Vālant Medical Solutions, a provider of electronic health records (EHR) and e-billing software for behavioral health practices, just received $11M in private equity investment (read here). CEO David Lischner answered our questions about the WA-based company, its numbers, the funding itself, future plans and Seattle.
FinSMEs: Hi David. First, can you tell us a little bit more about you? What’s your background?
David: I am a psychiatrist and co-founder of a large private behavioral healthcare practice here in Seattle called the Evidence Based Treatment Centers of Seattle (EBTCS), LLC www.ebtseattle.com. It was as a practicing psychiatrist that I realized there was a need for better clinician focused tools to help me provide care to my patients and run my practice.
Starting EBTCS got me interested in business. My brother, Ben Lischner, is a software developer and together we co-founded Vālant with the goal of developing an EHR system that incorporated the best clinician focused tools available into a behavioral health specific EHR system. So from the beginning our secret sauce has been to successfully integrate domain and technical expertise.
We come from a family where we were expected to pursue higher education and meaningful contributions in the world. In retrospect, founding Vālant seems very natural to me as I am surrounded by friends and family who are in health care services; my wife is a psychiatrist and I have another brother who is a doctor. Improving patient care is something we talk about a lot.
I wasn’t always so focused on medicine. Prior to entering medical school, I was a professional soccer player on the East Coast for 3 years, which is a whole other story.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Vālant. What’s the opportunity you found in the market?
David: We saw an opportunity to design an EHR and practice management system for a behavioral health care clinician’s daily workflow. The providers in this specialty really need an integrated platform that provides the appropriate billing codes, as well as templates and measures that are relevant to their practice. There were no solutions available to this market that weren’t highly cumbersome to employ in a clinical setting.
Now that we have been on the market for five years, we see that the same need for a clinician-focused EHR for small private practices are needed by large practices and public mental health practices as well. The larger the practice, the more complex back-end billing and business reporting gets; but the need to start with the clinician doesn’t change.
FinSMEs: You propose several solutions. Tell me something about them…
David: At the most basic level, we simplified the repetitive administrative aspects of running a practice by integrating scheduling, clinical documentation, prescribing and billing into one system. This eliminated the need to double, and sometimes triple, enter information or jump between programs.
What we are really excited about are our tools to automate the intake process and the clinical documentation aspects of behavioral health with simple touch-screen note taking on mobile devices – providers can look their clients in the eye, while taking notes on an iPad! Meanwhile, our patient portal enables the clinician to send secure measures and intake documentation to clients for completion before the session begins. This process grants the clinician access to the client’s history prior to appointment, allowing the clinician to focus more time on the interaction during session, and less time on administrative tasks.
Looking to future trends in behavioral health, we see that a system that captures outcome measures nicely folds into many of the industry discussions around pay-for-performance. While not all clinicians need to practice measurement-based care today, we see a time in the near future when they will want a system that supports that capability for certain payers and patients. They will want this system because it will enable them to negotiate better payer rates, will be required by some payers, and will enable them to work better with integrated care teams. In the end, we think that we can help transform the industry by supporting behavioral heatlh care providers and organizations to retool to achieve better clinical outcomes for patients and in so doing better business outcomes overall.
FinSMEs: Where are you now in terms of growth? Some numbers?
David: We have over 1,400 practices and over 4,000 clinicians using our system daily. From a revenue and customer growth perspective, we have been nearly doubling in size year-over-year since 2007 and expect to continue that trend through 2017. We see a big part of that growth continuing to come from the private practice market with greater and greater contributions from the public behavioral health market.
FinSMEs: You just raised funding. What can you tell me about the investors? How are you using the funds?
David: This current round is coming from existing and new private investors from the greater Puget Sound investment community, the Bay Area, and the East Coast, bringing our total investment to just over $15M.
Our primary use of funds will be to continue the development work we started last year on broadening our EHR system’s capabilities for very large practices and outpatient public behavioral health practices. We will be increasing the size of our sales, customer support and marketing teams to support our additional focus on the public behavioral health market as well.
Personally, this investment enables me to focus on the daily operation of Valant and ensure that we are reaching our strategic goals, without being distracted by the fundraising process. It’s a very exciting time for the whole team!
David: Simple, five years from now we want to be the leading EHR in the behavioral health industry and in use by the majority of the behavioral health care organizations in the market. We are going to do that by continuing to focus exclusively on the needs of behavioral health practices, delivering clinician focused tools, and excellent service.
FinSMEs: you are based in Seattle, WA, a growing business ecosystem. What can you tell me about it? Exciting?
David: Seattle is absolutely bursting with energy and growth. The market is being fuelled by tremendous growth from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft who are attracting engineers and other highly educated professionals to the area. It’s no surprise that competition for great developers and technical professionals is fierce. At the same time, there is a lot of talent in the local area looking to join later stage startups who are into the revenue generation stage of their business, which is great for Valant. We tend to attract those that are interested in working on interesting problems where they can see that what they are doing makes the world a better place.