The series: We look at decision makers among Canada’s mid-sized companies who took successful action in a competitive global digital economy.
Mike Wessinger says he can recall exactly when his company, PointClickCare, reached a business-changing decision point.
“We knew there were other companies in Canada and the United States who could do what we were doing. So we said: Let’s do it differently by putting our business in the cloud,” he says.
Mr. Wessinger is president and, with his brother Dave, co-founder of the Mississauga-based company that provides the cloud-based software that underpins hospitals and nursing homes across North America – an industry known as long-term, postacute care (LTPAC).
The company offers its clients a portfolio of cloud-based software and services designed from the ground up to help health and long-term providers manage the complex requirements of senior care, such as electronic health records and business and revenue management. Using the cloud enables PointClickCare to upgrade clients’ software instantly, so they can keep up with technology that changes regularly.
For example, the software allows a caregiver to input medication, tests and other information into a tablet, phone or laptop, keep the information on record and then share it with other staff or the pharmacy.
“We were just a half-dozen people under 30 when we started late in 1999. It wasn’t even called the cloud when we went for it,” Mr. Wessinger says.
“It was the commitment to a new business model using web-based and subscription-based technology that enabled us to become the dominant provider of software for long-term, post-acute care in Canada and the United States.”
By the end of 2000, PointClickCare had signed up its first subscriber. Today, the company has 1,450 employees, primarily in Mississauga but also in Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y., with annual revenue of more than $200-million and top-line growth of more than 25 per cent a year.
The key to the decision was to have the courage to not just try a new technology (cloud-based computing); it was to try a new idea which at the turn of the 21st century had still been relatively untested.
“We committed to a disruptive model. The term SaaS (software as a service) wasn’t even coined until four years later,” Mr. Wessinger says.
It’s different now. The IDC market research firm reported last fall that the worldwide public cloud services market grew 28.6 per cent year over year in the first half of 2017, with revenue totaling US$63.2 billion.
Companies ranging from small ones all the way to giants have reoriented to work in the cloud. For example, users of Microsoft Office — and that’s just about everyone — will notice the prevalence of Office 365 — a cloud-based service whose revenue rose by US$8.24-billion in Microsoft’s quarterly report last fall.
“Businesses now think cloud first when it comes to their IT strategy and software footprint,” said Eric Newmark, program director for IDC’s SaaS, enterprise applications and industry cloud research practices
The website Geekwire also reports that some 73 per cent of organizations surveyed by BetterCloud, a SaaS company, said they expect to shift nearly all of their apps to SaaS by 2020.
In late 1999 and early 2000, PointClickCare actually wasn’t thinking cloud first — it was thinking about its new and potential clients, Mr. Wessinger says.
“We focused on the idea that we were committed to solving a market problem. We knew our customers had trouble buying, selling and maintaining the software they needed because many of them simply didn’t have the budgets to do so,” he explains.
Providing a cloud-based subscription model made it possible for customers to keep up without having to constantly scrap and rebuild existing software systems.
“We suspected that people were fed up with making big software investments and not getting the returns they wanted. We figured if we could help them align their spending with the benefits they wanted from their software, it could work,” Mr. Wessinger says.
“We suspected we might be on a wave, but we didn’t really know. We just thought we had to do it to survive.”
In May of 2000, PointClickCare signed up its first subscription-paying cloud customer. By the end of that year, it secured a deal for a pilot program with one of Canada’s largest nursing home chains.
That deal and others to follow gave PointClickCare breathing room to plot its expansion strategically, Mr. Wessinger says.
“We kept growing in Canada and then we launched in the U.S.,” he says. The company learned quickly that the U.S. health and long-term care system is “infinitely more complex” than Canada’s single-payer medicare system, which forced PointClickCare to adapt further.
“In every state the regulations are different. We might do well working with a few health-care providers in Minnesota, then we’d go to another state where they want to know who we’re working with among their own providers,” Mr. Wessinger says.
It was important to show some state officials a respectable client list, whether the clients were already in their own state or were working successfully with PointClickCare in nearby states. “They could see we work with providers who have brand recognition and were comfortable,” he says.
Today, PointClickCare’s cloud-based services work for 15,000 long-term and post-acute care customers, which includes skilled nursing homes, senior living communities, and home-care agencies across North America, and it’s still gaining new business.
“Ninety-nine per cent of all the nursing homes in North America who changed software providers in the last year changed to us,” Mr. Wessinger says.