Scotte Hudsmith starts a company that's all about the parental controls [From the July/August issue of Nashville Post magazine]

When it comes to running a business, Scotte Hudsmith is a self-described “high-growth guy.”

Preferring the daily surprises and challenges of a burgeoning company to the steady pace of an established business, Hudsmith left his executive post at Passport Health Communications last year — after helping the firm more than double its revenue and complete a $232 million recapitalization — to find his next high-growth opportunity.

In Parental Health, Hudsmith thinks he’s found it.

Hudsmith founded the company to develop and market a technology system aimed at helping older adults remain independent as long as possible. Called MISTY — short for “medical information systems to you” — it’s a touch-screen computer with a built-in Web cam that can be used to monitor and manage a senior’s health while keeping him or her connected with loved ones.

MISTY’s functions include a health monitor that, for example, could trigger a Web call with a nurse if a diabetic individual’s blood sugar test shows an unusual spike. A medication management tool helps seniors remember to take their drugs and alerts family or a health professional when a dose is missed.

To stay connected with family, MISTY has a pared-down Facebook-like social media feature for interacting with family or friends online. It has a large on-screen keyboard so seniors can send text messages to grandchildren. It even has a “family legacy” section that prompts users to record short videos about their life and experiences that can be easily shared with family.

The growth opportunity Hudsmith sees for Parental Health is significant, he says, given the number of aging Americans and the cost savings MISTY offers over more traditional care settings: It will cost about $250 per month as opposed to several thousand dollars a month for assisted living or nursing care.

In order to jump start that growth, Hudsmith was working to secure about $3 million in capital in June. Prior to that point, he’d been self-funding and running the business. The additional financial support is slotted for rolling out a beta version of the product in August, with a sales and marketing effort to follow for a general product release in October or November.

Hudsmith recently spoke with Nashville Post about starting this entrepreneurial endeavor and his plans for the business in the future.

How did you develop the MISTY concept?

I went home to see my dad last fall and kind of realized where he is in his aging process. I started looking around for alternative solutions — what would be a good solution for him, as he needed to go to assisted living or adult day care or those different pieces, and he really wanted to remain independent. I just said, “There has to be a better solution.”

With the focus groups and tests you’ve done, have you had any difficulty getting seniors comfortable with using the system?

We haven’t so far. We’ve done focus groups and health fairs, and they’re very intrigued by it. We did the senior health fair at the Maryland Farms YMCA—folks would walk up and touch it and play with it and use it. The one unique thing was women would walk up and start touching the screen, and men would use the remote to start driving it.

What’s the market potential you see for this product?

Today in the United States there are 40 million seniors who would potentially have a use for the product, and another 35 million Baby Boomers behind them that are going into that group. We’re going to reach those groups through direct-to-consumer advertising. We’ll write commercials; we have three for television and one radio. And then we have a corporate sales staff going out calling on senior living facilities, Medicare HMOs and hospitals and eventually the physician market.

You’ve said you enjoy the high growth, but not the “maintain” phase of running a company. Do you think you’ll exit Parental Health once it reaches a certain size?

Likely. If it gets to a maintain and very slow growth role, I’ll probably move to a chairman role and hire someone else to run it. But I don’t envision that happening for a while. I think this one is five years, maybe even 10 years before we get to that place. I see a very high growth period for a long period of time because of the number of seniors.

But when you sit in that first meeting where the entire meeting is talking about human resource policy, and ordering office supplies, and whether you have the right coffee in the lunch room, you’re usually in maintain mode and it’s time to go.