The Portuguese IT company installed a new way of performing medicine in hospitals in 28 countries
ALERT is currently an important part of the business tourism activity in the Porto region in Portugal. This technological company's head office in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, has already welcomed around 150 delegations (each including an average of 20 people) from 28 countries. The visitors, including 4 foreign Ministers for Health (the latest from Saudi Arabia), wanted to see how is it possible to create a paper-free information system for hospitals.
Besides a visit to the seven floors of ALERT's modern premises – which have a superb view over the mouth of the river Douro –, Jorge Guimarães, ALERT's founder and president, and his brother César Guimarães, the company's CEO, take the foreign delegations on a visit to one of the Portuguese hospitals that have already adopted the paper-free information system, such as Évora Hospital and the Médio Ave Hospital Complex. "It is important that our visitors understand what goes on here, and that they also see the complex product at work in the real world," commented Jorge Guimarães, who further mentioned that the adoption of ALERT® PAPER FREE HOSPITAL "requires major changes in hospitals." "As such, it requires a lot of pondering from decision makers. Is is not the same thing as acquiring a consumable," he highlighted.
Starting by watching the various features of ALERT's software suite for hospitals and primary care centers at the demonstration center, the delegations are then taken to the laboratory environment, where they are able to visit the various areas of the company, such as product design and the software company. The visit ends at the support centre. "At the end, they understand the excellence of the post-sales support we provide to our customers anywhere in the world," says César Guimarães.
It is because of this consistent sales technique that the IT company has closed important deals in 28 countries, which include sophisticated markets such as the United Kingdom or the Netherlands – the latter with the product present in two of its major local hospitals (with over one thousand beds). "Our products are currently used by 55 thousand professionals in 12 thousand healthcare facilities," mentioned Jorge Guimarães. "We export a new way of performing medicine and we are aware that we are solving questions for which there was no solution, and we are improving the country's image," he added.
Moreover, ALERT is forever increasing its export quota. "In 2008, 61% of our turnover came from exports, and last year we achieved the magic figure of two thirds worth of exports (67%)," said Jorge Guimarães. The strategy for now is to increase sales in the markets where ALERT already has subsidiaries – Spain, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, United States, Singapore and Dubai – or in the 30 countries where there are distributors. Although the new markets' approach strategy is to happen during a second phase, ALERT® is already enabled in Chinese, Japanese and the Russian language.
Third major contracts in Italy
ALERT signed an important contract for the implementation of (paper-free) software in two hospitals of the Veneto region.
ALERT has just signed its third contract in Italy, which will allow for the removal of paper in two healthcare units in the Veneto region, which offer over one thousand beds. This business deal contributes towards the Portuguese IT company's fast average growth of the last four years (64% per year).
ALERT 'only' grew 17% in 2009 due to the "delay in making decisions", but it didn't have to deal with the crisis at hand. For the years ahead, César Guimarães, the company's CEO, estimates a greater growth which must continue to be sustained by its own resources. "We have been employing a great discipline in presenting results and we created internal procedures according to the best international practices," César Guimarães mentioned. This manager does not deny that the company (which is fully owned by his brother Jorge and himself), may "have to resort to new funding means." But he considers that it is "too early to think of going into the stock market," which may occur at a later stage "when internationalization justifies that."
Established in 1999 by Jorge Guimarães' initiative – a 42 year old physician who studied in the United States – ALERT was formerly an internet portal providing healthcare support to citizens. The idea of creating a paper-free information system for hospitals occurred when, visiting a state hospital in Porto, Jorge Guimarães noticed the amount of paper work circulating in the hospital. He gave life to his idea with his brother César – a business studies graduate – and set up a team of IT programmers who developed the first hospital management applications. By 2001, ALERT was already making a profit and had started to grow at a vertiginous pace.
One of the secrets to ALERT's success lies in the fact that physicians and nurses easily adhere to the paper-free hospital module. This task is assured by company employees (psychologists by large) who provide support to healthcare professionals during the first months of software implementation at the hospital.
Nowadays, ALERT has 630 employees with university degrees (bachelors, master degrees and PhDs) in biochemistry, pharmacy, medicine, psychology, nursing, mathematics, engineering, architecture, and other… "Portuguese employees are among the best in the world," assures Jorge Guimarães. J.R.