A look inside the past, present, & future of healthcare’s leading eForms vendor
To celebrate the 25th year of FormFast, we sat down with FormFast’s Founder & CEO, Rob Harding, to get his input on what the company looked like at its origin, the successes and challenges the past 25 years have brought, and where he sees the future of healthcare and the role FormFast will continue to play in the industry.
FormFast is recognized as one of the top technology companies in healthcare. Can you tell us a little bit about why you started FormFast – the need you saw in the market and the problem you wanted to solve?
Rob: Due to my experience working for a business form company that sold to hospitals, the ever-growing number of paper documents in healthcare was an obvious issue and a rising problem. The effort and expense it takes to process the forms was evident. When I discovered there were ways to solve issues such as reducing the cost of forms, eliminating a lot of issues with properly identifying patients, and easing the admission process – I decided to go-to-market with it.
What did the world of healthcare forms & hospital technology look like in 1992?
Rob: The market in 1992, at least regarding the need for forms technology, is not that different than today. There are still many of the same forms being processed in all areas of hospitals that were happening in 1992. The main difference is that there really wasn’t an electronic medical record to speak of. All the information about the patient was on a paper chart, and somebody had to find that paper chart, or else they would not be able to make decisions or do anything for the patient. The biggest difference in healthcare since our beginning is the development of document management systems and the electronic medical record.
How did your past experiences influence the creation of the company?
Rob: It all happened in increments. I had done some consulting with companies and realized that there weren’t really any companies that had a successful electronic forms solution for healthcare. I knew a lot about selling, getting in touch with hospitals, what they did with forms in the hospitals, the workflows they used, the compliance issues, etc. I knew a big opportunity was there, and I decided to go for it.
What did FormFast look like in the early days?
Rob: Well, in the very early days (for the first two years) I was the sole employee working with healthcare organizations to solve specific form problems.
For example, one of the early products was to program forms into laser printer memory, then grab a form and print it with data. The early customers, home health and long-term care facilities, were buying a lot of hole-punched, pre-printed forms. They were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars processing government forms. We figured out how to streamline the process of generating those forms that those entities had to process, and dramatically reduced the large costs of processing and managing the forms.
How did you find and build your team?
Rob: FormFast team members came on a little at a time. I had contacts from across the country from my previous business forms company that I knew understood the healthcare market.
On the development side, we had Ken Flagg and John Negri, former MEDITECH programming gurus, who helped us build the MEDITECH practice. Later, we moved to a client server version which all hospitals could use and enjoy due to the efforts of Bob Minnick and Rick Hollenbeck.
How have you measured success over the past 25 years?
Rob: To me, the variables – I looked at the number of customers, their size, and reputation. As the product became more sophisticated, we could see that we were getting somewhere and gaining a growing number of customers. And, of course, we looked at the annual revenue and profitability, which continued to grow as our customer base did.
How has FormFast continued to remain relevant despite the ever-changing world of healthcare and technology?
Rob: FormFast has stuck to its initial value proposition of automating the creation of forms throughout the past 25 years.
After adopting our core forms automation technology, customers told us they wanted to have an electronic signature placed on the on-demand form. We were able to easily do that, and that became an additional related product line.
Customers then told us: “well, we need to collect data on forms”, and they weren’t getting what they needed from the electronic medical record companies. We then learned that in addition to having an electronic form, they wanted to run those through workflows for approvals and archiving – so, those capabilities were created and added on.
Most recently, we’ve heard the need to process forms, data, and signatures on mobile devices. This includes patient users outside of the hospital environment. We have rolled out form-centric technology to improve communication between patients and providers beyond the walls of the hospital before and after treatment.
Over the years, our competitors in the space were not really focusing on the processing of forms or different ways of using forms technology. We’ve really been in somewhat of a unique spot in the market, and our customers have realized the need for a forms centric-solution.
How have the problems FormFast is addressing changed since the company’s start?
Rob: We’re solving new problems, in many cases, with our core technology.
One of the major pieces of compliance legislation was the requirement for proper patient identification. There was a major issue with being able to read patient identification on forms for part of the patient chart. This could create a lot of liability for the hospital, and it also could affect their licensing from The Joint Commission. FormFast has fit perfectly into meeting the needs for correct patient identification.
The same idea came up when our customers wanted to get patient signatures on consent forms to be archived to the EHR. Our products were already modified to allow the collection of patient signatures – making solving this new problem easy for us.
Another thing that came along was that, for a long period of time, document management (meaning the scanned forms being archived so they could be viewed by physicians and nurses) was identified by the government as something hospitals needed to do as their electronic medical record. FormFast provided essential capabilities for what they needed to do at that time, which was modify forms and put bar codes on them to scan them into this document management system. So, we’re still using the same modifications of the same technology we started with 25 years ago.
Why do you think FormFast has been a strong, successful company and an industry leader over the past 25 years?
Rob: Well, one of the things that happens in the healthcare business is that it’s very hard to build a reputation. Healthcare organizations want to know that you know their business. This is a barrier for many types of companies that are trying to break into the healthcare industry. We’ve had a positive reputation for good software and service. When we wanted to introduce new products, we had a good platform to do this on.
Most of all, our success is directly attributed to our employees and FormFast’s culture of success. We have hired intelligent, hard-working, creative, and ethical people. As a result, we have attracted more employees who would fit into that culture. This growing group of amazing individuals has helped mold our credibility in the healthcare space.
Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about your business.
Rob: The one thing that comes to mind is that since we have over 1,100 customers – it is a common perception that we are a much larger company than what we are. In reality, we are a small, yet effective company. Our size allows us to keep our costs down, while providing the type of product you normally get from a more larger organization. This is all because of the dedicated team we have in place.
25 years ago, could you have imagined the company would be what it is today?
Rob: I never actually thought about it. I just went year to year, looking at the challenges and the opportunities right in front of us. I never could have imagined that 25 years later, that we’d see the type of success we’ve had.
What is your vision for the future of FormFast?
Rob: Well, it looks like the future is shaping up to be much different than the past. The company has grown every year and I’m confident that we’ll continue to grow in the future. We’ve developed our software and our reputation over the years within the healthcare community. As things continue to fall into place, we are on track to make the leap to becoming a larger, even more successful company by helping our customers solve even more challenges.