SPARTANBURG, SC — Imagine if patients, not just their doctors, had access to their electronic medical records.
Parents or guardians could send their child's information to a school nurse immediately and know the precise details of care provided to that child by a specialist they've seen.
Individuals could have the data at their fingertips, allowing them to access it when they need it without having to wait for one doctor's office to send it to the next, or they could provide it before their visit and cut down on time spent in waiting rooms.
Physicians could save money, increase workflow efficiency, reduce duplication of care, decrease errors and improve the quality of care they deliver to their patients.
This was the world three dedicated entrepreneurs envisioned when they embarked on a journey 18 months ago to invent the world's first fully-automated tool that allows users to upload, store and manage healthcare records on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Jon-Michial Carter, David Lawless and Patrick Carter are co-founders of ChartSpan, an app-style platform they are developing at The Iron Yard's digital health accelerator in downtown Spartanburg.
"The premise was to fill a huge void in health care," said Jon-Michial Carter, CEO of ChartSpan. "(Patients) can't get access to computerized medical records; they can only get printed records. For us, the concept was how we could do this now without waiting for the future. How can we today deliver access to electronic health care records?"
The three entrepreneurs joined forces last year in Wilmington.
They applied and were accepted to several accelerators across the country, but eventually chose to bring ChartSpan to Spartanburg.
"The community has just wrapped us in a cocoon (of support)," Carter said. "The caliber of The Iron Yard is what impressed us. Spartanburg really has the chance to become a hub of tech companies."
The owners said they are already pretty mature in comparison to some startups being conceived at the local accelerator.
ChartSpan has an executive structure in place, a development team, a nine-member board and a product. Their time at The Iron Yard has allowed them to develop a targeted marketing strategy focused on a segment of the population that will benefit the most from their product moms.
According research conducted by the owners, at least 63 percent of mothers are responsible for managing their family's health care.
"We don't want to reinvent health care," Lawless said. "But what if every mother could transfer all of that information to a smart device where it's super simple a click away?"
Within the next two weeks, the owners will launch their platform. The most advanced feature is a patented program that is similar to software currently in the banking industry that allows customers to deposit checks via photo on their smart phone.
But instead of just recognizing the image with structured data, ChartSpan's software has optical character recognition, which is a process that pulls out each letter, rebuilds the text and arranges it in a meaningful way.
"We're excited to be in a space where everybody is waiting for interoperability," Carter said. "This solves the problem today and it's the first technology to do so. We think that when customers see it, they're going to be very excited about it."
Once the information is captured, it is stored on a secure account that users can access anytime they want. It is filed into different categories such as immunizations, medical, dental, vision and prescriptions. The information could even include X-rays or MRIs.
Every account is password protected and encrypted. The data is not stored on the device, but rather at a data center that is Tier 4 the highest standard of security in the industry. Users can access the information 24/7 and send it to any fax machine or e-mail address.
Carter told the story of a friend whose 17-year-old daughter has suffered from chronic illness.
"When I told him what I was doing, he broke down in tears," Carter said. "He just couldn't believe it. All the time he and his wife spent trying to get information sent to different doctors. He was overcome with emotion just by thinking about how much time and energy this would save him... We were told that (our recognition software) couldn't be done. But we did it. We are very passionate about it."
The owners said they have put a lot of thought into the execution of the platform, and they will continue to expand on it. One idea they have is for a genome mapping program that allows patients to identify information, such as what medications will or won't work for them, for under $100.
Over the next few weeks, Carter will be blazing a trail across the country, meeting with some of the nation's top venture capitalists.
ChartSpan has already raised $250,000 through angel funding and anticipates reaching the $1.7 million mark in startup capital by the end of the year.
Carter said the company wants to establish its headquarters in Spartanburg, provided it can attain funding from local sources. He anticipates the company will initially create 25 jobs and should grow to 100 employees in three years.
"We love it here," Lawless said. "The community has really welcomed us with open arms."
Carter, of Houston, Texas, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in human resource management from Friends University in Wichita. From 2002 to 2004, he served as a director of sales for Viacom's Westwood One-Metro Traffic division in Houston and other parts of Texas. He transferred to the broadcasting company's CBS TV group in Dallas, managing some of its largest clients in the Southwest.
In 2005, he joined Iconixx as vice president of sales and marketing. He led the implementation of innovative change management and enterprise software solutions for clients and helped the firm achieve record revenue growth and expansion. Carter was named president and chief operating officer of Iconixx in 2007.
A year later, the company was purchased by nGenera Corp., and he became president of the company's talent management division.
Carter got his first taste of entrepreneurism in 2010 when he founded the private investment firm American Equity Ventures.
Lawless, of Wilmington, N.C., earned his Associate of Science degree in graphic design from Brevard Community College.
He started his own freelance design company in 1999. In 2002, he became a senior web designer for OnlineListingService Inc.
Lawless became a level 2 web designer for Harris Corp. in 2007 and then was hired as a senior web developer for VX Corp. in 2008. Three years later, he put his development experience to work for Wilmington Design Co. On the side, he served as an editor for Phoresia.org from 2005 to 2012.
Patrick Carter earned Bachelor of Science degrees in organismal biology and physician assistant studies from the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, respectively.
He completed his physician assistant surgical residency at Yale Medical School's affiliate Norwalk Hospital, and then earned his Master of Science degree from the University of Nebraska.
From 2003 to 2006, Patrick Carter held physician assistant positions in emergency medicine and primary care with various hospitals.
In 2010, he became an interim chair at East Carolina University and helped co-found PuraVida Enterprises, a medical staffing and research firm in Kure Beach, N.C. He took a position as regional clinical coordinator for East Carolina in June.