Trees have a friend in eLabLink. The firm — providing an Internet-based data communications link between and among physicians and laboratories — eliminates paper from medical data management. That’s good news for trees and even better news for doctors and clinical researchers — or so claims Paul D. Ray, eLablink’s founder.
“Health care professionals rely on timely, accurate data that can be communicated quickly and easily to others in their field,” says Ray. “With the traditional paper-based way of generating information, numerous forms often have to be filled out. The same information tends to be re-entered several times. That raises the risk of error — data on a patient, for instance, can be incorrectly entered, and no one would know until after the patient left the hospital. What’s more, gathering paperwork and sifting through it is time-consuming. The Internet and eLabLink’s technology ends these headaches.”
Elablink’s services can be accessed through an Internet browser on a personal computer or through a wireless hand-held computer — a palm device. With the palm device, the user taps with a stick the appropriate icon leading to the information in question. A physician interested in a patient’s chart would tap the palm device until a keyboard appeared on the device’s screen, tap the letters of the patient’s name and from there tap the data categories of interest until the information is displayed.
“Eventually, this tap-and-go technology will replace the traditional patient chart hanging from the patient’s hospital bed,” says computer programmer John Bercik, eLabLink’s director of medical informatics. “By eliminating paper from data management and collection and using instead the speed of the Internet, physicians input and retrieve patient information faster. Laboratories no longer need to rely on fax machines and courier services to relay test results to physicians, which means physicians receive test results faster.”
Bercik emphasizes that laboratory subscribers to eLabLink can enter test results securely online enabling physician subscribers to make prompt, informed diagnostic decisions.
“We connect a physician’s practice to clinical laboratories worldwide,” says Bercik. “And researchers seeking grants from the National Institutes of Health or payment from medical companies for research provided can get their grants or payments faster. This technology is the wave of the future. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration is moving to total electronic submission of data by 2002. So we’re right in step with — if not ahead of — the program.”
The 34-year-old Ray — an attorney who seven years ago founded Palmetto Practice Systems, a legal consulting firm supporting lawyers’ technology needs — formed eLabLink in March 1999 after seeing data management parallels between the legal and medical professions. He began looking for common software solutions to reduce the paperwork burden in both fields and wound up writing his own programs. Ray brought in an e-business consulting company, hired the 41-year-old Bercik from the Medical University of South Carolina and 69-year-old Graham Main — eLabLink’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer — from the investment management and financial consulting field.
Ray, Bercik and Main are the trio constituting eLabLink, and though their encrypted Web browser for doctors and lab administrators has attracted such clients as MUSC — with future clients on the horizon — the team admits there are still obstacles to overcome.
“Most of the old-school doctors are reluctant to give up paper,” says Ray. “They’ve always managed data through paper, and that’s how they’re used to conducting business. However, the younger doctors are used to computers and the Internet and so welcome our technology.”
“And then there’s the general lack of a technology infrastructure in Charleston,” adds Bercik. “In some areas — Johns Island, for instance — you can’t get a DSL (digital subscriber line) connection. But all in all, business is good. We’ve got a great medical market here, and we’re looking to expand throughout the Southeast and beyond.”