Feb. 1, 2010
UI helps Coralville health information provider through growing pains
The University of Iowa's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is helping a Coralville business that helps health care providers make sure their patients know exactly what's wrong with them.
The Web-based Patient Education Institute (PEI) needed assistance to manage its growth, since it's up to 1.1 million users a month. So its founder, Moe Ajam, worked with SBDC Director Paul Heath to formulate a business strategy for long-term success and secure financing.
"The SBDC provided us with unbiased information on grants, export information and provided great network opportunities," Ajam said. "It's our tax dollars put to good use."
PEI provides an interactive, Web-based tool that doctors and hospitals use to educate patients about -- and, more importantly, document that they understand -- the procedures they will undergo or the diseases afflicting them.
Ajam, who founded PEI in 1995, developed the business after hearing from doctors who said they have few resources to provide that kind of information. In developing its software, PEI looked to research about learning for clues how to convey information in a way that's engaging, actively involves users and ensures users' retention and understanding of the material.
"Our niche is developing engaging multimedia programs that provide evidence of usage and comprehension," Ajam said. Doctors find the program useful also because they increase patient satisfaction and reduce the risk of medical malpractice.
PEI began by developing educational programs that focused on neurosurgery. Over the years, though, it has expanded to serving 30 medical specialties covering 732 topics that range from diabetes to healthy eating.
Although PEI is still growing and just recently signed a large deal with the National Institutes of Health, the firm has its share of challenges.
"We have to update our content all the time," Ajam said. "If you don't update, you don't stay in business very long." Because of new advances and information about such new illnesses as H1N1, PEI has had to update 85 percent of its content in the past 18 months. While the recession has slowed growth slightly, Ajam says PEI continues to have success in a "pretty good" industry.
"Right now, the health care industry is talking about reducing cost through educating people about being healthier. We are happy to be in this industry because government and medical experts are realizing the cost savings that can be realized by engaging the patient and health consumer in their health care," he said.
More information on PEI can be found at http://www.patient-education.com.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500