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Medical start-up finds tight capital market

David Crane, chief executive of Mobile Health, which

David Crane, chief executive of Mobile Health, which helped develop MDChat, an online service for doctors, with one of the service's clients, Dr. Geraldine McGinty, managing partner of NRAD Medical Associates, a Garden City-based multispecialty medical group. (Sept. 13, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

As a practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. John Abrahams, founder of Hauppauge-based Mobile Health One, knows what it's like to play phone tag with other referring physicians.

At times, it has taken days to finally connect with one another between patients and busy schedules.

His frustration led to the creation of MDChat, a cloud-based mobile communication system developed by Mobile Health that lets health care providers communicate instantly with one another in a secure environment.

While it took only a couple of months to raise the first half of the start-up's $750,000 fundraising goal from Abrahams' friends and colleagues within the health care community, it's branching outside that network and raising the second half of the financing that's proving to be most challenging, say company officials.

"We closed the first half so quickly, I thought this was just going to be a slam dunk," says Mobile Health's chief executive David Crane, who's leading the fundraising effort. "We've run into the reality of the investor marketplace."

Given the weak economy and skittish investor climate, it can be difficult for start-ups like Mobile Health seeking capital, say experts.

Pitching to wary investors

"Private investors are more cautious than they've ever been," says Rob Basso, author of "The Everyday Entrepreneur" and creator of Venture Pitch, a forum for companies to pitch investors that Mobile Health used last fall.

It's harder for investors to see a payout down the road with the economic uncertainty and the weak market for initial public offerings. "Most private investors want a recurring income on an ongoing basis when the company is profitable, or want to cash out when the company sells or goes public," Basso notes.

Still, there's money out there, he says. "The path of least resistance would be finding other like-minded individuals that match the characteristics of their initial investors."

The more clients Mobile Health can sign up for MDChat and the stronger the revenue stream it can build, the better, he says.

So far, the company has about half a dozen beta, or trial, clients who will test and provide feedback on the service, which launches later this month, says Crane.

MDChat allows users to create secure networks to communicate privately with other physicians or health care providers, either inside or outside their organization. Participants who are invited into a network can be uninvited at any time.

Written messages go only to the intended recipients, who receive notification via text or email when they have a pending message. Users can see when their message was read, Crane says, and keep a private record of their communication in a secure environment that complies with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). Regular email and text messages are not considered "HIPAA secure."

Time-saving aspect touted

"It's saving them time from essentially being on hold on the phone," notes Abrahams, the Westchester-based founder of three other health-related companies and a partner at Brain & Spine Surgeons of New York in White Plains.

That appealed to Dr. Geraldine McGinty, managing partner of NRAD Medical Associates PC, a Garden City-based multispecialty medical group and MDChat beta client.

"We want a way we can reliably get in touch with doctors within our network and outside our network and track if they got our messages," she says. "This is not going to replace us talking to other doctors. This provides an additional way of communication."

Mobile Health hopes the beta clients will like the system enough to sign on as paid clients. Crane says that even without the second half of their funds, they will be able to launch on time. Additional funds would help with marketing and sales.

In the meantime, they've been meeting with investors and investigating crowdfunding sites. They are also hoping to pitch to the Long Island Angel Network, an organization that connects investors with entrepreneurs.


At a glance



Name: Mobile Health One, Hauppauge

Founder: John Abrahams

Chief executive: David Crane

Established: 2010

Employees: Three

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