HUDSON, Mass. - Within weeks of receiving an award for its innovation, Skyscape Inc. announced that its number of users had hit the 300,000 mark, triple what it had less than two years ago.
Skyscape makes software that allows health-care providers to access a breadth of information through handheld devices. It is best known for making digital versions of reference books like the Physicians Desk Reference, allowing physicians to carry entire libraries in their shirt pockets and search for topics within seconds.
At an award ceremony in late May, the Smaller Business Association of New England honored Skyscape with one of five 2004 New England Innovation Awards. Past winners include Staples, Ben & Jerry's and Genzyme.
The association said Skyscape's extensive portfolio of handheld medical and nursing reference information has improved the "quality and efficiency of health-care decision making at the point of care."
"Virtually every company thinks of itself as being innovative, yet few can take that vision to the marketplace with financial success, especially under challenging business conditions," said Bob Baker, president of the association.
This year's award winners, he said, "prove once again that a powerful idea, combined with ingenuity, commitment and skillful implementation, can make business and personal dreams come true."
Chief executive officer Sandeep Shah, who founded Skyscape in 2000, said, "We feel privileged to be included in this longstanding list of prestigious and innovative companies, and are humbled to acknowledge that the execution of our vision is making an impact worldwide."
Last month, Skyscape made the announcement that it had reached 300,000 registered users. Among its customers are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, physician assistants, residents and medical students. They work at institutions such as Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, Duke University and the Mayo Clinic.
R.J. Mathew, the company's vice president of marketing and business development, said Skyscape has been profitable for the past two years as it continues to add new titles and products to its collection.
The company offers more than 200 titles for personal digital assistants, including clinical references, drug guides and dictionaries across 35 medical specialties. Its products are available online and range in price from $15 to $399.
Skyscape does more than put books onto handheld devices; rather, the references link together to provide fast, easy cross-referencing between titles.
Mathew calls this technology "Smartlink" and compares it to the way a person reads a book. Rather than store the new information from a book into is own compartment, the brain connects it with knowledge that's already there.
"All of these major prestigious organizations have begun to work with us," Mathew said. "What they have found is that they put their information on the Skyscape Smartlink format, and it plugs and plays with everything else. It's a very powerful cumulative effect."
The power of Skyscape's software goes beyond convenience. Late last year, Skyscape surveyed more than 900 physicians who use handheld computers, and more than 85 percent said PDAs have helped reduce their number of potential medical errors.
More than 88 percent said they used their PDAs at least four times a day and 72 percent said they rely on the devices for treatment purposes.
Skyscape's products have also made their way overseas to places like Iraq where Army medics use them on the battlefield, and Uganda, where health workers are fighting the AIDS pandemic.
"We are fundamentally changing the way medicine is practiced at specialized institutions, in touch situations and in remote places," Mathew said. "It's a worldwide impact."
Among Skyscape's offerings is ARTbeat, which offers free and paid reference channels that provide continuously updated information. The latest addition is Preventing Chronic Disease, a peer-reviewed electronic journal that lets public-health researchers and practitioners share study results and experiences.
Moving forward, one of Skyscape's goals is to add efficiency to the U.S. health-care system, Mathew said.
He foresees a day when a physician could write out a prescription through a PDA, and the information would transmit to the pharmacist, insurance company and other relevant sources.
Sandeep Shah chief executive officer of Skyscape Inc. founded the company in 2000. The company was recently honored with a tech innovation award.