Last week our company went through an historic transition. We officially changed the company’s name from Health IT Services Group to Acumen Physician Solutions. As a company, we welcomed this change with the appropriate fanfare, and afterwards I began to wonder, what’s in a name? I think the answer in our case is tied to our company’s history. That history is a story that I hope someday will be recorded with more detail than I can possible provide today, but until then, please indulge me with the opportunity to provide an abbreviated version.
In the beginning
Our company has its origins in Southside Virginia, in the rural town of Danville. In 1989, Drs. Dugan and Frank Maddux moved to Danville after completing their nephrology training at the University of North Carolina. At the time, the Internet was in its infancy and, in spite of the presence of two colleges, there was not an Internet service provider (ISP) in the area. Noting this deficit, Frank decided to start one and somehow convinced Dugan they had plenty of room in their basement to support such an endeavor. Starting a company is a daunting task, but imagine doing so while practicing nephrology full time! One of the items on the “to do” list was to come up with a company name. Frank and Dugan chose to name the company Gamewood Data Systems, after Frank’s grandfather’s family farm.
An EHR is born
I had the pleasure of joining Frank and Dugan in practice in the mid 1990’s. Having practiced nephrology in two other locations over the preceding 5 years, I found many of the attributes I was looking for in their practice in Southside. By the time I joined, Frank had become President of our dual specialty practice. In his copious spare time, he developed the idea of building an electronic version of our paper-based medical record system. Somewhat remarkably, he decided to buck the widespread practice of local hosting and made the decision to offer this nascent EHR over the Internet. Recall this was in the mid 90’s when dial-up Internet connections were all the rage and “the cloud” was recognized by weathermen not Internet entrepreneurs.
As Frank began building the application, the need to come up with a name emerged again. By then the ISP had outgrown the basement, and Gamewood resided in a restored Victorian home on Main Street in downtown Danville. The EHR shared some common ground with the ISP and thus Gamewood Healthcare Network (GHN) was born.
Over the next few years, Frank hired several talented folks, including Eddie Hedrick, our current VP of product development, and slowly but surely Gamewood Healthcare Network evolved into an electronic healthcare record accessible via the Internet. Our practice in Southside served as a prolonged beta site as Frank and his team periodically added modules to the application. At the time we operated several dialysis facilities, and the workflow within those facilities was incorporated within GHN. Local medical practices learned of the application by word of mouth and a fledgling customer base was established. By 2004-2005 the application was clearly beyond the proof-of-concept phase.
2006 proved to be a pivotal year in the company’s evolution as a confluence of events set the stage for future success. That year the OIG created a safe harbor and concurrently the Stark law was relaxed, permitting healthcare organizations to substantially subsidize the cost of a physician’s EHR. At the same time, large healthcare enterprises began searching for EHR partners. Against this background, our company was fortunate to establish a relationship with Fresenius Medical Care (FMC).
Within this timeframe the company recognized the need to expand its business leadership, and that year a relationship was established with Specialty Care Services Group (SCSG). SCSG is a healthcare services company that was established through the vision of the late Gary Brukardt. The EHR’s corporate headquarters moved to Nashville that year and with this transition the need for a company name change arose. SCSG had several affiliates at the time, each ending with the words “Services Group.” The new company needed a new name and out of this transition, Health IT Services Group (HITSG) was born.
In concert with the move to Nashville, Dana Hensley was hired as the company’s president. Dana brought a deep background in healthcare management and information technology experience to the company and he began to assemble a high-caliber business development group. Soon it was determined the product itself should be renamed. I remember the excitement surrounding the debates about the name change and ultimately GHN was retired and the product became known as Acumen.
The next few years moved by very quickly after the EHR achieved its first CCHIT certification in late 2007. I joined the company as a consultant that fall and recall being in the room in Danville during that original certification experience. Under Dana’s leadership the company built national-caliber business development and client service groups, now led by Jason Holcomb and Hugh Gaston. Together with Eddie’s talented software development group and the financial backing of FMC, the Acumen customer base began to rapidly expand. In 2009, the HITECH Act created a virtual feeding frenzy in the market and growth continued at a rapid pace. Later that year HITSG was acquired by Fresenius Medical Care, and today we operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of FMC-NA. In 2011 we opened our third office in Durham, NC. Today we employ over 60 dedicated folks and every day thousands of users in over 40 states log into one of six Acumen services lines.
What’s in a name?
As our reputation has grown over the last couple of years, it has become clear that we were due for one more name change. When you call our company, we frequently answer the phone with Acumen. Many of our customers are not familiar with the name HITSG, or “hits-gee” as I sometimes hear it called. Perhaps more importantly, our products and services have achieved a national reputation in the nephrology space, and that reputation is connected to the name Acumen. As a result of a significant amount of effort by Dana and Jason’s team, the company is now officially named Acumen Physician Solutions.
Clearly there are many things represented in a name. If you look closely enough you might see a family farm in Northern Virginia or the influence of a late Renal Care Group visionary, or perhaps you will find the market-leading product many nephrologists have come to rely on today. No matter what the name, however, our mission has always been, and will continue to be, providing solutions for nephrologists. Little will change on the inside as we continue to strive to deliver the very best solutions in this space. So as HITSG rides off into the sunset, please join us in celebrating the arrival of Acumen Physician Solutions.