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A healthy bottom line

IT firm growing thanks to electronic records systems

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In conversation with senior management and on its website, Infomagnetics Technologies Corp. says it likes being a small firm.

And since 1992, IMT has succeeded in remaining small.

But that may soon become more difficult for the smart Winnipeg information technology company.

After developing an expertise in the tricky business of master data management -- allowing core data to become integrated with ever-more complex software applications -- IMT found its services were particularly applicable in the field of electronic health records (EHR).

We all know about the fits and starts that process has experienced over the years.

But it's starting to take hold and there is probably no turning back.

IMT recently struck an agreement to be a key supplier to an Israeli software company, called dbMotion, that has one of the most popular EHR solutions.

It is not widely known, but Manitoba has emerged as one of the leading jurisdictions in implementing EHR technology.

In March, Manitoba launched the first province-wide EHR system in Canada, called EChart Manitoba. It's a $40-million project, with more than half the money coming from the federal government's $1-billion Canada Health Infoway fund.

The idea is to share information about a patient in a secure environment among authorized health-care professionals.

The system is being rolled out across the province.

IMT was part of the EChart project because of its work in that master data management area using software from a company out of Chicago.

Brian Eckhardt, IMT's chief executive officer, said its expertise is in making sure all of the legacy systems that are still being used and contain the patient information -- such as hospital admissions systems -- are able to communicate with the new EHR software.

IBM eventually bought the company whose software IMT was using, making the Winnipeg company an IBM partner, and one thing led to another. In 2009, IBM won the general EHR contract with the province managing a consortium of subcontractors, including IMT.

One of IBM's main partners in Manitoba's EChart project is dbMotion. It provides the software platform that enables health-care organizations to access and share all sorts of data. IMT's work lets dbMotion's software integrate with all of the systems that had previously been in place.

The Manitoba project went well and when dbMotion started getting more jobs -- a couple in Orlando, and one in Cincinnati -- it tapped IMT to do some of the legacy integration work in those markets.

Marty McKenna, dbMotion's Pittsburgh-based director of marketing, said, "As we started to grow in the U.S., we liked what they (IMT) did so well we pulled them over into other projects."

This is where the "staying small" part is going to get difficult for IMT.

McKenna said the market has exploded in the last 12 months.

"It took awhile to unlock, but finally people realized that connected health care was good business and good for the patient," he said.

IMT has already grown from about three people in 2002 when it started to get interested in the field to about 22 today.

Last year, it was involved in about five EHR projects with dbMotion. That could grow to six to 10 annually over the next few years.

Eckhardt went on a Manitoba trade mission to Israel last month with a few other information and communication-technology companies to establish a formal partnership agreement with dbMotion.

Eckhardt said it was an ideal scenario in which to cement the relationship.

"There was no reason I couldn't have flown to Israel myself," he said. "But in the high-tech world, for a small company to grow and be successful, we need support from the research community and government to get started. The Israelis understand that."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2011 B4

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About Martin Cash

Martin Cash joined the Free Press in 1987 as the paper’s business columnist.

He has spent two decades chronicling the city’s business affairs.

Martin won a citation of merit from the National Newspaper Awards in 2001 for his coverage of the strike and subsequent multi-million-dollar union settlement at the Versatile tractor plant. He has also received honours and awards for his work on agriculture and technology development in Manitoba.

Martin has written a coffee-table book about the commercial and industrial make-up of the city, called Winnipeg: A Prairie Portrait.

Martin Cash on Twitter: @martycash

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

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