Sláinte Healthcare provide software to deliver sustainable, deep transformational improvements to administrative and clinical processes in the healthcare sector.
Andrew Murphy obtained a degree in chemical and process engineering in CIT, going on to work for Henkel Loctite in Dublin, originally as process engineer and subsequently as chemical plant manager.
At the age of 30, having completed a part-time MBA at the Smurfit Business School, Andrew identified a gap in the market for the provision of an electronic platform to manage the health insurance claims process for hospitals, and set up Sláinte Healthcare as a result.
It was late 2006 when he resigned from his position with Henkel, and by mid-2007 he had an early version of Slainte Healthcare’s first platform – Claimsure – running in a hospital. Claimsure is an electronic claims management solution for healthcare organisations.
Approximately 100 people are employed by Sláinte Healthcare worldwide, 40 of whom are based in its headquarters in Sandyford in Dublin.
In the five years between 2009 and 2013, Sláinte Healthcare achieved a growth rate of 1,639 per cent, with health insurance claims totalling more than €1 billion being submitted annually through Claimsure .
Sláinte Healthcare is currently rolling out its international product, Vitro, in Ireland. It allows hospitals to move away from the paper chart and replace it with an electronic version.
Sláinte Healthcare is a leading international technology company that provides software and services to drive efficiencies and quality in healthcare. Sláinte Healthcare was nominated for Enterprise of the Year in the Business and Finance Enterprise of the Year Awards 2013. Through the deployment of proprietary software, Sláinte Healthcare enables healthcare providers nationally and internationally to create efficiencies while also reducing costs, reducing change management challenges and providing better patient outcomes.
Since its foundation in 2006, Andrew has brought Sláinte Healthcare from its first client to becoming a global company with offices and clients worldwide, including Australia and the Middle East. Approximately 100 people are employed by Sláinte Healthcare worldwide, 40 of whom are based in its headquarters in Sandyford in Dublin.
In the five years between 2009 and 2013, Sláinte Healthcare achieved a growth rate of 1639%, with over €1bn of health insurance claims being submitted annually through its product, Claimsure. Claimsure is an electronic claims management solution for healthcare organisations. It allows the capture of patient signatures and claim processing electronically and facilitates electronic submissions to the insurers. Claimsure provides a comprehensive reporting facility to allow full oversight of private health insurance debt.
Sláinte Healthcare is currently rolling out its international product “Vitro” in Ireland which allows hospitals to move away from the paper chart and replace it with a dynamic electronic version. Vitro captures complex clinical data for analysis, allowing hospitals to reduce costs, improve clinical decision support and ultimately improve patient care and outcomes. It documents the clinician-patient activity in an efficient and paperless environment that is familiar and intuitive, it retains the look and feel of current paper documents, creates an electronic version and adds intelligence. This results in the improvement of financial and time efficiencies as well as quality of patient care.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?
I’m not really sure there was one. I had reviewed the health insurance process in a public hospital as part of an MBA project. When giving my recommendations, I suggested that a software system was needed to make sustainable improvements, and I described in detail what it should look like. A few months later I was speaking to representatives of the hospital and they mentioned that they couldn’t find any software that did what I described, nor could they find a company that wished to invest in trying to develop one. That got me thinking and a few months later Sláinte was born.
How did you secure your first investment?
I remortgaged a property (it was 2006, the crash hadn’t come yet!) and my current Chairman also put in some money. The only external funding came from Enterprise Ireland a couple of years later, which made a big impact on the company as it allowed a much more aggressive investment in product development.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
For the first 3-4 years of the organisation, there was a lot of investment in R&D, but very slow traction in the market, despite being able to demonstrate millions in savings for our first client site. Keeping the faith in the broader opportunity in the face of significant cash churn was hugely challenging. Getting up every day, plugging away and continuing to do the right things for the long haul eventually made the difference.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
I guess our first national deal in 2012 with the HSE was a major one. We had been working towards such a deal for many years, but we were up against some major companies when the tender came out. To win such a large tender in the face of stiff competition was a real fillip for the company and has helped us accelerate our international expansion.
Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution?
I guess most people looked at me a bit strangely when I told them I would be giving up my well-paid senior role to start a healthcare technology company – given I had no experience of the healthcare sector nor was I a software developer! So from the outside, it seemed like a mad idea. For me though, it seemed an obvious progression. I had spent my career identifying opportunities for improvement in complex processes and, in turn, using technology to lock in such improvements. To me, what we were planning to do in Sláinte was the same thing but in a different industry. I suppose it gives a bit more credence to the notion that entrepreneurs see things through a different lens than most other people!
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
The challenge is scaling our international subsidiaries in time to match the sales pipeline. Obviously it is a great challenge to have. As a company, we are obviously not very mature, but we have done a lot of work over the last 18 months in bedding down best practice, organisational structures, operating procedures, training programmes etc – all the things you need to have in place as you begin to scale. So while we are getting used to these ourselves at head office, we are also applying such a model to our international offices which is obviously a challenge, but I think we’re getting there.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
I would argue that the biggest achievement was getting Sláinte into profitability on a high-growth trajectory without raising VC money. Of course I am extremely proud that what Sláinte does has delivered huge returns for healthcare providers. Ultimately, the benefit of this accrues to patients and all of us have either been a patient or are related to one.
What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
There is a lot of advice out there for people starting a business, but a simple rule that should be applied is to ignore unsolicited advice given too freely. I often see budding entrepreneurs having 5 minutes with a “mentor” only to be given chapter and verse about what they should do. Such mentors usually have very little understanding of the entrepreneurs business and, in my experience, are too quick to give advice. Typical advice I received in relation to the original Claimsure idea was “if there is nobody in the market that means there is no market – forget about it”. I guess the bit of good advice that stuck in my head was from my now Chairman, David Nash when starting out – “think big, or else you are wasting your time”.
What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?
It is easy for entrepreneurs to get very excited about an idea and lose the run of themselves with wild forecasts and think that everything will be easy. The first thing is for them to remember is that an “idea” is worthless, and will surely have been thought of by many others. However, what is difficult is turning that idea into a product, into a business – that’s the hard bit, and that is something they will need to spend a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make happen. The other key piece of advice (applies to some businesses more than others), is to start every 12 month planning on the assumption of no sales. Early cash management discipline and forecasting the doomsday scenario will make it far more likely for you develop the business and offer realistic capital requirements when you are looking for investment. It is usually a very sobering exercise and ensures you don’t get swept away by enthusiasm into taking on costs you can’t afford or don’t need.
Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?
No, I wasn’t one of these kids that had little business schemes going when I was young. I wasn’t someone who always dreamed of starting a business. Indeed, late into the MBA, I was still looking at staying in the chemicals industry as my next career move. But once I saw the opportunity I felt I had to pursue it or I would regret it for the rest of my life.
Has anyone acted as a mentor to you?
I try to learn from all people I interact with, there is always something that you can learn about yourself from your interactions with others. The biggest influence on my career was my manager in Henkel, Jim O’Neill (now the Operations Director in Glanbia). He helped me to develop my technical expertise and attention to process improvement, while at the same time helping me identify where my personal style needed to change and how to do so. I owe him a lot.
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
In many ways, as our original target market was Ireland, the fact that we were Irish probably played against us. In the early years, I definitely got the impression that we were not taken seriously as we were Irish, in a way that wouldn’t have happened if we were a UK or US company. Internationally, it has had positives and negatives. The Irish health system wouldn’t have a good reputation in the UK and that has counted against us. Whereas Irish healthcare has a great reputation in the Middle East (largely due to the work of RCSI) and so it has worked in our favour there. As we grow, on balance I think the Irishness is more and more of an asset, however it wasn’t the case for the first 5-6 years.
How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?
It’s surprisingly simple – constantly put yourself in the shoes of the “end user” and try to understand what prevents them from doing what they want to do. Then address it. We try to keep very open communication with our customers, from the ground floor to senior management, to find out what’s important to them and try to translate that in to new features for our software. We have an ongoing commitment to develop our platforms so that we keep well ahead of any potential competitor. It is a lot easier to hit a standing target than one that keeps moving!
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
First thing we look for is ability – this is less about experience and more about a proven ability to learn new things and develop quickly. Tied to this is a demonstration of initiative – where someone can show that they act without needing to be told and, if they identify a way of doing things better, that they are not shy to highlight it. But a key element is also how we feel they might fit into our culture. We want people to enjoy themselves at work, so we will always pick someone who gets on with people, over someone who might be deemed to be difficult to work with. We don’t always get it right, but we have had very little headcount turnover since we started the business, so we seem to be doing something right.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
In many ways the downturn was a major benefit to us. It forced healthcare providers to re-evaluate what they were doing and be more open to better, more efficient and less costly ways to deliver on their commitments to patients. As economic conditions improve, the pressures on healthcare systems remain the same, but there may be more leeway for providers to invest early, to make major long term gains. So now that we are a trusted, established company that has a track record in delivering what clients need, we seem to be benefitting from the general upturn also.
What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Persistence, tolerance for ambiguity (i.e. being able to handle the fact that you don’t know what’s going to happen) and an unshakeable inner belief. And more persistence.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?
I think there is a huge amount of opportunity in reducing the cost and improving the quality of all types of government services with technology. It is an area that has not been scrutinised enough over the years in most countries and I think there is ample opportunity to use technology to deliver better government services for lower cost.
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?
Ultimately, I think we build our products from understanding our client needs from the ground up. While this takes a lot of effort and commitment, it is also hard to replicate and means our product development is constantly linked to real client benefits rather than developing technology for technology’s sake.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
Well I suppose I took a major risk (in hindsight) when giving up my role with Henkel and going on to work for a long time on low-to-no salary, in many cases going many months without income and putting pressure on my family as a result. That, and the time commitment. You never stop thinking about the business, it can be a little bit relentless and not exactly fun to live with all the time!
How do you recharge your batteries?
I’m not really good at shutting down. The best way for me to forget about work is to spend time with my kids – they don’t care about work, it’s a great way of putting things into perspective.