Personal Growth

Disruptive DNA: Healthcare digital revolution

July 2016

Health technology entrepreneur Rob Khamas is the Iraqi-born CEO and founder of REND Tech Associates, a leading provider of healthcare IT in Australia.

His national client base includes doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals, clinics and government organizations. Rob also writes about health technology for various publications, sharing his expertise on everything from cloud computing to wearable tech.

Defining Life Experiences

When Rob's family emigrated from Iraq in 1993, leaving behind a repressive regime and the horrors of the Persian Gulf War, Rob was the oldest of three children and just ten years old. After living for a year in Jordan, the Khamas family then migrated to Australia, where they had family connections, to start a new life.

The transition was made easier because they already spoke English, however Rob's mother, who had been a GP in Iraq, had to re-certify to resume her career in Australia. Abandoning traditional roles, Rob's father, a scientist in his home country, took on the responsibility of raising the three kids.

Rob says these early experiences taught him that change is a part of life and to this day, in his personal and business roles, he embraces change as something that ultimately leads to improvement, despite risks or hurdles.

“If you have a vision, stick to it. Sacrifices are often necessary but the end results are almost always worth it,” he says.

Rob named his company for his wife, Rend, a recruitment professional he had met through family connections when travelling to the UK. Rend grew up in an expatriate Iraqi family in Manchester (co-incidentally the home town of Rob's favourite soccer team) and the couple now have a two-year-old son.

Rob says that he and Rend are the odd-ones-out in their birth families, with most siblings, parents and extended family members working as doctors, from GPs to an orthopaedic surgeon and radiologist.

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Rob and his 2 year old son

Dinner-table discussions often spanned such issues as the paperwork and processing challenges in healthcare businesses. These informal chats later sparked his interest and understanding of medical practice processes, problem-solving and optimisation.

Despite his family's medical focus, Rob followed his fascination with technology to complete a Bachelor of Telecommunications Engineering degree at the University of Western Sydney.

The Path to Independence

Rob scored an internship in a software company on leaving university and worked his way up through several companies to become an IT manager in a medical services company, where his family background in medicine helped him excel.

Cloud technology was taking off and Rob – recognising the gap in the healthcare market for specialised IT services – established REND Tech Associates in 2012.

“We became the first company in Australia to deliver EMR and clinical applications on Citrix-based cloud platforms – on a wide scale,” said Rob.

His timing was fortuitous, occurring just as Australia introduced its Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) – something Rob knew was already happening in many other countries.

“It was very clear to me that the healthcare industry in Australia was sure to change from paper to digital. This technological revolution, bearing in mind that this an industry that resists change, needed IT specialists familiar with the processes and difficulties of running a practice or clinic," says Rob.

“It was very clear to me that the healthcare industry in Australia was sure to change from paper to digital”

Income, Advice and the Work-life Balance

Like many start-ups, REND didn't generate any income in the early days, so Rob worked on the business during the day, teaching IT in a local college at night to support his family and pay the bills.

Rob says he's forever grateful to foundation employees who sometimes worked unpaid in the early days until the company's client base was established.

Four years on, REND Tech Associates is going strong, doubling revenue year on year and now dealing with large healthcare enterprises and government-funded projects. It's a demanding sector calling for rigorous compliance with high security, privacy, recovery and process requirements.

Rob's articles and conference presentations on health technology are part of his desire to spread the word about how technology can reduce costs and increase efficiency in healthcare.

“These initiatives will lead to proactive rather than reactive patient care, especially in rural areas (thanks to telemedicine),” says Rob.

Profit isn't his primary focus, Rob says. His business model relies on providing cost-effective enterprise-class solutions and support to areas where there's a need.

Long working hours and a disrupted personal life are common when growing a start-up, and Rob says his biggest challenge has been finding the balance between running a business and spending time with his young family. The key is flexibility - for yourself and your employees, he says.

In 2014, the company received the Anthill Social Capitalist Award (Making the World a Better Place) for solving technology gaps in the health sector.

His advice to new entrepreneurs is sound. “Have a cash flow backup plan before starting a company and don't lose focus on why you started the business. Don't try to offer your solution to everyone, focus on a niche target market and deliver a perfect solution for that market.”

His vision for REND is clear. “Every single person living in Australia is entitled to the same opportunities to have good health,” he says. “Our vision is to create a platform using mobile technology to connect patients to the expertise of health professionals from all around the world.”

From war-torn country to a new life in Australia, Rob Khamas is proof that ambition, knowledge and innovation can help make a better society for all.

 

Contributing Writer: Michael O'Dwyer

Contributing Photographer: Brendan Fitzpatrick