I GREW up in a log cabin in West Greenwich, R.I., with no nearby neighbors. My mother, who was a hospital nurse, and my father, an administrator for a community health center, divorced when I was young.
When I was 10, my stepfather, a biochemist, introduced me to computers. He used to take me to his office at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, where I could play with the computers no one was using. I taught myself computer programming.
I loved computers so much that I would also go to the local Radio Shack and sit at a computer for hours. The employees used to joke that they needed to buy me a cot to sleep on.
Another passion I found at a young age was music. I learned to play the guitar and the piano, and, starting in high school, I played weekend gigs at clubs with local bands. That interest led me to my wife, Cara Mia, a nurse. (One of her friends was one of our band members.) We married in 1995 and have two daughters, now 11 and 14.
My father, Gerald, started a software consulting firm in 1984 in the basement of his house and expanded the business to his first office in Cranston, R.I., and later to larger quarters in Providence. At age 14, I started to write software for his health clinic clients to streamline the way they scheduled appointments and billed patients for services.
When it came time for college, I decided not to go. I was still very challenged by my programming work and building our company, then called G. Barry & Associates. Attending school did not hold my interest at that time. At first, my dad and I did it all, installing and maintaining the management software for our clients and making sure everything was running smoothly.
In 2004, my father decided to become our company’s chairman, and I took over as the chief executive and changed the name to MEDfx. It was a great time for us because the United States Department of Health and Human Services was rolling out several major initiatives to tackle the fragmentation of medical care information.
I wanted to help solve the challenge of gathering and organizing health data, so I restructured our business and hired a development team to build a health information platform. We worked with some partners, including several Fortune 500 companies, to come up with MEDfx Interchange, which is software used to share data among physicians, hospitals and clinics.
Using this software, federal agencies that deal with Social Security, veterans, Medicare and Medicaid can all talk to one another. So people applying for Social Security disability benefits, for example, may be able to receive a much faster determination because all their medical information can be accessed quickly.
We also designed a Web portal, MEDfx Lifescape, to make it easier for physicians, whether government or private doctors, to browse a patient’s medical history. Before this, if a veteran went to a private physician, it was hard for a doctor with the Department of Veterans Affairs or Defense Department to see his or her whole health picture.
We have since developed different components of our software to enable sharing of medical data among physicians and other health care providers. A Virginia statewide health information exchange, called ConnectVirginia, uses the software to help coordinate patient care and deliver services more cost-effectively.
Our work may seem very technical, but I’ve always followed my core passion of trying to use technology to help solve some of the most difficult challenges facing our health care system.
Originally published in the New York Times. As told to Elizabeth Olson.