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After First Home Run, Syracuse Woman Takes Second Swing At Entrepreneurship
In 1986, innovator Karen Goetz saw a business opportunity to transform the way event tickets were sold in the arts, sports and entertainment industries. Her developers created graphical seat-selection software for PCs, unimagined at the beginning of the PC revolution during the 1980s. Goetz’s startup company was the first to the marketplace with a color-coded, interactive seating chart that made selling tickets not only user friendly for the entertainment venues that were her customers, but also able to capture important data on who their customers were who were buying tickets. TicketsLive grew rapidly from three employees to 125 in five countries. In 1995, Goetz and her team foresaw the growth of the Internet as a marketplace, and began transforming the company from solely a provider of computerized box office ticketing systems to one of the most advanced Internet ticketing companies and networks in the world, with a base of 150 million tickets available for sale on the Internet from customers in the U.S. and four international subsidiaries. In 1996, TicketsLive was the first company in the world to sell tickets, live, over the Internet, demonstrated at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, N.Y. After building TicketsLive from the ground up for 13 years, Goetz sold the successful company to a competitor in 1999 and planned to savor an early retirement. But walking away from entrepreneurship wasn’t as easy as she expected.
“When you’ve been working to build a business and traveling all over the world, to just sit at home was not what I wanted to do after all. I love running businesses for two reasons: I love figuring out solutions that really help our customers and I love seeing my employees grow,” she says.
Goetz’s problem-solving curiosity was rebooted in 2000 after she and her family members witnessed several instances of experienced physicians not having critical medical history information available when needed in order to make critical and timely decisions for other family members with cancer. She was amazed that the healthcare industry still kept track of its patients with paper charts that were not easily accessible or searchable by the physicians and staff trying to provide excellent care to their patients.
“Medical practices were investing in diagnostic equipment to provide better diagnosis and treatment but they remained reluctant to invest in the running of their office, which would enable them to be more efficient and provide better patient care,” explains Goetz. “My goal was to help practices make that move from paper charts and paper forms to electronic versions of those charts as simply and easily as possible so that they could be more efficient very quickly.”
With that goal in mind, Goetz purchased a medical transcription company, an electronic prescription company, and an Internet document management company in 2000, merging them into what would eventually evolve by 2009 into an electronic health records (EHR) company. This creative approach was the opposite of Goetz’s first foray into business, requiring her to deconstruct multiple, long-established companies into a single cohesive venture. Originally called HealthCareOne, Goetz changed the company’s name in 2009 to Inforia, Inc. The name Inforia represents her team’s vision for a company that helps customers achieve ‘information euphoria’.
But the Syracuse-based company’s mantra of “no paper, no problem” wasn’t going to be an easy sell. From the very beginning, a significant challenge for Goetz’s company has been the negative perception of traditional EHR systems in the marketplace. Medical practices are reluctant to make the move to paperless office systems for two main reasons: The cost barrier to purchase expensive proprietary software systems and negative drastic changes to the functionality of the office, such as learning all new forms and programs, hiring more administrative staff to input patient documentation in the computer, or reducing the number of scheduled patients to compensate for the office’s lower efficiency.
To overcome this perception, Inforia’s mission is to offer an approachable, adaptable and affordable solution. Her programmers developed software that uses the customer’s unique forms in the way they are already using them, eliminating the need to learn a new program that is one-size-fits-all. The software seamlessly integrates with the customer’s existing practice management software as well as hospital systems. Another of Inforia’s competitive advantages is to offer the software on a subscriber basis, which allows customers to pay for the system incrementally and enables automatic upgrades as the software is continually enhanced. Inforia’s customers do not have to invest in expensive computer servers since Inforia is an application service provider (ASP) and maintains servers in a Rochester-based data center. All data stored off-site on Inforia’s servers is automatically backed up and mirrored, so that the information is secure, encrypted and protected from loss from natural and man-made disasters.
Today Inforia offers a range of paperless products beyond its original product, eDictation, now an App for iPhones and iTouches downloadable from the Apple Store. Its other products include eLabs, eScripts, and its popular EHR software, CaregiverDesktop. Customers can use the software on their PCs, tablets and mobile devices. With over 2,000 users from its base of 150 customers mainly concentrated in the Northeast, Goetz’s company is committed to “software usability” by soliciting and incorporating customer feedback into every software upgrade.
With a B.S. in education from Indiana University, Goetz had no formal business training before starting her first company. The opportunity to get intensive business training through SBA’s e200 Emerging Leaders Initiative was one she couldn’t pass up. The MBA-style curriculum was taught during evening classes, enabling Goetz to attend while still running her business full-time. Goetz graduated from the e200 Syracuse Class of 2012 in November with a three-year Strategic Growth Action plan and has already felt the impact on her 13-year old business.
“I had always wanted to make time for professional development but I never had the free time to devote to go back to school full-time. I loved the idea of a concentrated program over eight months; the beauty of it was the assignments weren’t on hypothetical companies but geared to my own company. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it because the time invested is directly applicable to your business,” says Goetz. “My management team and I have been working on evolving the company into a full-fledged EHR company, and this is the year I feel it’s all going to come together.”