An Interview with MacPractice Founder, Patrick Clyne, Part I

The medical practice software, MacPractice, was co-founded, under duress, in a basement in 2004 by Patrick Clyne. Since then, MacPactice has gone on to become a major, Mac only force in medical practice management, something few would have thought possible just a few years ago. TMO's John Martellaro met with Mr. Clyne at Macworld, and got the story, first hand, on the remarkable rise of this company.

It's a remarkable tale, a life in computers launched by the Apple II, the early Apple II product, a greedy personal betrayal, corporate malfeasance, an estranged sister, legal threats, lessons learned and the eventual launch and success of MacPractice.

TMO: Tell me about your early career. How did you get started in programming?

PAC: I got started programming because of an event that changed my life and its direction. On December 10, 1978 at 10:35 AM, I was hanging 40 feet in the air painting a grain elevator when I fell from my scaffolding -- fracturing my first and second lumbar. Those fractures required me to spend weeks in two hospitals with rehabilitation to walk again.  Since I was not able to do that kind of work anymore, workman's compensation kicked in and sent me to college. That accident was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Pat Clyne

Patrick A. Clyne

The love of computers started when I visited a teacher's house, and he showed me how to draw a colored line across the screen on an Apple II computer.  That afternoon I purchased my first Apple II and started learning the computer and how to program it. That was in 1979. For two years, I gave up friends, going out to bars and instead became a complete computer geek learning the computer 16-20 hours a day, seven days a week.  The computer was my friend, and it would do exactly what I asked it to do regardless of me being right or wrong.  It responded to my commands.

I started developing programs for market in 1981.  My first company was called Cider Systems Software, and my first program was called Master Key+. It was a combination hardware/software solution that allowed customers to remove copy protection from protected disks. It was created to unlock other programs to learn how they were developed. Bill Budge was my programming idol at the time, and I wanted to see his code.   At the same time I was also a contributing editor developing small games and utilities for an Apple II magazine called Nibble.  To add to the excitement, I sold Master Key+ to Apple, Honeywell and IBM.

Thinking back, I think Apple purchased Master Key+ to see how I was accomplishing protection removal because when the Apple IIe was released, my product failed to work. But that was okay -- I had already moved on to something else.

TMO: In a sense, that was your first computer job. But what was your first get up in the morning and go to work job?

PAC: My first job was opening a licensed school to instruct people how to use the computer. At the same time, the community college I was attending hired me to finish teaching a microcomputer class since they had to let the original instructor go. He was coming to class intoxicated. I went from student to instructor in one semester with no training.

My licensed school lasted a couple years. Then at the request of my brother-in-law, who was a dentist, I developed a program called DentalMac in 1984.

By 1985, other dentists wanted to purchase DentalMac, so I and a handful of others created HealthCare Communications “HCC” to sell and support DentalMac.  Subsequently MediMac, ChiroMac and OpticMac were developed from DentalMac.

DentalMac and MediMac became the fastest, most popular selling practice management applications over the next few years on both the Mac and PC. Because I didn't have any controlling interests in HCC, I was outsted in 1993 by my new brother-in-law, the HCC CEO who wanted all the recognition for the company's success.

TMO: What happened next?

PAC: After I left HCC, the company totally tanked due to poor management and no software development. Before losing everything, MediMac and ChiroMac were sold to WebMD and DentalMac was sold to Unident. HCC closed its doors.

In 2001, I was hired by WebMD to enhance MediMac and ChiroMac because they didn't have any engineers familiar with the product, and I knew the source code.

TMO: But then you left WebMD later. How did that happen?

PAC: I was continuing to develop MediMac for WebMD, but it cost less compared to their flagship product they already had. That was a problem.

One day, one of our sales people, Mark Hollis, was trying to sell MediMac to a doctor for $4,500 at the same time another WebMD sales person was trying to sell the same doctor WebMD's flagship product for $30,000.  It appeared that the doctor was going to buy [the lower cost] MediMac until the other sales person complained to WebMD because he was loosing a $30,000 sale to a $4,500 product owned by the same company.

Once WebMD management got wind of the sale they decided to stop selling and developing MediMac. On April 16, 2004, my boss fired me. That created another life changing event.

TMO: Did that lead to MacPractice?

PAC: Yes. Being out of a job and recently married to my wife -- with four kids -- was huge motivating factor in starting MacPractice.

I had been creating and developing practice management software for about 20 years and figured I had the background and knowledge to start my own company.  My WebMD boss, after firing me, made a recommendation that I talk to Mark Hollis about him being a partner for my new business venture that I was thinking about. 

Meanwhile my brother-in-law started a new company called HealthWare Corporation to develop practice management software for the Mac. He asked me to be his partner. I asked him what he would bring to the table, and his response was "I know how to make deals and run a company, and you don’t." Recalling that he was the one who outsted me at HCC and that HCC failed, I declined to partner with him.

MacPractice was launched on May 3, 2004 in my basement. It consisted of Mark Hollis who would be president and in charge of sales and marketing and me.  I hired a bright engineer Erik Wrenholt (who was turned down by HealthWare by the way) to lead the engineering team.  My job was to oversee the design, development and supporting the software.  Basically I would be acting as a COO and Mark the CEO.  Our competition would be HealthWare.

Mark and I figured we would have software ready for release by April 2005 and estimated how many sales we would need each year to survive.  Our goal was to go after the people using DentalMac, MediMac and ChiroMac. The owners of those applications stopped development and were also ceasing support. Their goal was to convert the users to PC products -- our goal was to keep them on the products they were using till we could deliver MacPractice to them.

TMO: How did things go at first?

PAC: We learned that we were way off in projecting sales. We sold three times what we thought we would do in the first year, and from day one we were profitable due to Mark's selling abilities. In one month alone, Mark sold over 120 contracts -- which I thought totally impossible. My wife was entering all the data for us, and I had to hide contracts from her so she would go to bed. The next morning, I'd give her more to enter.

Tomorrow, in Part II, WebMD threatens MacPractice.

MacPractice MWSF2009 booth

MacPractice Booth at Macworld San Francisco 2009

MacPractice sells Medical, Dental and Chiropractic practice software exclusively for the Macintosh platform.