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Employee Turned Entrepreneur – Ryan Howard, CEO Practice Fusion

Posted Under: Entrepreneurship, Our Heroes

Today under the “Our Heroes” series, I’m with Ryan Howard, an innovator who recognized the potential to combine his technological background with his healthcare knowledge and started up Practice Fusion, a free web-based system for utilization in the medical field. As any conscientious entrepreneur would, Ryan relentlessly found a remedy for the increasing need for doctors to go digital. Here’s how it all happened…

DD: Who are you and what kind of corporate job were you at?

RH: I’m Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion. My background is largely in software technology. Prior to starting Practice Fusion, I was a Director of Product Management & Engineering at Saqqara and have held similar roles at Grand Central Communications and InterTrade Systems. In my career I have brought over a dozen SaaS-based products to market.

DD: What made you leave the job? When did you realize that you want to be an entrepreneur & why?

RH: Early on, I knew that I wanted to do something that mattered. Having witnessed the challenges of connecting the medical providers during my time at Brown & Toland Medical Group in San Francisco, I saw the potential of combining my technology background with my healthcare knowledge. Doctors had to go digital, and it wasn’t feasible for them to pay $50,000 or more for a client-server system. Practice Fusion, the free, web-based Electronic Health Record was created as a response. I see the widespread use of EHRs reducing medical costs and improving the quality of medical care, benefiting doctors, patients, practices and the economy at large.

DD: What did you do to break the corporate jail? How did you prepare yourself for the employee to entrepreneur transition?

RH: A 24/7 work week is a major challenge of running my own company. Making your own schedule is typically considered a career luxury, but in a start-up environment the intensity of work that needs to be accomplished in a limited timeframe requires relentless and unfettered focus. The last few years have been all about this determination, I fundraised with Band of Angels, Felicis Ventures, and Morgenthaler during the most difficult venture funding climates in the last decade.

DD: What are your top tips for employees who want to be entrepreneurs but are hung up on something?

RH: 1) Build a strong network – I brought together a stellar advisory board early with Practice Fusion. Consulting with hand-picked leaders in the industry are critical to a company’s success. Every introduction or idea matters when you’re getting started.

2) Know your market – Unlike many healthcare companies that offer nebulous “healthcare solutions”, we identified a specific need in the healthcare market and built Practice Fusion according to these needs. The cloud-based model is currently the only viable solution to provide a cost-effective Electronic Health Record (EHR) for physicians. The system is uniquely designed to serve the requirements of America’s doctors, a very specialized market.

3) Be relevant – The old approach to health information is unsustainable and dangerous. There are 200,000 preventable medical errors that harm patients each year in the US.  Doctors face mountains of paperwork, faxes and thin margins in their practices. My objective when starting Practice Fusion was to make healthcare safer and more efficient.

DD: How are you now? Are you still in same business, and how do you feel?

RH: It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare. With $19 billion in stimulus incentives available for innovation in health IT, job growth is thriving in the sector, new academic programs are being funded to train students in health IT and disruptive new business models are changing the game.

DD: Thanks Ryan for enlightening us on how you followed the path to achieve your goals and ‘do something that matters’. We can all learn from the persistence you maintained, despite the long hours and intensity you faced in starting up Practice Fusion. Many amateur entrepreneurs are afraid of failure but Ryan’s message is clear: don’t quit when the going gets tough, rather gain motivation through consulting with industry leaders and conscientiously tuning in to the needs of your target market. Thanks for the insightful tips!

Success for all!!

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