By Marcella McCarthy

Kipu is a cloud-based electronic medical records company that was built specifically for addiction and substance use disorder centers. It was founded in 2012 and has quietly been growing under the radar. I caught up with CEO Jeffrey Fiorentino (pictured above) via email to learn more about the business as a health-tech company in Miami.

What’s the story of the Kipu name?

A Kipu, or Quipu — its original Quechua spelling — is an ancient Incan device for keeping records and communicating information. A quipu consisted of variously colored strings knotted in different ways. The knots in strings were called quipu. The quipu was not a calculator, rather it was a storage device.  The Incas had no written records and so the quipu played a major role in the administration of the Inca empire since it allowed numerical information to be stored. The quipu was also useful for census-taking and provided a mass of statistical information for the government.

What’s the story of Kipu?

I’ve been with this company since its inception.  I worked closely with some developers that helped us build the foundation, and from there we turned it into the company that it is today.

We noticed a void in the medical industry where those suffering with SUD (Substance Use Disorder) weren’t getting proper treatment because the centers didn’t have the tools to help them. The KipuEMR was built in Agile Development within a detox facility.  It was designed to meet the specific needs of clinicians and doctors who were treating patients suffering from (SUD).

Who in your family dealt with addiction?

Someone very close to me, in my immediate family, was addicted to alcohol.

I see you worked at Grant Thorton prior to working at Kipu. Did you also have any tech experience prior to joining the company? If not, what drew you to that specific problem in addiction treatment?

I’ve always loved technology and I also love sales. Then in my other life, I have a master’s in accounting and love that.  At GT, I learned that I fit better in a startup than a  large organization.  I believe in my soul that technology can effect change…positive change in the world and based on my experience with my family, I realized that there was an opportunity to do what I love: Sell technology and effect change in healthcare. By nature, I’m very sales-oriented, focused on growing the business and seeing things evolve.  This inspires me to continue doing what we’re doing.

What have been some of the company’s biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Our single biggest challenge and impediment to growth is finding developers.  We’re built on Ruby On Rails and that was a great platform early on because it’s so fast in terms of early development and proving up our concept.  Today, we are still very committed to Ruby, but it has proven challenging as we just cannot find and hire Ruby developers fast enough.  Today, we have 51 developers and I think we are one of the biggest Ruby Shops in the SE but it’s still challenging to find and hire talent in this field. 

What have been some of your biggest milestones?

Most recently, we surpassed 1 million episodes of care, and that is no small feat for a company our size and our age. Our software is used by over 1,800 centers on a daily basis, so that milestone makes us very proud.

I’d also say that our client relationships serve as our milestones. We are a 24/7 365 organization.  We work very hard to maintain close relationships with our clients over time. To the point that if they’ve asked us for a specific feature for their needs, we’re able to configure the software for them.  That only makes us better, too.  It’s a real partnership.

What can you tell me about your next release?

We’re always evolving and bringing new modules and features to our clients. Being cloud-based, we run updates every 4-5 weeks without any downtime for maintenance.  Our current platform has dozens of new features that already set us apart from the rest.  We offer some exclusive technologies that one no one else can claim including:

  •  The Golden Thread® charting system links all aspects of the treatment process to the goals, objectives, and interventions defined in the Treatment Plan. Whether our client’s treatment plan is medical, clinical, or spiritual, the Golden Thread system allows you to manage the entire episode of care efficiently and quickly. 
  • KipuMessenger, a HIPAA-Compliant Messaging and Telehealth platform and smartphone app, provides a safe way to communicate with patients, exchange documentation, and conduct one-on-one telehealth sessions.
  • KipuBI provides analytics on key performance metrics to empower users to leverage their data to drive growth and profitability.

As for new releases, we are working on so many top-secret enhancements, I’m afraid I’ll have to keep them that way because privacy and security are key pillars for Kipu.  But I can say that it will be very disruptive for the industry. 

How are EMRs for addiction centers different from other EMRs?  

The KipuEMR was designed and purpose-built within a detox facility, in collaboration with real users – medical, clinical, and administrative – who provided real input about what they needed to help achieve successful outcomes. 

Healthcare is all about specialties. Kipu hits home to focus on this particular industry because for years there was a void, and we do it really well. Our system isn’t designed to run a doctor’s office or a pediatric center.  It’s designed to specifically help the SUD, eating disorder, and behavioral health community.

EMRs are not new. Hospitals and doctor’s offices have had them for years, and other systems will say they serve the SUD community because they add a feature to their existing broad healthcare system.  But the reality is there was no focus.  Some resources were helping practitioners and others were helping accounting… no focus on creating a tool that meets the end-to-end needs of the doctors and clinicians within the SUD community.

When we set out to build it, we noticed several treatment centers whose caregivers and clinicians were seniors, and they were nervous about transitioning to a cloud-based system. Once we showed them how it worked, their reaction was, “Wow, this is so easy.  It’s like this was built for me!”

How many employees did Kipu have when the company started and how many people work at Kipu now?

We live in a hypercompetitive environment and don’t disclose private information.

Where is your office located and are you working remotely now/how are you dealing with the repercussions of COVID?

We’re based in Coral Gables, with a number of team members in California and a few other states.  Our clients are located all over the world and we’re used to working remotely since we are always visiting our clients for sales demos, implementation, and training.  Since we work with healthcare and addiction, we are an essential business, so we never missed a beat with our clients or employees. We have a hybrid system where some team members work remote while others come in, but we limit the amount of people in the office on a daily basis and follow proper procedures as guided by the CDC. We realize that it’s hard to get food since the restaurants have been limited, so we have been providing our staff lunch every day, which they have enjoyed. Like everyone else, we are adjusting to these unprecedented times, while keeping up with our responsibilities and commitments to our clients.

Has COVID had an impact on your business? 

Thankfully, we didn’t have to reduce our workforce.

Where do you see the company going in the next 5 years?

Our goal is to help as many treatment centers as possible. We serve substance use disorder, disordered eating, and behavioral disorder centers. This is very personal to us, and we want to grow and continue helping treatment centers efficiently help patients.

Have you had any mentors/members of the community that have played a role in your/the company’s success?

A lot of the people that work here have been through treatment and are in recovery. These individuals inspire me every day and I thank them for helping us take Kipu to where it is today.

Kipu’s FACE SHEET is a visual representation of each patient in a facility’s current census. It enables care staff (clinicians, therapists and others) to quickly view a patient’s photograph, personal information, along with icons that indicate level of care, medication details, urgent issues and more.

Marcella McCarthy