A couple of decades ago, when he owned and operated a string of nursing homes in Maryland, physician Scott Rifkin came to realize that the abundance of medical data available about his patients was not being used to its full extent.
Out of that realization was born Real Time Medical, Rifkin’s Maryland-based company that just landed $20 million in funding to expand its already fast-growing business.
Real Time Medical uses “interventional analytics” to gather all of a patient’s available health information, from blood pressure and heart rate to weight gains and swelling feet. The system then analyzes the data and makes treatment recommendations or issues warnings about potentially troublesome changes.
The system is used primarily in nursing homes now – some 1,000 nursing homes in 45 states. The goal is not only to improve care but to avoid potential complications and shorten a patient’s stay in the home – or even avoid a hospitalization.
The innovation has been shown to reduce hospitalizations by half in nursing homes, according to Rifkin.
“It’s really basic, nothing all that complicated,” Rifkin said. “But we’re the first company in the country to match all the data to the patient’s history, and then serve it up to nurses and nurse practitioners and doctors in a really simple format.
“I don’t know the first thing about tech,” Rifkin added of his decidedly high-tech innovation. “But I knew what was needed and I hired the software people to do it.”
Rifkin, who grew up in the Randallstown area and serves as executive chairman of Real Time Medical, now has a team of more than 20 engineers continually tweaking and improving his product.
The $20 million in new funding, he said, would be used to continue product improvements and to expand his sales operation.
The funding, awarded in August, is “Series C” funding, awarded to startups already proven to be successful and profitable.
Phyllis Wojtusik, a registered nurse and executive vice president of the company, said her experience as a hospital nurse made her realize that nursing facilities, which have fewer resources than hospitals, needed a system that allowed easy access to detailed medical data and any changes in the patient.
“If we can see that a patient’s clinical condition is changing, we can prevent something from going awry,” she said.
Although hospitals, with their more abundant resources, have less of a need for Real Times services, home health care is fertile ground, Wojtusik said, as those patients are not monitored closely.
Real Time’s interventional analytics also are used by Accountable Care Organizations, groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who care for Medicare patients and work to hold down medical costs.
One of Real Time’s clients is Lorien Health Services, which operates nine skilled nursing facilities in Maryland.
The system has been a boon to both the company and its patients, said Lorien CEO Lou Grimmel.
For patients, it helps avoid the unexpected setbacks and extra hospital stays that Rifkin described. For the homes, Grimmel said, it keeps the sort of detailed, precise documentation of services and interventions that are necessary for reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid – the two big reimbursing entities for nursing homes.
“From a CEO’s perspective, it gives me some piece of mind that we’ll have audits that keep everything in the building straight,” Grimmel said.
“It’s a very effective tool for the industry that we haven’t had before,” added Grimmel, who has been in the nursing home management business for 45 years.
Rifkin said his experience working in and operating nursing homes taught him that few people relish the idea of living in one.
“People working there have limited resources, the staffing is never what you want it to be,” he said. The workers need all the help they can get, he said, and there’s so much in the medical record that could help prevent medical problems, if only they could get to it.
“We’ve got 75 people in this company now and all think that it’s a privilege to be able to help the most vulnerable people in our society, these nursing home patients, to live happier, healthier, longer lives,” Rifkin said. “We want them to have every day and every bit of help they can have.”