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Kyruus CEO Shares Perspective on Digital Health in Massachusetts

Kyruus CEO Shares Perspective on Digital Health in Massachusetts

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Digital Triage...A Faster Path to Treatment

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Kyruus CEO Shares Perspective on Digital Health in Massachusetts
Kyruus CEO Shares Perspective on Digital Health in Massachusetts
Digital Triage...A Faster Path to Treatment
Digital Triage...A Faster Path to Treatment
TechSpring Taps Wealth of Healthcare Innovation in Western Massachusetts
TechSpring Taps Wealth of Healthcare Innovation in Western Massachusetts

When talking about the way his company is attempting to change health care, Kyruus CEO Graham Gardner starts with Moneyball, the book about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who flipped the sport on its head through his analytical approach which assigned high values to utility players that other teams saw as castoffs.

As the head of a rising Massachusetts digital health startup, Gardner sees parallels between Beane’s approach and the solution that Kyruus has built, a software engine that helps hospitals systems connect patients with the “right provider, the first time,” sorting through troves of data to find open appointments, but also ensuring that hospitals utilize the expertise of a specific physicians, by sending them patients with ailments they’re experts in treating.

“It gets to heart of the supply and demand challenge,” notes Gardner. “Patients want to get the best care from a physician with the right set of skills; hospitals want to make sure that they fill open slots with patients.”   

In our interview with Dr. Gardner, he highlighted other industries that influence his company and he talked about the ways his company benefits from being a product of the Massachusetts health care and technology ecosystems. 

Kyruus was founded by a team of physicians and technologists who saw an opportunity to leverage Big Data to better measure the variation across physician practice styles, and then develop solutions to help maximize the value of every physician in the context of healthcare delivery networks. To learn more about the type of challenges Kyruus’ patient-provider matching software is targeting, read his article published in Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review from November 2016.

Q: What does the phrase “Digital Health” mean to your company?  

"In my view, it is really helping to extend the personal relationship between patient and provider, which I think is special and must remain special. Patients are very open with their providers and they talk about the most intimate details, and that has to be at the forefront. 

“Patients are becoming better consumers of health care, they know more about their care and are feeling more empowered to express their desires about their care.

“We have to understand that they’re on their mobile phone, running from home, to day care, to the office. And they’re asking, ‘Why do I need to come to the office to get a prescription you [the doctor] could have called in?’

“So to me, digital health is about preserving the personal relationship, but extending it to better respond to patients and their demands as consumers.  Digital health to me represents all the channels we’re using to do that – yes, we have a website now where we have pictures of our doctors, but it’s more strategic than that. Digital health is constantly being redefined, but it’s certainly broader than us just having a website. It’s about how we use these tools to actually develop a better relationship with them over time.” 

Q: Why does bringing healthcare into the digital age matter?

“What digital can do is to begin to customize how people want to engage, and how patients and providers can find each other, and then actually engage in ways that are better suited for that pairing of patient and provider. Rather than in a mass system, where you park in a parking lot, take an elevator up, and go into an office where 17 neurologists sit, which has been the historic way. Now, there’s this opportunity to customize and diversify how they engage.”  

Q: How is digital health (or your product specifically) driving ‘real world impact’?

“We’re a data-driven company, so from ‘Day One’ it’s instrumental to show impact. The first thing we wanted to make sure was, operationally, we were helping out health systems. 

“In a lot of what we measured, when you move from post-it notes, binders, and the scribbled back-office numbers – to a more Travelocity-like system - there’s going to be huge benefits. Staffers can get through a phone call much faster. They resolve and find the right doctor faster, because they’re not having to flip through binders. There’s instant operational benefits. The conversion of people calling in and finishing with a booked appointment goes up dramatically, anywhere from thirty to seventy percent.

“Financially, what we began to observe was that doctors could more easily look across the entire system and find their colleagues, and could keep care within the walls of the hospital. So care began to get coordinated within, instead of leaking out. So we can translate that to tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars per year, of new revenue, because patients are now being routed to doctors who previously weren’t busy. 

Q: What was the genesis of you or your company setting up shop in Massachusetts? And what kept you here? 

 “We made a very explicit decision to set up shop here. I was born in Boston, moved away, and then came back in 1999 to do my medical training at Beth-Israel Deaconess and eventually went to business school here as well. For my family, there was also a strong support network in the area.

“There was also a strong professional reason - we knew we wanted to do Big Data in healthcare. As I looked around the country, this region is the healthcare mecca. Not only do you have great institutions, you have all kinds of institutions: there’s a specialty cancer hospital, there’s a top children’s hospital, there are top academic hospitals, there are for-profit hospitals trying to survive among top academic hospitals. It is an unbelievable mix, all captured in one town. It also helped that we knew a lot of people in this town, which is another check box.  

“The other side of it was Big Data. At the time we were starting out, you had Kayak, you had ITA Software, you had Endeca, and Netezza. You had a bunch of companies that had recently been purchased or gone public. If you know anything about companies that have recently gone public, about a year later, folks start to leave. So we had a wonderful talent pool of people trained in Big Data, in other industries that were, quite frankly, 30 years ahead of healthcare. So you could now bring those people into health care and in the mecca of health care.

“We had talked about moving to California, and already this sucking sound to move to the West Coast, but we said no, this is the right place to do enterprise healthcare/big data.”

Why Mass Digital Health?

“We made a very explicit decision to set up shop here.... This region is the healthcare mecca... This is the right place to do enterprise healthcare/big data.”

Q: Is it tough to on-board from other industries?

“It varies across functions. On the account management/sales side:  yes, you need to be from health care. You need to speak that language and pronounce the words the right way.

“The flip side of that is on the engineering side. Our infrastructure – Amazon Web Services, Hadoop – a lot of that is just core technology. There the difference between industries is trivial, and we sometimes look to people who aren’t necessarily in healthcare and can bring outside expertise to health care.

“On the product side, it’s somewhere in the middle. There you really have to hear and understand the stories from the healthcare side, but then ask ‘how can I leverage the best of technology’ to solve those problems. Our product team has some incredible people and it starts with my co-founder, Julie Yoo – she’s unbelievable. One of the most articulate, strategic-thinking people I’ve ever met, but who can also code with the best of them. That understanding sets the standard for what our product was going to be.” 

Q: Has it been a challenge convincing customers [physicians, patients, payers] that an innovative technology was the solution they needed? Was there a desire to stay with ‘tried & true’ systems? How did you overcome that hesitancy?

“The formula that we’ve gotten right is, first of all, credibility. A number of us came from the health care world. Sanjay Pathak was one of the senior vice presidents at the Brigham – when hospitals see him here, they say ‘OK, you get it’. 

“The second thing, has been, telling a good story. Even though it takes time, and it can be frustrating at time,

"With the first customers who believe in you - you’ve got to deliver. This is a really small industry. If you’re not good to people, word gets out very very quickly. Now the good news is that, when you are you are good to people, word also gets out very very quickly.

“One of the neat things about healthcare – MassGeneral couldn’t care less what Houston Methodist is doing, or what Providence is doing in Seattle. So they’re happy to say ‘Yeah, we’ve got this great solution – we don’t care if you use it.’ Whereas Ford would never tell Chevy that ‘hey, there’s this great thing.’ That’s been helpful.”

Q: Your company has had some success in the digital health space – what do you attribute that success to? Can other companies learn anything from your journey?

“There’s no silver bullet and no easy answer. My advice to entrepreneurs: start with what you’re trying to accomplish and that drives your financing strategy.

“Quite frankly, one of the most important things I do - I tell stories and set a vision for the company. Then I make sure we have money to let great people do stuff. That starts with understanding ‘what are you trying to accomplish?’ and ‘what’s the opportunity?’ If you’re going to try to do a little app that will have a market opportunity of $10 million one day. If you’re going to do that, that’s great, just don’t raise venture capital. It’s a fundamental mismatch. That’s the kind of thing you bootstrap.

“However if you saw, as we did, the seismic change happening around the creation of Accountable Care and the liberation of all this health data, as well as a technology jump with Hadoop and the rest of it - there was an opportunity to create a whole new category in health care around referral management and patient access. That is something you want to capitalize in a way that you can go after it.  

Massachusetts Connections

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