DRI Interviews Ken Kontowicz, VP of Business Development at Topaz Information Solutions

July 12, 2019

DRI recently had the opportunity to ask Ken Kontowicz, VP of Business Development at Topaz Information Systems to discuss the healthcare technology industry, his career, and the goals and new projects coming up for Topaz.

How do you find and retain top talent at Topaz?  

Topaz Information Solutions operates in the healthcare vertical with a large proportion of our business in Arizona.  As a partner of NextGen Healthcare we give preference to trainers and support staff with NextGen experience.  That being said we will hire top talent with experience from vendors other than NextGen Healthcare.

TopazIS is highly focused on organizational chemistry and we spend a great deal of time during the interview process insuring that the candidate meshes well with other members of the team.  As we are competing with large healthcare providers for talent it’s important that we be highly competitive on salary, perks and benefits with advancement opportunities.

What are your goals for Topaz over the next few years?

TopazIS recently entered into a partnership with Open Minds, the premier strategic advisory firm in Mental Health business.  Our partnership has TopazIS overseeing the Open Minds Integrated Care Community.  With many Mental Health organizations transitioning into integrated care, our partnership with Open Minds will provide TopazIS a venue for expanding our customer base into new markets.  Arizona has been at the forefront of Integrated Care with Medicaid behavioral health providers and our expertise and reputation is this space was a big part of why Open Minds selected TopazIS over significantly larger vendors.

You’ve been in the healthcare technology industry for 20 years, what is the most exciting change you’ve seen take place?

Behavioral Health organizations were late comers to the adoption of Electronic Health Records and other HIT that the medical community had aggressively adopted due to Meaningful Use and other Federal mandates.  What helped speed the adoption of HIT and in particular Electronic Health Records with the medical community were subsidies extended to participating providers.  These Federal subsidies generally were not available to mental health organizations which delayed the adoption and limited the sophistication of the technologies adopted by these organizations.  A transition to value based reimbursement models has forced many health care organizations to adopt sophisticated fully integrated electronic health records, billing systems and analytics that allow for a higher degree of care coordination and population management.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see in healthcare right now?

Unrelenting pressure on the bottom line due to declining reimbursements is forcing a high degree of consolidation.  Organizations that have the capability of adapting to changes in the reimbursement models will not only survive but will find a way to thrive.

What technology trends do you expect to see in the next 5 and 10 years?

Where to start!  For me the technology trends that excite me is how artificial intelligence is beginning to change the face of healthcare particularly around diagnosis.  Robotics would be the other and how it’s impacting a variety of specialties including surgical specialties.  I expect both will have a significant impact on healthcare and will ultimately change the role of a physician as we know it.

What advice would you give to up and coming healthcare technology entrepreneurs?

There’s a lot of noise in the space with a great deal of innovation but it makes it hard to be noticed and heard.  Find an established partner or health system to pilot your technology and work the kinks out.  Be certain to create a business plan with achievable financial assumptions and bring on an experienced operation, marketing and sales team to help commercialize your technology.

What is the most important quality a leader must have to be successful?

I don’t believe there is one single quality that makes a successful leader.  There are many attributes such as having vision, being charismatic, an excellent communicator, being able to delegate and to effectively manage those responsible for executing the leaders vision.

If you could meet anyone from past or present, whom would you choose?


What originally led you to pursue a career in healthcare technology?

Many years ago I oversaw a project for a bank I worked at that provided financing for the healthcare community.  That was my entry into healthcare. I was shocked by the lack of IT and computerization and ultimately purchased a small software development company in the healthcare space.

What interesting new projects are on the horizon for you?

We are working closely with the Arizona Medicaid plans and behavioral health providers on an aggressive move into population health and care coordination.  Similar to the dynamics in the medical world a good portion of reimbursements will be tied to quality.  It’s simply not possible for organizations without adequate technology to meet the new payor mandates.

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