Modernizing Medicine is an award winning company making great strides in transforming how healthcare information is created, consumed, and used in order to increase efficiency and improve outcomes. Their EMA™, Electronic Medical Assistant®, is a cloud-based, specialty-specific electronic medical record (EMR) system with a built-in library of medical content. It adapts to each provider’s unique style of practice and is designed to interface with hundreds of different practice management systems. Since they began, the Florida-based company has released the technology across eight different specialties and over one-in-four US dermatologists now use their system.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to CMO and co-founder Dr Michael Sherling, on how he and fellow co-founder and CEO Daniel Cane came up with the idea for a new EMR system and what new developments they are currently working on.

How it all started

Michael tells me he was a practicing dermatologist in South Florida when Daniel Cane came in one day for a consultation. Before he had even spoken, Michael knew there was something different about him.

‘Daniel came in and wrote on his in-take form he was a software entrepreneur, so whenever you read that your interest is immediately piqued. I then asked him what he does and he explained he built educational platforms. My nurse told me she had actually used something he had made and I knew right there and then that he had built something successful and reached many people. I realized he was obviously someone special.’

From that first chance encounter, Michael and Daniel began working together, believing there was a way to bring both their expertise together to improve the way doctors work and the patient experience overall.

‘We had an idea of ‘let’s save doctors time’ and build an application that will make doctors faster, and they will want to use it. We built that, earned significant market share and then decided to not just make this about making doctors faster, but rather about improving healthcare quality. That has become the mission of the company.’

Funding for the future

Modernizing Medicine recently raised $15 million of funds to finance new initiatives. The money was raised through existing investors, many of whom are medical practitioners using the EMA system. I was interested to know more about how the money was going to be used to propel the company’s growth.

‘We have three initiatives. Number one is supporting the surgical specialties that we are already in. We are currently in eight specialties, which are dermatology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, gastroenterology, plastic surgery, rheumatology, and urology. So we want to add more support and resources to improve the products in these areas’

This extra support will come, in large part, from the 100 new jobs the company is looking to create over the next 12–18 months. These jobs will increase the size of the support teams who look after the over 5000 providers across the US using Modernizing Medicine’s technology in their practice. It will also allow them to increase the size of the training teams who will visit the physicians in their practices and teach them how to use EMA correctly and efficiently.

‘The second is to fund telemedicine. We are very interested in moving into the telemedicine space. Because plastic surgery and dermatology are very visual specialties, we think there is a lot we can do with technology to connect with patients outside of the exam room. We are building global technologies around capturing photos that our patients can show their physicians; for example, post-op wounds, or examining moles or rashes. Physicians can then address the issue from wherever they are and patients can be evaluated in their own homes.


Another initiative is funding for a collaborative project with IBM called schEMA, an application within EMA designed to help doctors by answering medical questions at the point-of-care.

Harnessing the cognitive computing intelligence of IBM’s supercomputer Watson, as well as natural language processing, schEMA comprehends published healthcare information, such as peer-reviewed medical journals, to enable physicians to ask questions about conditions, treatments, and outcomes and get back answers in real-time alongside the patient.

‘The prototype was built last year around three diseases — melanoma, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis — but we want to expand this to the rest of dermatology and then across to other specialties. Watson will act as a research assistant for the physician. Watson isn’t making medical decisions, but rather giving the physician access to the latest evidence and research at the point-of-care. Watson will ingest peer-reviewed literature from a number of renowned journals and physicians train it by providing questions that they would want to know the answers to. We repeat this thousands of times for each condition. Users can then ask questions and get the answers they need from the published literature with confidence levels. This information is then saved in the patient’s chart for future reference.

The ultimate goal of schEMA is act as a research assistant to strengthen physician’s recommendations and enable them to efficiently practice evidence-based medicine, something Michael believes has been difficult for physicians in the past.

‘Physicians want to practice evidence based-medicine but they can’t memorize every article ever written or every page of each textbook. The beauty of this is that as new content is produced, it is ingested into Watson, more questions are asked and physicians can get more real-time evidence to help their patients.

‘The timeliness of the answers and the depth of available knowledge are key. Everyone enhances medical education by attending conferences and reading journals, but if you see 30–40 patients every day you can’t take a timeout for research. You’re relying on what you learned when you first trained. What schEMA does is bring an entire library of contextual information into the exam room with the patient and physician. I can ask a question that is conversational and get a real-time answer that helps the patient right then and there.’

schEMA will be rolled out for the dermatology field by the end of first quarter 2015 and the company plans to expand rollout across the remaining specialties soon after. Physicians attending the American Academy of Dermatology from March 21-23 in San Francisco can see a demonstration of schEMA at Modernizing Medicine’s booth.

Structured data

Modernizing Medicine was quick to realize that the patient data captured in EMA by individual doctors could be used to paint a much larger picture of what is going on across a whole specialty. The structured patient data is utilized for two unique product features: EMA Grand Rounds™ and EMA Outcomes™.

‘EMA Grand Rounds allows physicians to see at the point of care, real-time, how other physicians treat a particular disease. If I have a patient with acne, I can see how I would normally treat this patient’s condition, what physicians in my practice do, and how other physicians across the nation treat this condition. If the first or second treatments haven’t worked, then I can immediately see what other physicians have done. EMA Grand Rounds is available for all our specialties today. We are working to expand this functionality by filtering data based on the patient in front of me. For example, if the patient is older or has certain comorbidities, we will be able to filter the data to be more specific to that patient’s characteristics,’ said Michael.

With EMA Outcomes, Modernizing Medicine offers an objective measure of a patient’s diseases and treatments over time. With a touch of a button, a doctor can see if a patient’s conditions are improving or getting worse over a specified period. Historical data markers for a particular disease or condition are graphically represented. Physicians now have the ability to see relevant information from the entire chart in a single, consumable view, as opposed to flipping through pages in a paper chart that don’t show trends.

‘We are moving to a time of more transparency. As physicians, we want to learn from our own data and see how our own data compares with that of other physicians across the nation.’

Award wins

The company has won many awards and gained a number of high-profile fans in its relatively short history. Modernizing Medicine was named by Forbes as ‘One of America’s Most Promising Companies’ in 2013 and 2015. More recently, they were included in Red Herring’s Top 100 North America list. This annual list recognizes the top private companies across the continent that are expected to achieve significant growth in the near future.

Michael and Daniel were also recognized by the US Chamber of Commerce with the Leadership in Health Care Award. The award was presented to them at the US Chamber of Commerce’s 3rd Annual Summit in October 2014.

‘Winning the award really felt validating. As a physician you really want to make a difference in your patients’ lives, and that’s what Dan and I wanted to do when we started this company but on a bigger scale. We want our technology to not get in the way of the doctor and the patient, but rather help the physician work more efficiently and the patient have better health outcomes.’

With the new partnership with IBM along with the recent acquisition of Aesyntix Health, Inc. enabling the company to offer specialty-specific revenue cycle management and inventory management, Modernizing Medicine has a clear vision for the future. This can only mean good things for doctors and patients across the US.