, too, Mednet also has plans to make the
next leap forward and incorporate web-based technology into its business
model. Using its proprietary software, Cardiostation, Movizzo hopes
to provide a way for patients to transmit up-to-the-minute cardiac
data to their physicians over the Internet. One of Mednet’s competitors,
Medtronic Inc., recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to
do the same thing. The computer linkup, known as Medtronic.com, is
expected up in the next 18 months.
When Mednet will be online, however, is uncertain, and Movizzo is
currently looking for business partners and alliances. When the company
does go online, Movizzo hopes it will do more than just provide a
service for American patients — he hopes it might bridge the gap
between First World healthcare and Third World. "I’d like our
software to be a testing modality for physicians around the world
who could plug in their cardiac patients and get access to U.S. healthcare
staffing and support," he says. "We’ll charge by transaction,
so physicians in Third World countries can get the quality of the
U.S. healthcare system without having to buy any software.
"Everyone applauds the healthcare we have in the system, but it’s
out of reach for most people because of economics," he says. "If
we can provide it on the Internet portal, it’s low cost — they
pay for use, pretty much like an AOL, and we can catch arrhythmia’s
earlier patients and treat them with medicine. It’s all good healthcare."
— Melinda Sherwood
Ewingville Business Park, Ewing 08628. Frank Movizzo, CEO. 800-222-2842;
fax, 800-840-6937. URL: www.unimedical.com.
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