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2015: A year for growth, a year for reflection

As 2015 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year. And wow, what a year it’s been! From a purely geographical standpoint, the Azara team has visited clients, prospects and partners in 29 states. Not bad for a company that started in the fall of 2011 with fewer than 10 health centers – all of them here in Massachusetts. And we didn’t just visit multiple states this year – We are working with clients in nearly 20 states and have Azara team members p

ScreenGrab-2015-2-3-2202655-408ermanently located in four.

Needless to say, 2015 was extremely exciting for us. Our team grew significantly and our client base blossomed to more than 150 health centers spread across nearly 3,000 sites. DRVS has played a role in a variety of national, state and local programs as well as in the dozens of grants that our customers regularly win. Of all these accomplishments, I most enjoy watching our clients deliver the meaningful (and quantifiable) results that improve care and lower costs across a wide range of domains.

Key 2015 highlights:

Growth: Azara increased both its client base and its revenue by nearly 40%, solidifying and strengthening our balance sheet while assuring we can continue to invest in innovations within our product set and enhance our infrastructure well into the future.

Expanded office space: Azara moved into its current facilities in March of 2014 and within 12 months needed to nearly double our available office space.

National Staff Expansion: In addition to new staff in our Massachusetts headquarters, we added staff in California, Colorado, and Maryland. In September, Azara welcomed Patrick Crowley as Vice President of Engineering.

Grant & Program Involvement: This year, we worked closely with our clients to help them meet the requirements and goals of a variety of grants and programs, including HRSA HCCN funding, CDC Million Hearts, AHRQ Healthy Hearts, CMS’ Practice Transformation Network, and CDC efforts to prevent breast, cervical and colorectal cancers.

Product Milestones: Azara introduced a new user interface, integrated with the Massachusetts Health Information Highway (MassHIWay) – the statewide health information exchange. We achieved Meaningful Use certification for our Immunization Registry transmissions, delivered clinical data from EHRs to a variety of payers on behalf of our clients, added new reporting functionality for panel management and identifying undiagnosed hypertensives, and conducted multiple pilots that integrated payer enrollment and claims data with our rich set of clinical information.

Reflections on CHCs
In late November I had the privilege of attending the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (Mass League) celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Nations First Community Health Center. The event was held at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston. The venue was more than fitting, not only as a tribute to the late senator, who championed the cause of healthcare for all, but also because the Institute is just a stone’s throw from Columbia Point – the spot of the nation’s first health center. I spent the day with friends and clients from across the health center world listening to presentations from patients, health center leaders, legislators and other distinguished contributors who have made health centers what they are today. In my capacity at Azara, I have worked with community health centers for just about five years; I was humbled by the number of people in attendance who have given 30, 40 and even 50 years of their lives to ensuring the success and sustainability of health centers and healthcare for anyone who needs it.

While I thought I understood the history of the community health movement, hearing, seeing and meeting those responsible gave me a whole new perspective on how and why the first two health centers were established in 1965. I must admit that I had a limited view of the struggles and obstacles that have been overcome in the last 50 years. As the day wound to a close, I was particularly moved by hearing Dr. Jack Gieger – now well into his nineties – recount how he and Dr. Count Gibson developed a new model to provide accessible, affordable and high-quality healthcare for everyone, and how even he never could have imagined what has resulted in the past 50 years. A short video produced for the event can be found here.

Closing thoughts
As we wind up 2015, I want to close with a just a few important thoughts:

First, on the business side, while I feel this year was successful on many fronts, I am even more energized for 2016. The breadth and depth of opportunities that we are looking to tackle with our clients and partners next year is enormous. You should look forward to Azara helping you solve new problems and introducing innovative solutions and functionality that can assist you in accomplishing your mission. I look forward to sharing them as they become available.

Next, I expect the heightened awareness around the importance of high quality data and information in healthcare settings to continue its acceleration. I urge you to look at your data early and often and to find ways to integrate data into your day-to-day operations and delivery of care. A high-performing care team can't operate to the best of its abilities without good data.

Lastly, on behalf of all of us at Azara, I want to thank you – our clients and partners – for your unwavering support of Azara this past year. We are honored to be able to serve you and your teams as you work tirelessly to assure that no patient – no matter the circumstances – goes without the healthcare services they need. Hopefully, Azara’s assistance in some way helps you better accomplish your mission.

We offer our best wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy and plentiful new year.

Jeff Brandes is president and CEO of Azara Healthcare.