The Doctor is On

MD On-Line’s founder explains how technology can streamline the doctor’s office

“The key thing that MD On-Line does today is creating efficiencies around inefficiencies that exist in the industry,” says president and CEO Bill Bartzak

Bill Bartzak noticed about 20 vendors set up around the Medicare conference, and he quickly noticed a pattern. Medicare wanted doctors to submit their claims electronically. It would speed up work on both ends, they insisted, and allow the doctors to get paid sooner. There was one problem. The doctors were unwilling to switch from the software they already used in order to submit claims to Medicare. Bartzak, then a senior sales manager at a different software company, had an idea. “First thing I did—I went home, sat down, and talked to my father about it,” Bartzak says with a laugh. “You really have to vet your ideas.”

Bartzak wanted to create a system that could work with any kind of software and convert doctors’ paperwork into Medicare’s electronic submissions. He arranged a meeting with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to explain his idea and asked if the insurance group would be willing to use his product, provided he could develop it. The answer was yes.

For three weeks, Bartzak went door to door explaining his idea to doctors. He asked them to sign a form that said they would use his software once it was available on the market. Once he had enough signatures, he was ready to launch MD On-Line, now one of New Jersey’s fastest growing companies. “The biggest challenge was getting doctors to believe in a company that was so new to the marketplace,” Bartzak says.

MD On-Line’s first big break came in 1998, when the system used by Oxford Health Plans, an insurance group owned by UnitedHealth, completely crashed. Bartzak called the company and told them what his software could do for their claims system. Oxford used Bartzak’s product, and MD On-Line gained its first major client.

Today, MD On-Line is featured on the websites of more than 40 major insurance companies and is used by more than 85,000 physicians nationwide. Bartzak serves as the company’s president and CEO. “The key thing that MD On-Line does today is creating efficiencies around inefficiencies that exist in the industry,” he says.

MD On-Line has branched out significantly from its early days of processing claims. Today, the company targets many different aspects of the health-care business that could be streamlined and tries to find solutions. For example, several states require doctors to prove they have earned continuing medical education credits. MD On-Line acquired a CME company to address this, and now doctors can file that paperwork through them. Another example is MD On-Line’s work with pharmaceutical sales representatives to help them reach doctors in new and innovative ways.

“Because of all the data being submitted through us, we know at all times which doctors are seeing which patients for which conditions,” Bartzak says. “We educate the providers on the latest therapeutics in the marketplace that relate to their patients’ conditions and patient population.”

MD On-Line’s drive for integration is an initiative that many companies across different industries have attempted, often with little success. But MD On-Line has been doing it for years, and the company’s leaders continue to launch new programs to stay at the top of their industry. Virtual Rep, or vRep, is one such program. MD On-Line will ship tablets to doctors, who can then use them to speak electronically with sales representatives about their products. With vRep, there is no longer a need for the representatives to constantly travel.

MD On-Line still reaches out to vendors, though they no longer have to go door to door. Bartzak says the company adds about 500 doctors per month, but some of the challenges he faced in the company’s early days remain 19 years later. “The challenge, moving forward, is doctors embracing technology,” he says. “That has always been a challenge, but we look at ourselves as the coach in the corner for these doctors’ offices.”

The same innovation that drove a sales manager to knock on doctors’ doors continues to drive the company, and though the technology has changed in ways no one could predict, the end result is the same: unsnarling the tangled process that is the health-care industry.