- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Brothers Jon-Michial Carter and Patrick Carter took different paths for most of their professional lives.

Patrick worked in emergency medicine as a physician assistant for two decades, while Jon-Michial went from broadcast journalist to serial entrepreneur, developing technology startups in Houston.

In 2011, they found a way to become a team. They founded ChartSpan, a software company that allows patients easier access to their medical records, and healthcare providers easier communication with patients.

“Together, we knew we would be a formidable team … I really understood both the technology side and the operations side so it was a good pairing,” Jon-Michial Carter said. “My brother and I had wanted to do something together for years, and he had been in medicine. He did his residency at Yale, he had an established career, but really hungered to do something entrepreneurial as well. As a partnership, we’ve been very successful and it’s been one of the greatest joys of my life to build a business with my brother and my best friend and such a competent partner. Today, we’re pretty proud of what we’ve built.”

Patrick Carter started working as a physician assistant when medical records were primarily stored on three-by-five inch notecards. Even with the digitization of records, it can be difficult to access a new patient’s information and engage existing patients, and it can be a headache for patients to try and get their records from providers.

The goal of ChartSpan is to make it simpler for both parties, but especially patients.

“The main focus is the patient and making sure they have access to their medical records,” Patrick Carter said. “They own them. They’ve paid for them through insurance and copays. We want to give them the tool to take control of their healthcare.”

The software works on Android and Apple mobile devices and computers. It allows users to scan medical records for anything from medications to X-rays, send information to doctors and create an easily-accessible cache of their medical data. The data can be transferred between patients and doctors through an “electronic handshake” exclusive to ChartSpan’s software, and secured by encryption.

Doctors can use their patients’ data to better comply with Medicare and Medicaid policies. Patient users get the software for free, and doctors and other clinicians pay for access to data analytics. The clinicians’ paid product is “what keeps the lights on and the doors open,” Patrick Carter said, and how ChartSpan can ensure its patient-facing product will always be free to use.

ChartSpan’s latest software has been out for about three months, and it’s had strong response. Twenty clinics and 70 doctors across the U.S. are using ChartSpan, with a patient population of more than 250,000. The application has been downloaded more than 160,000 times, with 52 percent of users who download it remaining active users, according to Jon-Michial Carter. The initial app, released in October 2014 for Apple devices, spent time as the No. 1 medical app for iPad and iPhone.

ChartSpan has raised $3 million in funding and expects to announce a “large round of capital that will ensure our success long-term” within the next 60 days, Jon-Michial Carter said. The company employs 20, but expects to hire a robust sales and support staff in the next 24 months: 80 sales representatives nationally and 150 support staff.

While ChartSpan is reaching patients and is poised for growth, it doesn’t mean the work is easy. A typical day at the startup’s office in the Bank of America building is between 12 to 14 hours long. It’s not unusual to find employees still in the office at 10 p.m. But the hard work, especially in a startup environment, is rewarding, Jon-Michial Carter said.

“Once entrepreneurship is in your blood, once you’ve tasted it, it’s hard to go back to corporate America,” Jon-Michial Carter said. “I always tell my employees, ‘You could make more money. You could have more benefits. You could work in a bigger office. You could have a cafeteria with free Kind bars and coffee and whatever, but your impact would not be as measurable. Your impact here, every day, you can see it. You can feel it. You get instant feedback. You matter . Today are the most fun days you’ll have because everything you do matters.’ “

The company started in Houston, but moved to Greenville in 2013 as one of the inaugural members of the Iron Yard’s digital health accelerator program. ChartSpan was only supposed to stay in Greenville for the duration of the accelerator program, which is designed to put promising startups on the fast track to success through an intense six-month period of mentorship and workshops. The digital health accelerator has since changed its time frame to three months.

“It’s hard, maybe the hardest work we’ve ever done,” Jon-Michial Carter said. “We slept maybe two hours a night.”

The accelerator helped ChartSpan fine tune its product, Patrick Carter said. He was still working as a physician assistant in eastern North Carolina while Jon-Michial was at the accelerator with another early member of ChartSpan, who is no longer with the company.

The first version of the app was too slow and users didn’t like it, Patrick Carter said. While in the accelerator, ChartSpan turned their initial version into a second, improved version, with a better interface and user experience. Now, users can request a medical record in as little as eight seconds and scan a prescription on the way to the pharmacy.

Patrick Carter balanced much of his entrepreneurial education with his work as a physician assistant. And, he said he’s not finished learning.

“Every day is like drinking from a fire hose,” Patrick Carter said. “The medical world is not even close to the business world.”

While the company planned to return to Houston after the accelerator program, the relationships the company made with the Iron Yard and the Greenville business community kept the company in the Upstate. Peter Barth, the CEO of the Iron Yard, is a member of ChartSpan’s board of directors, and Jon-Michial Carter has gone from Iron Yard student to a mentor for those in the accelerator program.

Until recently, Patrick Carter has performed his role as chief medical officer and executive vice president of product from Kure Beach, North Carolina. He relocated his family to Greenville shortly before Christmas. Both Carters and the company “plan on staying in Greenville forever,” he said.

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Information from: The Greenville News, https://www.greenvillenews.com

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