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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 17, 2000. All rights reserved.

Mednet Healthcare Technologies

E-mail: MelindaSherwood@princetoninfo.com

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

Mednet Healthcare Technologies, 100 Ludlow Drive,

Ewingville Business Park, Ewing 08628. Frank Movizzo, CEO. 800-222-2842;

fax, 800-840-6937. URL: www.unimedical.com.


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