ABEL is Celebrating 40 Years of Service to Ontario Physicians

Many software businesses that started in the late 1970s grew out of garages and home basements. ABELSoft Inc., a market leader in clinical and practice management EMR software, is no exception.

Modestly established in 1977 in the basement of Arun and Bina Rele’s home in Hamilton, Ontario, ABELSoft was early to spot a new market opportunity, the possibility that doctors could automate their billing practices using an emerging device called a personal computer.

         Arun Rele, CEO and Bina Rele, VP Sales

It started with a family friend who was also an allergist, keen on creating a billing system for his office. He encouraged the budding firm to develop a program using the early-CPM (predecessor of PC DOS) system to help him manage his billing processes more efficiently.

“We hired a few programmers to work out of our basement to create the program,” says Arun Rele, chairman and CEO of ABELSoft. “We were really a pioneer because, back then, there were no billing programs for computers in any doctor’s offices. We were creating a whole new business category for ourselves.”

Once the program was written, and tested in several clinics in the Hamilton-Burlington region, ABELSoft hired sales people to promote and sell the new software to family doctors throughout Ontario. “I remember going to many trade shows to better understand the ongoing needs of doctors and to spread the word about our unique system,” adds Rele. “Luckily for us, there seemed to be a lot of interest from doctors and other healthcare practitioners.”

“In fact,” he continues, “the program became so popular that ABEL was invited to submit a request for proposal from the Ontario government’s health insurance program, OHIP, to build a billing platform for doctors to connect with its network. We won that competition, beating out the likes of Texas Instruments, Zenith and other big firms. This win was the catalyst that really helped our business to take off.”

Over the years, the system’s hallmark has been innovation. ABELSoft has a long history of serving medical practices and understands the evolving technology needs of physicians in providing quality care to their patients. As Microsoft’s Windows platform became the operating system of choice for many personal computers, ABEL’s software also evolved to support the latest computer capabilities, including Microsoft operating systems. ABELSoft continued to innovate during the 1980s, adding scheduling modules and creating one of North America’s first integrated practice management systems.

In 1987, the Ontario Medical Association tried to develop its own practice management system, HealthLink. “It didn’t take off,” explains Rele. “Doctors were not happy with the system because it didn’t meet their needs or work well. Because we had now created significant expertise in the practice management sector, we were approached to take over the customer base and to migrate physician practices from HealthLink to ABELMed to provide stability and confidence to the automation of medical practices. As part of this automation, ABELSoft was instrumental in introducing the first electronic lab results transmission and management capabilities in Ontario.

Also in 1987, ABEL had grown again and became one of the top IBM value-added resellers in the province. The company moved to its current Burlington area headquarters that year.

Continuing into the mid-1990s, ABELSoft revamped its clinical management capabilities (EMR module) and reengineered the application code under a new architecture from the bottom up. The result was a design that received considerable attention for its user-friendly, yet productive interface for both medical and dental clinics. “We realized at the time that if our newly named ABELMed could work for doctors, then it could also work for dentists,” says Rele. “We purchased a company that was pioneering a dental practice EMR and folded its capabilities into our platform; then we began marketing ABELDent.”

To ensure ABELMed continued to evolve to meet the many changing needs of doctors and other specialty health-care practitioners, the software’s database was reengineered again in 2002 to use the HL7 version 3.0 Reference Information Model (RIM). This positioned ABELMed for a fully scalable web solution with secure thin clients. It also became the foundation for the ABELMed’s ASP solution offering, deployed in late 2006. At the same time, ABELSoft developed its software based on the same code base as the OntarioMD-certified ABELMed-CMS.

In 2006, ABELSoft also attained its Gold Certified Partner status in the Microsoft Partner Program with ISV/Software Solutions Competency. Microsoft Gold Certified Partners are elite Microsoft Business Partners who earn the highest customer endorsement and pass the highest level of requirements from Microsoft.

The certifications of ABELMed continued to mount during the next decade. In 2010, ABEL achieved its ISO 13485:2003 Certification which is a quality management standard for medical devices. ISO 13485:2003 builds upon ISO 9001, the standard that provides a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system, but includes specific requirements unique to the design, development, manufacture, and maintenance of medical devices. ABELMed EMR continues to be funding eligible in the province of Ontario since the inception of the OntarioMD EMR adoption funding programs.

Today, ABELSoft continues to deliver on innovations and advancements. The company's ABELMed EMR/PM v12 (local solution) is certified (Ontario EMR Spec 4.1A) by OntarioMD. Version 12 includes several practice enhancing features such as enhanced chronic disease management functionality (including diabetes management), an interface to Ontario Laboratory Information System (OLIS) and a new prescription template.

The future looks bright, with new challenges and opportunities ahead in hardware as well as in mobile and cloud computing. “Even with bigger companies coming into the market, we at ABELSoft have been successful in maintaining our leadership position,” adds Rele. “Our strong focus, from inception, has always been and will continue to be the quality of our software and our passion for patient safety.”

“In spite of a lot of flux in this sector and other companies trying to enter the market – and often failing, I might add,” says Rele, “ABEL has flourished for 40 years. We are especially proud of our people, who worked hard to establish our presence and continue to help us make significant EMR contributions in the health-care sector.”

For more information on ABEL products and services, call 800-267-ABEL (2235) ext. 1 or email angelas@abelhealthgroup.com.

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