ELLKAY offers data management innovations to clinical labs

April 18, 2018
Kamal Patel Chief Information Officer,ELLKAY


Lior Hod and I started the company in 2002. I serve as the CIO, working very closely with the product and technology teams.

BA. Computer Science from MIT Pune;
Microsoft Certified Solution Developer; Microsoft Most Valuable Professional MVP.

I am married with one son. I am passionate about French red wines and enjoy hiking.

How did ELLKAY come to be? How has it grown since it began? Lior Hod and I founded ELLKAY in 2002 in Lior’s basement. We started out as developers with a deep background in healthcare, having worked for both 3M and Johnson & Johnson. Quest Diagnostics was our first client. We started out helping them access demographic data from PM systems to help them achieve a higher quality of claims. Within six months, that evolved into a nationwide contract to be their connectivity providers. Following Quest, we continued a top-down approach as we partnered with other large commercial labs including Lab Corp and BioReference, before expanding into the hospital lab market.

We have grown tremendously since then. Today, helping labs is a part of what we do. We work throughout the care continuum, solving key problems around all kinds of interoperability. In the industry, we are known as the healthcare data plumbers. Any data, any system. We assist in migrating data from all the legacy systems within a healthcare environment.

Can you expand on the “healthcare data plumbers” concept? Any time that any kind of data plumbing is required, we take care of it. We “plumb” or extract the data and securely move it from one location to another. While the plumbing is happening, there are lots of pieces that come in the middle. There could be cross-reference mapping for interfaces, compendium cross-reference mapping for order codes, reference lab interfaces, or hospital connectivity. We like to eliminate the problems our clients face in extracting and converting data, so that they can focus on their business. Essentially, we take care of all the plumbing behind the scenes.

“Interoperability” and “data connectivity” have become buzz-words; everybody says them, not everybody knows what they mean. How does ELLKAY work with its clients to improve interoperability? At ELLKAY, we are all about making interoperability happen. From the beginning, our focus has been on building a platform that allows for all kinds of interoperability.

In the lab environment, we run into a lot of point-to-point interfaces, where you are connecting ambulatory locations or reference lab locations to send orders and results back and forth. There are also significant connectivity demands: demographic interfaces, orders and results interfaces, medication lists for toxicology labs, extracting clinical data from EHRs…the list goes on. Laboratories are already making substantial monetary and operational investments in interface platforms and development resources to enable their LIS to communicate with EHR systems. What we do is help the labs with whatever their workflow challenges are by building the data pipelines they require and identifying the right interface strategy. With that, they get the connectivity they need, with interfaces they can easily configure via drop-down lists and super-fast deployments at a fraction of the cost.

Who are your primary categories of customers? What kinds of solutions do you provide for them? We partner with everyone: hospitals and health systems; laboratories—reference labs, commercial labs, and hospital labs; EHR vendors; patient engagement companies; value-based care organizations; and vendors providing care coordination services and patient payment models.

ELLKAY brings two critical things into the equation. First, our speed: we implement interfaces at a very fast pace. Traditionally, laboratories would purchase an interface engine and scale by hiring more resources. We think interfaces should be done by just one person, and instead of taking weeks and months, they should be done in hours and minutes.

The second thing is our cost. We believe that the cost of healthcare is humongous, with financial burdens heavily placed on the technology side. We align ourselves with our partners’ business models to significantly reduce interoperability costs and provide our customers with all the connectivity solutions and tools to succeed operationally and financially.

The shift to value-based reimbursement remains challenging for diagnostic labs. How does ELLKAY help them navigate those troubled waters? In the payor world, the shift to value-based care is happening, and labs are still trying to figure out exactly how it will impact them. We’re partnered with labs to help them focus on organizational efficiency, maximize reimbursements, and improve optimization to grow their business.

Today, small labs are paying huge IT costs for LIS systems and interfaces, so we are aligning our services with them to help them lower their costs. What we are experiencing with large labs is that they aren’t always handling test utilization management correctly. For example, perhaps a test has already been performed with one lab and doesn’t require a retest for a certain period.

Another issue has to do with medical necessity checks. Because the orders come through EMR interfaces, not all EMRs are well-equipped to perform accurate medical necessity checks and print ABNs in these practices. Our Patient Data Link solution provides laboratories with a clinical data feed of medical necessity and pre-authorization details from more than 170 EMR systems and more than 600 PM systems. Utilizing these tools and technologies, we are helping the labs get paid for the services they are performing without using significant resources on the back end while also bringing efficiency, all while keeping the costs lower.

How would you describe your company’s culture? How does the internal culture affect a company’s relations with its external customers? We strive to create a great culture and it truly is fantastic; we have a lot of fun. We’ve offered free lunch since we started in 2002. We have bees on the roof and we make our own honey. All the beekeeping is done by ELLKAY employees and our president even goes on the roof. Our employees want to stay here.

It’s equally imperative to us that when someone calls, a human being answers the phone. We’ve maintained that since we started the business. Even though we’re in the product business, the most important thing to us is providing exceptional customer service. We have customers participating in events that we do, collaborating with us in product development, and more. The ELLKAY culture resonates with our customers and our customers love us. The feeling is mutual.

Your company acquired CareEvolve last year. How has that expanded your business? We were interested in CareEvolve for quite some time, working closely with BioReference for the acquisition. One thing that was very critical was to retain the entire team, which we’ve been successful in doing. We also wanted to retain all their customers, which we have done. CareEvolve aligns very well with ELLKAY, particularly in our shared strengths in technology and innovation. They had a wide coverage in the hospital lab market, which gave us more penetration and a larger footprint in that market. Having already provided clinical data archiving and migration services to hospitals, being able to offer an advanced laboratory outreach solution is another way to increase our partnership with them. The feature sets we’ve been able to bring to the customer base have been great. It’s been a great acquisition for us.

In February your company announced that it had moved its corporate headquarters to Elmwood Park, New Jersey. How is this move helping you to expand? One significant mission as we looked towards an office relocation was designing a building that aligned with our vision and innovation. Moving from a building with 13,000 square feet to a 74,000-square-foot building, we have five times more space. With that, we’ve been on a hiring spree since we moved in. The new space allows us to create an environment where we can continue to have fun but can also continue to grow. With more room, we subsequently have more people, resources, innovation, and collaboration.

ELLKAY is recognized for being a leader in innovation. Can you give a sneak peek of any of the new things you are working on? Innovation is so important to us. We have a dedicated R&D team focused on developing new solutions that solve market challenges and changes happening in the industry. For example, with PAMA, we are looking at ways in which our customers can benefit in some of those efficiencies to maintain profitability. We are building solutions with value-based models that enable our customers to request documents within their hospital or commercial environments for this clinical data and access a repository for it.

We have aligned our interface pricing models to benefit our customers. Interfaces have been a challenge for the industry due to cost and speed. We want to put the labs in control of the compendiums and the interfaces. We want to eliminate development from the picture to reduce that cost. We are also working on some other new features and functionalities. Some of those items include user-friendly lab results so that patients can understand them; a new platform for reference labs; and a new compendium management solution that allows labs to manage and maintain master laboratory test orders and results compendiums from one centralized dashboard.

We are proud of how we have supported our laboratory partners and are looking ahead to future success with them as we continue to innovate.

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