Governor Baldacci serves up burgers cooked with NotifyMD CEO Dr. Garry Ferguson during a clebration of the company coming to Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Fall – 2007

By Ramona du Houx

“The thing is, the desire to achieve perfection should be present everywhere, but it’s not. It does exist in Maine,” said NotifyMD CEO Dr. Garry Ferguson. “We struck lightning in a bottle here.”

Six months ago, after a nationwide search, NotifyMD, Inc., a provider of after-hours messaging, business-hour call management, automated patient-reminders, and patient-care compliance for physicians, selected Farmington for its new national Care Coordination Center, in the former MBNA facility.

“We are the largest contact center base that deals with physician-to-patient communications in the United States,” said Dr. Ferguson. The Farmington site is their sixth U.S. contact center. The company’s client base consists of about 18,000 physicians in 47 states, and more than 75,000 patient encounters are managed daily.

Dr. Ferguson has a doctorate in pharmacology and worked at a trauma center in California. He developed a healthcare messaging system to improve the way patient calls to physicians are handled. This Tennessee-based company will fill the Farmington facility to its capacity of 120 employees within the next two years.

All patient calls are answered personally by care-coordinators who then match the patient’s symptoms to computer files provided and analyze the importance of the call. They identify the five percent of patients who are most at risk. This helps to streamline a physician’s practice.

“Its real-life situations you are dealing with when a call comes in. You are seriously helping people. You come away from work thinking you’ve done something good today,” said Lynne Buchheit a care-coordinator call employee who had previously worked for MBNA’s call center in the same location. “The difference of call centers is that here we’re helping people not hindering them. It’s a great place to work.”

“No one else is doing this,” said Dr. Ferguson who also announced he hopes to expand operations in Maine. He was in Farmington attending a picnic flag raising ceremony honoring the success of the employees who made the center the company’s highest performing, last September.

Ferguson credited Governor Baldacci and the governor’s team, the Greater Franklin County Development Corporation, and Maine & Company’s efforts in bringing the business to the state.

“Maine represents pride, quality and craftsmanship around the world. We know that Maine people can outcompete, outwork, outdo anybody anywhere in the world. Our job, in state government, is to help give them opportunities,” said Governor Baldacci. “NotifyMD is a quality organization. It’s a number-one company in a number-one community. We’re proud of our workers, and to have such a great employer here in Maine.”

The Farmington center is used both for care coordination and selling the company’s services to new markets. Soon they will be given a new responsibility that no other call center has had.

“Employees here already are working on our most innovative products,” said Ferguson. “In the near future, disease management and outcomes management of at-risk patients will all be seated right here.”

The new disease management program is based upon real patient data, not a random sampling of the population. Random sampling is currently how disease management research is conducted. NotifyMD wants to change all that, and according to Ferguson his disease management program can be done at 1/200th of the cost of existing systems.

“We’re providing the resource base, the technology, and the clinical algorithms to create registries of documented patents. It’s a huge product shift in the way that chronic diseases have been managed previously. That’s the opportunity that exists. We’re viewing an expertise that will be inaugurated at the Farmington call center,” said Ferguson.

“The state of Maine is lucky to have an employer like NotifyMD,” said Peter DelGreco of Maine and Company. (photo below)

After Bank of America bought MBNA, they closed four major call centers in the state, including the Farmington center. It was the largest buyout in recent history in the state. Bank of America agreed to sell the centers at way below their market value to help the state recover. An economic disaster was adverted when all these locations were filled with new call-center businesses that the governor’s administration, working with local development authorities, avidly searched for.

“The state is better off with these new businesses, at all the former MBNA centers,” said the governor. “People worked hard to turn around a bad situation, and we have some wonderful employers at these new call centers.”

Now NotifyMD is looking to expand again.

“After the first six months trail, using the new disease management program at our Farmington center, we will be looking to expand it to another location in Maine,” said Ferguson. “We’re looking at opportunities now. It’s exciting.”