By Nick Nelson
Empathic isn’t the first software system designed to help therapists manage their clinics, but it might be the smartest. Debra Lindell, the woman behind the rapidly growing Wayzata startup, is happy to explain what’s working and why.
Lindell herself is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been in practice since 1996. When she had the opportunity to work with an electronic medical record system about seven years ago while working in another clinic, it fundamentally changed the way she viewed her own profession.
“When I went back to my private practice full-time, I realized how revitalized I’d become as a person and a clinician by having the use of technology to make sure that I was ethical, that all my notes were filed in the right place, tracking my goals and objectives and all of that.”
The system she used wasn’t perfect – far from it. The learning curve was incredibly steep, as it took Lindell six months just to learn how to input clinical notes. When she tried contacting the company behind the software, they ignored her because they weren’t interested in the business of a clinic as small as hers; she researched numerous similar providers and repeatedly ran into the same barriers.
At that point, she decided that she wanted to create a system that was more accessible, more comprehensive and easier to learn than what was currently available on the market. Working off her insight and knowledge from a decade spent working in the field, she dreamed up Empathic.
Early on, one developer told her the functionality she envisioned was not possible, but she stuck with it, gathered notable funding from local angel investors, and was able to realize her dream.
Empathic is now live in clinics of all sizes across the nation, with over 500 users. One key aspect of the software is an artificial intelligence (AI) that was initially developed and paid for ($36m) by the U.S. government, before being eventually released for commercial use. What she refers to as an “ontological semantic knowledge processor”, was adopted early by Empathic.
“The AI engine enables Empathic to adapt and grow smarter over time with each users interactions,” she says.
Empathic’s fully integrated practice management software offers easy note taking, confidential record tracking, one-click insurance claim transfers, automated accounting and much more. Above all, it is intuitive, user-friendly and relatively affordable at $300 per user per month.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken a number of complex systems and we’ve integrated them into one easy system behind clinical notes,” says Lindell, estimating that Empathic cuts out about 80 to 85 percent of a practice’s administrative burden.
Reception from the industry has been staggering. Lindell says that therapists and clinicians across the country have been blown away by the software’s wide-ranging capabilities. The numbers reflect that reality: Empathic’s revenue increased by about 30 percent in April and the company expects to be at cash flow positive this year, and foresees gross margins of 75 to 80 percent within the next couple years.
The word “empathy” refers to the ability to understand others pain firsthand. It’s an important quality for behavioral health professionals who want to effectively help their patients and a fitting name for technology that feels – and eases – the pain for those professionals.