TechnopreneurThursday, December 10th, 2015
SOMETIMES, the choices we make lead us down unexpected yet surprisingly productive paths. For Maria Lorena S. Florendo, 45, president and CEO of LiFEDATA Systems, Inc., her journey to entrepreneurship began with medical school, which she pursued at her family’s encouragement. She graduated with a degree in medicine from the University of the East in 1993, but she did not truly feel that being a doctor was her calling. Instead of practicing, she decided to work for her father’s engineering company handling human resources. Her experiences in that job led her to take up labor law at the University of the Philippines, yet she still felt something was lacking.
Ms. Florendo decided to try out different aspects of the business, involving herself in customer service, operations and sales. Finding sales to her liking, she earned an MBA from the Ateneo Graduate School of Business in 2001.
Armed with the MBA, Ms. Florendo was hired by a domain administration company to handle business development. This was where she first experienced working in information technology (IT) and discovered a natural passion and aptitude for the field. Eventually, however, she left the job at her father’s request to help train his successor. She spent a year doing this, then found herself at a crossroads. Believing that IT was the future, Ms. Florendo wanted to get into it but was limited by her lack of capital and having young children. She began tutoring college students with their theses and presentations, and did some consultancy work.
At the invitation of her mother-in-law, Ms. Florendo attended a franchising seminar on medical transcription. Seeing the possibilities but not willing to buy into a franchise, she used the P50,000 she had saved from her tutoring work as seed capital. “When I went into the medical transcription, I said that I could do this because I’m a doctor and I love IT. The concept just blended,” she recalls.
She founded Multi-Scribe Global Outsourcing, Inc. in 2005 and by 2006, the company was awarded the Most Innovative Product by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Center for International Trade and Missions. However, since the business relied a great deal on clients from the United States, it was severely affected by the global recession and had to close in 2008.
But the failure did not deter Ms. Florendo’s passion for IT. While running her medical transcription business, she was introduced to the concept of Electronic Medical Records (EMR), which was considered the next big thing in the healthcare industry. EMR software works as a platform for doctors, patients and pharmacies to interact using cloud computing. It enables doctor-patient prescriptions, appointments/schedules and tests to be centralized for ease of access, so patients can check their test results online and have prescriptions filled out at any participating pharmacist. Referrals are also made more convenient as the patient’s data can be electronically sent to another doctor who uses the same software.
Ms. Florendo then decided to take a risk. She kept on eight of the best programmers from her medical transcription business and registered LiFEDATA, Inc. in 2009 to begin developing an EMR software platform. To continue operations, she sold computers and equipment leftover from her transcription business. It became a race to finalize the program before the cash earned from her stock of old computers ran out.
After the team finished the software, Ms. Florendo began marketing it to companies with little success. It was only after her EMR program won for Groundbreaking Technology of the Year from the DTI that interest picked up. Her first break came when a regional development bank hired LiFEDATA to handle EMR services for them.
When the quality of her software had become evident, Ms. Florendo went back to the hospitals she dealt with before and offered them the EMR program. She also began enhancing the program to handle nutrition and dietary solutions. This allowed her to expand the market for the software. Soon, more companies were contacting LiFEDATA to avail of its EMR platform.
Ms. Florendo shares that her early life experiences contributed significantly to the development of her EMR software and the growth of LiFEDATA. “I went through medical school, studied labor laws and then went into IT. It all added up,” she explains. “My experience working in business also helped me know how to run the company, especially since we deal with a lot of systems analysis.”
To date, LiFEDATA provides EMR services as well as mobile applications development to three hospitals in the US and other companies in the nutrition and healthcare industries. The company has grown from eight to 83 programmers and software developers. LiFEDATA has also made evolutions to its healthcare software to include wellness and lifestyle. It has expanded the scope of its software and now caters to corporations, local government units, schools, restaurants and spas.
Looking back on the many challenges and difficulties that she had to face to establish her business, Ms. Florendo has this advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Have a goal and a mission,” she confides, have a purpose and then sustain it through passion.”
“Dr. Technopreneur.” www.bworldonline.com. Business World Online, 03 Oct. 2013. Web.