With an ageing global population and healthcare taking an increasing percentage of GDP, there is plenty of opportunity to grow for New Zealand company Atlantis Healthcare, whose patient support programmes help ensure chronic disease sufferers are adhering to their medication regimes.
Proper medication adherence will save governments billions of dollars in healthcare costs, says Atlantis Healthcare chief executive Michael Whittaker.
"Around 50 per cent of patients are not taking their medicine as it has been prescribed after six months, leading to a relapse of the disease and potentially death," Whittaker says.
With a staff of 250, which includes managers, nurses, psychologists, dietitians and oncology doctors, Atlantis has patient support programmes for a number of chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Atlantis, set up in 1993, has experience in more than 51 diseases spanning different cultures and markets and has implemented more than 80 programmes globally on behalf of pharmaceutical companies and government health services.
The company has helped around 750,000 patients worldwide.
The Atlantis adherence programme is different for every patient but might include a nurse coming to the house to help inject a diabetes patient or a text coming in reminding a patient it is time to take their medicine.
Each programme is tailored to the individual and a particular disease through OnTrack xRM, the company's patient relationship management system.
The Auckland-based company also has one of the world's largest health psychology teams, Whittaker says.
"People have a view around their illness," he says.
With cancer patients, because of the side effects of their medication, they may take half a dose thinking that won't change the effectiveness.
"If you can change the beliefs, then you can get long-term health change," he says.
Atlantis, with offices in Europe, the United Kingdom and Australasia, has recently entered the vast US market, basing itself in New Jersey, near the country's main pharmaceutical companies.
"We are taking a very cautious approach, we have got some launch clients and we want to build our infrastructure first," Whittaker says.
The US move was a natural expansion after entering the Spanish and German markets. Atlantis also does business in the Middle East /Africa.
"The big challenge has been evolving a company that leaves its Anglo-Saxon roots and becomes a multi-national business," says Whittaker, who was 2001 Entrepreneur of the Year.
Brazil and Japan both hold interest for the company in the future.
A strong pharmaceutical presence, good health care delivery systems and size of population are all key ingredients when choosing a new market, Whittaker says.
Atlantis Healthcare markets itself internationally with strong New Zealand branding, he says.
"We want to create a point of differentiation that our competitors could not have."
Atlantis has been helped in its international expansion by its 50 per cent shareholder, London-based White Cloud Capital, which took a $20 million stake in the company in July 2010.
Whittaker describes White Cloud as a private family investor, with around $30 billion of assets around the world which makes medium to long-term investments.
Atlantis co-founders Whittaker, Jonny Duder, Hamish Franklin and Sarah Walsh still all work in the business at senior levels.
Two directors representing White Cloud's interests are on the board, one of whom is New Zealand businessman Gary Paykel and the other two are Atlantis founders. When White Cloud came into the company, Atlantis had a value of around $41 million.
Whittaker says since that 2010 value, the company has increased turnover by 60 per cent, a rate of 30-40 per cent turnover a year. He describes turnover as in the tens of millions.