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Remote Rescues, Real Profits for Medical Firm

SEATTLE -- If you see Andrew Cull hunched over his iPhone, don't bug him.

The 30-year-old paramedic-turned-chief executive may be dispatching a helicopter to rescue a fallen mountain climber in Nepal or overseeing the evacuation of a scientist from a research station in the South Pacific.

In less than seven years, Cull has built Remote Medical International, which provides emergency-medical services around the globe.

It has 67 employees and medical personnel who rotate to keep staff on every continent. They're coordinated by phones and online software systems set up in Seattle.

Remote Medical provides telemedicine services around the clock from offices in Washington, D.C., and has a big presence in Canada, serving Alberta's ice road, the main winter drag between the Northwest Territories and Alberta.

It also provides training ranging from wilderness first aid for hikers to rope-rescue techniques for combat medics to reach soldiers trapped over cliffs in Afghanistan.

And the company runs a Web site selling medical kits and supplies, plus such rescue gear as climbing ropes and harnesses.

Overall sales are on track to expand 300 percent this year, after growing 400 percent to nearly $10 million in 2008, Cull said.

By providing extreme services in exotic places, Remote Medical might also be offering glimpses of ways medical services could be streamlined, coordinated and delivered, especially now that the government has committed billions to accelerate the use of electronic health records.

It's also an example of how technology has helped an entrepreneur build a global business with minimal overhead in less than a decade.

Remote Medical's gains haven't come from any particular device, though its doctors and medics share information via iPhones, MacBooks, BlackBerries and satellite phones.

What's striking is how easy it has been for him to build and run a company providing medical care to people around the world, distributing supplies, filling prescriptions, handling billing, working with medical records and making money in the process.

This is done with an information-technology department of two people: Cull and his pal Chris Kenney, director of Remote Medical's equipment and supply group.

A key to the success, Cull said, has been the strong business systems. The laptop gave way to servers and a SQL-based system he customized, until switching three years ago to NetSuite, an online business-software suite.

About the same time, the company switched to Macs, though it maintains one PC for government contracts.

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