Though urban areas have their own health challenges, rural areas across the country face a consistent problem: a lack of access to providers. There are less than half the number of physicians per 10,000 people in rural versus urban areas and less than 1/8 the number of specialists per 100,000 people. If you’re sick in a rural area, you’re often faced with a choice of a less-than-ideal generalist practitioner, or expensive and time-consuming travel to get to the specialist you need.
Last month, digital health solutions provider Azalea Health announced a merger with Prognosis Innovation Healthcare, a leading provider of electronic health records to rural and community hospitals. The merger added Prognosis’ user base, close to 40 rural hospitals, to Azalea’s client list. Along with simply being able to reach more patients, those hospitals will now have access to additional services from Azalea geared specifically towards rural populations, such as telehealth — allowing consumers to reach their providers through technology tools and skip the travel altogether.
Founder & CEO of Azalea Baha Zeidan explains this under-tapped market faces fundamental challenges such as “shrinking budgets and limited access to qualified resources and technologies,” that other companies’ offerings don’t solve for. Here, Ziedan shares more about how Azalea’s vision and direction positions the platform to address the distinct needs of rural communities.
What problem are you solving?
Founded in 2008, Azalea Health is a web-based electronic health records platform that serves the rural market. Representing 20 percent of America’s current total addressable healthcare information technology today, this market presents unique challenges to delivering access to medical care.
Our comprehensive platform gives hospitals, clinics, and medical practices the tools they need to run their business effectively. From when a patient comes into the clinic through the continuum of care, Azalea ensures that the patient has access to the best level of care. Azalea’s leading innovations in telehealth, data sharing, and mobility simplify healthcare delivery and improve the quality of care providers serve to their communities.
What is your funding history?
We raised a $1.5M A round in 2014 from Intersouth Partners, a firm that invests in early-stage life science and technology companies across the Southeast. Our B round brought in $10.5M from Kayne Capital.
There are a few companies tackling this space; how does Azalea differentiate itself?
We aren’t trying to be everything to everyone. Azalea focuses on and is dedicated to the rural market. We also differentiate ourselves by being completely web-based — instead of investing in infrastructure that is maintained by the vendor, Azalea’s platform provides customers all the capability at a value-based price point. Lastly, we have a propriety and fully integrated telehealth system that provides rural patients with broadest access to care and specialists they would otherwise not have access to.
Telemedicine is sometimes considered a riskier avenue for care; why did you decide to integrate that product and how has the response been?
Actually, the opposite is true. By facilitating more frequent engagement with the patient, telemedicine reduces risk. It also enables access to specialists that might otherwise be inaccessible, as many times rural patients have to travel many miles and hours to consult with the right doctor.
The response to our integrated telehealth has been enormous. Our physicians embrace the ability to treat more patients effectively through the technology and the patients are thankful for the convenience and access to the proper care. Even the doctors using Azalea’s platform who haven’t yet adopted the telehealth technologies understand the trend and value of telehealth; they are happy to work with and integrate a vendor and platform that allows them to enable telehealth when they are ready to adopt it.
Why has Atlanta been a good place to grow Azalea?
Atlanta is a great place to start and grow a company. Academic institutions such as Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia State, and Kennesaw State provide a pool of qualified business and technical candidates. There are strong organizations and leadership through the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Technology Association of Georgia, and other business institutions and associations that support the startup community. Atlanta also has a tremendous representation of health information technology companies, which alone is a testament to the city’s environment for business.
Are you hiring/expanding?
Great people are the foundation of Azalea’s success. Following Azalea’s merge with Prognosis, we will will maintain headquarters in Atlanta and satellite offices in Macon and Valdosta, GA and Houston, TX, with nearly 150 employees across the country. As a growing company, we’re always hiring and expanding our capabilities to execute our mission.