Cnapsis hopes to offer a cure for physicians' paper chase

Firm aims to streamline medical education

Small business

September 09, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Paperwork is still literally done on paper in continuing medical education offices across the country, but a Columbia company has plans to change that and in the process become a repository of important information for medical professionals.

Cnapsis LLC has recently gone to market with its Web-based application designed to automate the functions of a continuing medical education (CME) office, such as inviting and tracking credits for physicians who have taken courses and planning seminars. The company, formed two years ago, has raised $1 million from its founders and received a $100,000 grant from the James Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund. It is in the middle of its first round of outside financing, with hopes of raising another million by the end of the year.

Already, the University of Virginia Medical School, Texas Health Research Institute and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh are testing the program, and the company is working on partnerships with organizations such as the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and schools such as Duke University.

Cnapsis has six employees, and the executives say they expect to have 10 by the end of the year. They expect to expand the company's customer and sales support staff to 125 employees by the end of 2004.

The company is targeting the $3 billion continuing medical education market, with hopes of gaining business from medical schools and hospitals, and eventually from individual health care professionals. Executives say their Web-based system will automate much of the paperwork required to develop and execute CME activities.

"When I looked at health care, there are a lot of inefficiencies. A tremendous amount of money is spent on process," said Bruce E. Barwick, Cnapsis' president and CEO. "One of the most talked-about issues is `We spend so much on the paperwork and so little on the education.'"

Barwick, a former vice president and business manager of The Baltimore Sun Co., said Cnapsis' primary product is targeted specifically at CME offices - the divisions of medical schools that provide training for the staff of their adjoining hospitals and other physicians. The offices are also responsible for keeping records of physician participation and the records necessary for their own accreditation.

There are computer programs that help with those tasks - programs such as MeetingTrak, CME Tracker and Peopleware - but they do only part of what CME offices need, according to Dr. Donald E. Moore Jr., president of the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education and director of CME at Vanderbilt University.

"They are not complete - one does registration, another does finances, another does other kinds of forms. There really is nothing that incorporates the entire CME operation," Moore said. "There's a lot of forms and planning documentation ... that lend themselves very nicely to some kind of electronic system."

Cnapsis' product handles registration and tracking of participants and finances as other programs do, but it also helps CME offices plan activities, provides physicians with course information and sends out transcripts.

And because the product is Web-based, all aspects of the program are accessible regardless of where a CME course is offered. The company offers access to the system at a base price of $6,000, which allows five people onto the system. Costs increase with subscription fees for additional people and the addition of supplemental features.

As the company develops a database of physicians through use by CME offices, it will be collecting information on physicians and their transcripts, which health care professionals periodically need to renew their licenses.

While CME offices are required to provide physicians with transcripts, doctors typically take courses from a variety of sources - the hospital where they work, specialist associations or professional organizations - and CME offices can only give information on courses they've put together. Cnapsis hopes to fill that gap by becoming a single repository of physician transcripts.

"We want a physician to go to a class, sign their name to register and be done with it," Barwick said.

The system holds promise for CME offices, according to Jann Balmer, director of CME at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, which is testing Cnapsis' system.

"It gives us more time to do creative things, to design more educational activities," she said. "There are so many opportunities for us to go out and develop educational activities that will make a difference for physicians. Our product is knowledge. We can't give them the value of our expertise if we're spending all our time shuffling paper. Paperwork never [excites] anybody."

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