PART 1: Charlie Barnett says just practicing medicine was not enough for him

Charlie Barnett(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series spotlighting long-time Knoxville Physician and Entrepreneur Charlie Barnett.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“I never would have done all of that if I had just practiced medicine,” Knoxville Physician Charlie Barnett says in relation to his numerous entrepreneurial pursuits.

We have known the affable and candid internist for years and have discussed several of his start-ups during various conversations. We recently convinced him to let us do a article on his varied interests and the lessons he learned along the way.

“Doctors are trained as problem solvers,” Barnett says. That preparation, coupled with something his father gave him at age six, might help explain the more than 30-year entrepreneurial path that Barnett has pursued alongside his medical career.

“Dad was a Physicist as Oak Ridge,” Barnett says, adding that the late Herma Postma, one in a series of well-known Directors of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was a Post Doc for his father.

The older Barnett gave his then six-year old son a chemistry set and microscope.

“I couldn’t read, but I could take things apart and look at them,” he says. Among the many things he examined under the microscope was roadkill.

“I was a weird kid,” Barnett says with a twinkle in his eyes and his typical sheepish grin.

That curiosity has taken him through a number of entrepreneurial ventures – some successful and some that were not.

“I’ve generally been 15 years ahead of my time,” Barnett says of his entrepreneurial pursuits, explaining that it’s not that he is brighter than others, but more that his concepts were just not ready for broad market adoption.

To illustrate the example, Barnett cited one example that anyone who has visited a doctor in recent years has observed. We’re talking about Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

“I wrote my own medical record in 1985 and used it until 2002,” Barnett says. It and a companion office management system were written in dBase.

With his typical candor, Barnett says his EMR worked much better than those in use today.

“It was a one-page summary of the patient,” he explains. “Now, they are five to 12 pages long.”

More recently, Barnett has been exploring a solution to a key deficiency in the health records space – the absence of an accessible from anywhere single, consolidated history on a patient. Unless an individual’s doctors are on a single EHR system, the only way for those doctors to access that information is the cumbersome process of faxing or mailing.

“You have to make a decision on incomplete information,” Barnett says about the physician.

He believes the solution could rest with the highly popular USB device.

“You give it to the patient who gives it to his or her doctor,” Barnett says. “As long as it is the patient providing the information, the transfer is not covered by HIPAA.” The latter is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

While most of Barnett’s start-up efforts center around healthcare, there are a few that don’t.

NEXT: Other Barnett entrepreneurial endeavors and the lessons he has learned from the journeys.

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