As the co-founder, CEO and leading force behind new technology development at Azalea Health, Baha Zeidan is a real-life health IT superhero. After graduating from Valdosta State University and climbing the medical laboratory ladder, Baha was ready for a new challenge. Guided by his passion for cloud computing, mobile development, device computing and big data analytics, Baha set off on an epic entrepreneurial journey.
We got a chance to capture a few highlights in a recent interview. Take a look:
Tell me a bit about what you do at Azalea Health.
Azalea Health offers a fully integrated EHR, practice management and RCM billing service solutions to physicians and specialty practices of all sizes. We do the heavy lifting on the practice management side so providers can focus more on patient care. Thanks to new innovations and government regulation, healthcare technology is constantly evolving, and our goal as a company is to help the industry navigate those changes.
What initially sparked your interest and landed you in the HealthIT space?
It was actually accidental. I was working as an intern in the IT department of a medical laboratory company. I was eventually offered a full-time position and worked with that company for seven years. It was a great experience and I learned a lot but eventually hit a glass ceiling and decided that it was time to do something new – something innovative and disruptive.
What spurred you to create Azalea Health? Did you have an “aha” moment or did it happen organically?
I would say the inspiration came through a network of “aha” moments rather than just one. My co-founder, Dan Henry, and I attended Valdosta State University. Doug Swords is the 3rd co-founder, we both use to workout at the YMCA in town. I remember us casually talking about starting a business together one day. Once we discovered that the health IT industry was behind compared to the financial IT industry – lacking digitization, systems and solid infrastructure – we decided that was our chance, and we dove in. It’s been a crazy ride ever since.
Fantastic – I also read that as a business owner you’re passionate about giving back to the communities you live and work in. What causes do you care about and, as a CEO, how do you find the time?
It’s honestly pretty easy to find the time. Volunteering is a great thing to do for our community as well as a great tool for team building. Whether we’re running 5K for United Way or building/renovating homes with Habitat for Humanity, giving back strengthens our team dynamic and boosts morale. It’s really important to me personally and also my team at Azalea Health.
How did your relationship with Acuity begin?
I met Matthew at an event many years ago – I remember thinking he was a super smart guy and knew he would be great to work with. We kept in touch and when Azalea Health was ready to shift our accounting, working with Acuity was a no-brainer. We needed someone who was incredibly knowledgeable of the industry (especially the software and regulations side) but also easy to talk to. The Acuity team met all of our needs and has helped us navigate not only fundraising but also every other financial aspect involved in scaling our business.
How about the morning routine. What does that look like for you?
I am a big believer in getting some sort of exercise every single day. My advice is to knock it out in the morning so you can tackle the day. My mornings consist of at least thirty minutes of running, pushups, situps, coffee and a shower. Then I head to work where I have a daily 8:30 AM call (on the dot) with the entire executive team.
How do you spend your time outside of work? Any top secret hobbies that you’re interested in sharing with the world?
If I’m not working, I’m probably listening to music. I love listening to blues and going to see live shows at venues. I also try to play golf as much as possible and love being out in nature hiking.
Any advice for achieving a healthy work/life balance?
Like I mentioned, I advise people to make time in the morning to work out. This helps you take your mind off of everything and can be very therapeutic, in my opinion. Stay in touch with friends, read thought-provoking books, scan industry articles daily and get involved in the community. I’m a firm believer in balance.
What do you find to be the most rewarding part of entrepreneurial life?
The coolest part is imagining something in your mind and then working so hard to make it a reality. I love how, as an entrepreneur, you must be willing to venture into uncharted territories. We don’t follow paths, we create them. You’ll make mistakes and take plenty of punches, but it’s totally worth it. At least for me, it’s all very worth it.