From Honolulu to Back Bay: eHana Moving Behavioral Health Agencies from Paper to Pixel Records

11/22/10

Boston is a great place for bumping into people who are pushing the envelope in healthcare. In fact, the city’s leadership in health IT factored into Jacob Buckley-Fortin’s decision to expand his software firm eHana from its original home of Honolulu, HI, to Boston in 2006. Now Buckley-Fortin, the co-founder and CEO of eHana, is one of those people who you’ll bump into here in the Hub.

I met Buckley-Fortin at our Xconomy Xchange event in Boston in late September, after we had just watched a debate of sorts between Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush and eClinicalWorks CEO Girish Navani about the evolution of electronic health records. Buckley-Fortin, 31, knows a lot about this topic because his firm provides EHRs to human services and behavioral health providers—albeit at a smaller scale than what Watertown, MA-based Athena (NASDAQ:ATHN) and Westborough, MA-based eClinicalWorks do for hospitals and doctors’ practices.

In fact, it was interesting to learn more about how Buckley-Fortin and his co-founder Marcus Lum have carved out a successful niche in providing technology for behavioral health and human services organizations at Boston-based eHana (which still has an office in Hawaii too). For one, this segment of the healthcare market is largely ineligible for the $19 billion in stimulus funding designed to encourage U.S. doctors and hospitals to adopt EHR systems. Also, human services and behavioral health firms often operate with tight budgets that don’t leave a ton of room to spend on fancy IT systems.

Nevertheless, eHana has managed to grow profitably by serving the behavioral health and human services market, Buckley-Fortin says. While large companies such as Athena and eClinicalWorks chase after large deals with medical groups that are eligible for the stimulus funds, eHana is picking up new business from clinics and agencies that are overlooked by those bigger outfits. The firm, founded in 2000, also has a decade of experience in addressing the specific IT challenges that its bread-and-butter clients face.

“Behavioral health is a challenging niche,” Buckley-Fortin says. “I love challenging niches as an entrepreneur because it creates some natural barriers for my competition.”

Buckley-Fortin tells an interesting story about how his firm found its specialty. For starters, the CEO grew up in a family of social and human services professionals. His mother, Diana Buckley, ran a human services agency, PACT Hawaii, for children and families. And Fred Fortin, his father, has an advanced degree in social work and is a senior vice president of the Hawaii Medical Services Association. (Fred Fortin was instrumental in HMSA/Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan of Hawaii becoming the first health insurance provider to adopt Boston-based … Next Page »

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