Pamela Swingley is a seasoned software executive with more than 20 years of experience working with technology companies of all sizes. Pam has a passion for early stage companies. She has managed marketing strategy and programs for three successful startups: Onlink Technologies which was acquired by Siebel, Shoplink Collision Estimating, a division of ADP, and Gate58 Marketing, a leader in B2B lead generation. In 2005, she founded Savvy Internet Marketing, a consulting firm specializing in online marketing, website design and usability. Pam holds a B.S. degree in Human Development from UC Davis and an MBA from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.
Why did you start RememberItNow?
I started RememberItNow! because I wanted to help my dad. He was forgetting his pills, he couldn’t remember if he put in his eye drops. And it was a pain to dig for all his phone numbers, passwords, and more for health insurance, doctor appointments, etc. Every time. Not to mention, I had to update my siblings or whoever else helping out. If one of us had to switch places to take care of him, we had to start the whole search all over again. I started to worry a lot too when he forgot his pills. After searching for a long time on the web for something that could manage his health, and not finding results…I figured, ‘Why can’t I make this?’ And that’s where it all started.
How did you make the switch from marketing to software development?
Making the switch was easier than I expected. As an internet marketing consultant I’ve been working for several years with a core team of people to build corporate websites. An effective website is the work of a team of people. One person will do the strategy. A graphic designer creates the look and feel. A writer creates the content. An engineer makes the forms work, builds a content engine, creates flash elements, and often builds mini applications. The production manager puts all the pieces together and builds the site. The entire team usually does a quality check making sure everything works before the launch. And lastly, a search engine optimization expert works on driving traffic to the website.
The process was the same to build RememberItNow!, it just took longer. Since we have all worked together before, things went pretty well. Our designer created more than 160 page comps to clearly articulate what was to be built. Because of this attention to detail at the beginning, the final application was exactly what was requested.
Patient-centric is the buzz word of the moment, what does it mean to you?
One of the common problems with software design is that the developers assume that every user is as tech savvy as they are. That is very far from the truth. Most computer users want to get their task done as quick as possible and go on to things they enjoy. Software built from an engineering perspective is rarely user-centric.
For us patient-centric means that every decision is made from the patient’s point of view. It may not always be feasible to implement, but we always consider the user’s needs first.
Before we wrote a single line of code, we built detailed personas for each user. These fictional characters included a background on illnesses and medication schedules, activities, attitudes toward technology, age, family relationships, attitudes, where they lived, and what they read.
To build accurate personas we interviewed a variety of people who took multiple medications, and people who served as caregivers to a loved one. Karen, and her mother Carol, became our model for long-distance caregiving. Persona Janelle was a single, middle-aged interior decorator diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Persona Manual is a much loved grandfather with several chronic diseases. He sees multiple doctors, and is cared for at home by his wife, with relief help from family and friends.
As we designed the application we considered how each of our personas would respond. Would they know the account section was under their user name? Were two links too close together for someone that wasn’t comfortable with a mouse? How many features are too many? What colors are least intimidating? What action on each page is most important? What matters most to the patient? To the caregiver? To the healthcare professional?
By starting from the patient’s point-of-view, we ended up with an application that is truly patient-centric.
The principles of patient-centric extend to how we’ve structured the business. We went with Software as a Service, (SaaS). You pay as you go, and no downloads. No contracts, no hidden fees, no constant upgrades. The first month is free too, and if you feel like you don’t need RememberItNow! anymore, then it can be canceled.
I noticed RememberItNow! has a noticeably simple and fun design, explain how you got there.
I worked in the business software industry for over twenty-five years. Business software is not easy to use. So when it came time for me to create RememberItNow! I wanted it to be the opposite of everything I hated. I wanted my software to be easy for anyone to use. If you have to train someone to use it, it’s pointless. And frankly, if I’m going to spend a year of my life working on something, I wanted it to be nice to look at.
Give us an example of why it’s so easy to use.
The “Medications” page is a good place to start. Adding a medication couldn’t be easier. Just click on the big orange button that says, ‘Add a medication’. Boom. There it is. No fancy icons or logos where you have to guess what something means and what it does. RememberItNow! is easier because our functions are labeled and every page has a clear call to action. Another example is the journal. You simply type an entry and click the orange plus button. Or click on the orange stars to add an entry for your wellness. It’s a little bit fun too. If you’re going to use something everyday, you might as well enjoy it right? Even our elephant is happy.
How did you stick with this though? Most companies seem to get off track and start listening to their investors.
Well right now we don’t have any investors. We’ve bootstrapped the company. When the time comes to raise funds, we will look for investors that share our same values. We wrote our core values within the first three months of starting RememberItNow!.They are designed to guide us in who we hire and partner with.
>Be understanding and responsive to our customer’s challenges – Our first responsibility is to listen to our customers, and respond to their needs. By building better products and providing customer service, we can help them get the most from their investment. This value ties directly into our patient-centric philosophy. Our market success will come from taking care of our customers.
> Deliver value by doing more with fewer resources – It’s never been cheaper or faster to build software than right now. Agile software development, virtual teams, hard work, and adoption of the latest business tools (mostly free, thanks to Google) are a few of the ways we keep our expenses down.
We do everything with such a small team, that nothing gets neglected; and communication is easier. Things get done faster. Plain and simple. There is no need to go through a whole chain of people to get the approval of something small. We’ve had one meeting in the entire year.
>Build open and honest relationships. – It’s not a big mystery who we are. We strive for transparency in our communications. We value feedback from all. You can follow our story on our blog, Facebook, on Twitter, or send us your thoughts (support(at)rememberitnow(dot)com. As for the honesty part of this value statement, that shouldn’t require any explanation.
> Create quality and take pride in our work. – We believe that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. We work hard to create things we like to use, and are proud to show off. We expect everyone to do their best, and to be accountable for their actions.
> Make things easier, and be easy to work with. – For most people, technology adds complexity to their lives. Our job is to build software that makes things easier not harder. And while we are doing that, we want to be easy to work with. This doesn’t mean we say yes all the time, or that we let others take advantage of us. It means that we respect one another. We help others reach their goals and we don’t hide behind email or voicemail, or pass our responsibilities off to someone else.
> Bring passion and a positive attitude to all we do. – No naysayers here. Enthusiasm is contagious, and we only accept optimism. It’s an exciting time to be in business as the Internet reshapes how we build, market and deliver software. We’re fortunate to be able to participate in the Health 2.0 revolution. And we are thrilled to empower patients to reach their own health goals.
> Embrace creativity, innovation and change. – The healthcare industry is not known for rapid change, but RememberItNow! is. We believe it is better to move quickly and risk a mistake than to dawdle and miss an opportunity. We have a bias toward action.
So it sounds like you have built a small niche for yourself, any learning milestones so far?
One of the things we have learned is that we underestimated the opportunity for eHealth services. It’s not a small niche. Twenty-seven percent of the people in the United States take five or more medications a week, and almost every one of these people finds it a challenge to manage their health care. Nearly 50% of the time medications are not taken as they were prescribed.
In addition, this market is rapidly expanding as 77 million baby boomers enter their senior years. their senior years. We’ve realized that the value of RememberItNow! isn’t just medication reminders, it’s so much more. It’s a way for employers to control healthcare costs. For long-term care facilities to manage resident records. For patients to take control of their health. And for healthcare providers to provide better care. It’s eHealth made easy.