Delivering Smarter Patient Care Decisions with A.I. — Full

In this week’s episode of StartUp Health NOW! MDOps Co-founder and CEO, Avinash Kodey, talks about his background in AI, workflow automation, and how MDOps is helping health care professionals deliver smarter patient care decisions without compromising efficiency

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Key takeaways from this episode of StartUp Health NOW can be found here.

[00:04] Steven Krein: Welcome to StartUp Health NOW! The weekly show celebrating the Health Transformers and changemakers reimagining medicine. My name is Steven Krein and on today’s episode we have Avinash Kodey, the CEO and co-founder of MDops.

[00:16] Music Intro

[00:54] Steven Krein: Avinash. Welcome to StartUp Health NOW!

[00:56] Avinash Kodey: I’m glad to be here.

[00:57] Steve: I’m excited, you know, it’s been really nice getting to know you, but I want everyone else to get to know you. Tell us a little bit about you because you have a great background and we’re going talk a little bit your company, but I think your background and what you have been doing for the last 15 or 20 years and now what you’re now doing obviously go together. But, give us a snapshot of who you are.

[01:16] Avinash: Been in this technology industry for around 20 years now and my primary, you know, I have a background through a Masters in Artificial Intelligence but primarily majority of my focus has been in the automation part of it. As I started getting involved in the healthcare, you know, to visits to the local hospital to visit a friend, I started realizing how backward they are compared to other sectors like financials. I saw a real potential and I knew at some point the industry is going to catch up.

[01:52] Steve: So you had watched workflow automation transforming other industries. But not in

[01:56] Avinash: Not in healthcare. Then, around 2010 I started looking into it and that’s when I slowly started getting involved and I felt that was one of the key pieces. The automation part of it. The workflow automation. We still have these providers tagging along with paperwork and all that and so here I am after four, five, six years. We’re focused heavily in how to automate and simplify clinicians workflow.

[02:23] Steve: Ok. So, before we jump into that. What we’re doing. You were a developer, you were at CA. Tell me, I want to bridge this a little bit because your background, I think, it demonstrates for a lot of people that sometimes you don’t need to know anything about health care. But, whether you’re a technologist, or clinician, or a student you simply just need to look and see sometimes what the opportunities are. But you’ve got a very unique background.

[02:49] Avinash: So, you know, I came to this country through my, you know, student visa. Came for my Master’s. Did mine in AI artificial intelligence. And then I..

[03:00] Steve: When everybody wasn’t doing exactly artificial intelligence.

[03:03] Avinash: Exactly. At that time it was completely out of vogue. You know, I heard people laughing at me, what were you thinking? But I got into CA Technologies. I spent around 13, 14 years of my life there. Primarily involved in workflow automation solutions.

[03:20] Steve: Did you know what that was before you got involved with it?

[03:22] Avinash: No. I got involved and then I got, you know, that was a product that I was supposed to deal with and I got in. You know, slowly as you get involved you see, you know, what the technology can do and involve.

[03:34] Steve: To the average person how would you explain workflow automation? I mean, it sounds pretty self-descriptive but how do you explain it?

[03:43] Avinash: It essentially, it’s designed to serve two purposes. One is make, automate a manual task that is, that can, a repeatable manual task. Such as. Such as, how you want a certain entry to be cleared or some field to be done every time a certain event occurs. It’s a mapped event with no intelligence involved in it. So, it’s a mechanical thing. So, you initially in 70’s you had a person, whenever an event occurred he would put a stamp on a piece of paper.

[04:19] Avinash: But now the system will go and do it because there’s no intelligence involved in that. So that’s how it started off, the workflow automation. You know, eliminate the human intervention there, it is not necessary. Leave the human intervention to intelligent actions.

[04:32] Steve: What industries did you do this in before you got involved in healthcare?

[04:36] Avinash: So, primarily it was in financials because financials where, you know, they were highly invested in technology and they were probably the forefront of our, you know, adopting technology. So they were very forefront and that’s where I saw how they were adopted and how they were able to achieve efficiency. So the financial industry was probably one of the big things where it was obvious.

[05:03] Steve: So you’ve seen it transform massive industry.

[05:06] Avinash: Yeah.

[05:07] Steve: You visit your friend in the hospital. You see this is a problem here.

[05:09] Avinash: Problem here. Okay and I say, okay, this is, you know, it’s crawling, things hard to change and I know things will change. Because it’s not sustainable what they’re doing. This was at the initial phases where people were talking about meaningful use and government incentives.They are not in place but they’re talking about it and I knew things were going to start picking up in a few years.

[05:33] Steve: Do you remember the moment you decided to become an entrepreneur and actually jump in and do this as, not just a observation, but actually a business?

[05:43] Avinash: So, you say, right, ninety percent of the time the entrepreneurs get pushed in and they don’t really step into it willingly. I think that’s what happened. I, pretty much, I work for a couple of technology companies and said hey. But one thing I kind of lacked was this independence and the ability to make things happen because you are still at the point of following orders.

[06:10] Avinash: I figured, you know, and at some point felt I was not going anywhere and this was what we were talking about the work for automation that was always in my mind. I figured at some point, I said, I had to take the bite and it was a leap of faith. Took the bite and here I am. [06:27] Steve: So here I am. Tell me what MDops is, because I think it’s a fascinating business. Simple sounding, but very complex underneath the hood.

[06:35] Avinash: Right. So the basic notion is, the industry is saying that the clinician has to make smart decisions and at the same time he has to be able to, but they’re giving him and your job which is counterintuitive, as and it’s impacting his efficiency. So we are expecting the physician to compromise on his efficiency, on his revenue, or which ever way you want to look at it in order to provide better, you know, smarter decisions and their asking them to do the EHR’s. Our thinking, our simple logic is. The clinician can only make the most informed and clinical decisions at the point of care if he doesn’t, you know, if it’s a lot more intuitive.

[07:27] Avinash: Right now the EHR he has to struggle through a keyboard and, you know, a thousand screens. And it has to be seamless, a lot more seamless. And so, our idea and what we’re trying to achieve is the clinician has to make the best possible decision with the least effort and in the least amount of time. That’s essentially what we are getting too. Ok. So that would mean, you cannot have an EHR as it is today. You cannot expect them to deal with such a system as it is today.

[08:01] Steven: And so you integrate with the EHRs?

[08:04] Avinash: So, we say that the EHR is not here to stay. They’re not going to go away. We are just building a technology so they make EHRs transparent. Technology transplant. And the physician, essentially, deals with it just like he’s dealing with another human being. He asks a question. All the requested information and the system gives it to him. No learning the technology. No training. Nothing.

[08:33] Steven: Are you leveraging artificial intelligence?

[08:35] Avinash: Yes, so we essentially, it’s a combination of NLP and a combination of..

[08:41] Steven: Tell everybody what NLP is for those who don’t know.

[08:42] Avinash: So, it’s a natural language processing and I think it’s, to a great extent, it is used today in converting speech-to-text. We are taking it to the next level as in we are essentially not just converting you, we are taking that generated pics and trying to understand what the intent of the physician is in performing the task for him.

[09:04] Avinash: It’s a very complex thing and is essentially about passing technology, machine learning, and AI built into it. The idea being the machine is being trained to get smarter and smarter so you can understand a physician better. That’s the basic idea.

[09:25] Steven: So who ends up purchasing? Who are you pitching? When you actually are selling MDops. Is it hospitals? Is it a doctor? Is its an insurance company?

[09:33] Avinash: So, we are essentially targeting providers. It would be hospitals and physicians. The ideal is the more acute the condition is, settings that they are offered in, the more valuable this technology would be.

[09:48] Steven: Where are you having the biggest impact now?

[09:50] Avinash: So, right now we are having an impact somewhere in the middle. Not in the clinician space, but not in the hospital space. In the middle where we are talking about a post acute setting. Where we got in, because that was the easiest space to get in. But now we are getting into the hospital settings as well. We are pursuing right now.

[10:10] Steve: Do you have examples you’re able to share? Where it’s working and who’s having the most success with it?

[10:14] Avinash: We’ve got a couple of locations. We’ve got a big customer density in, around Ohio, Cincinnati area, where all long-term care settings like Carespring. That’s one of them and now we are looking at a couple of other hospitals obviously once this contract is signed. We would love to announce it but we’ve got a few hospitals that we are actively pursuing.

[10:39] Steve: Integrated with some EHRs, all? What’s the..

[10:43] Avinash: Yeah. So as of right now, we are purely focused on one EHR because integration in itself is a big thing.

[10:50] Steve: Which one.

[10:51] Avinash: We’re trying to make, sure. So, we are focusing on Allscripts and we have become their signed partner, developer partner, and we have just released their first product out and we are now trying to build a customer base. The idea of being today Allscripts is the first solution. The first EHR where we will have this virtual assistant technology built into it so that any Allscripts physician, any using any of the Allscripts EHRs, they will be able to interact and use the EHR without actually having to deal with the EHR. That’s the basic notion.

[11:28] Avinash: And the grand scheme, in the grand scheme of things, today it is supposed to perform specific tasks for the physician. But, we see in another two years it actually performing all the tasks that the clinician does today. And leaving the clinician to do one basic thing. You know, the judgment call. Making the final decision of saying yes or no.

[11:51] Steve: So, give me an example what that would be.

[11:53] Avinash: So, it would be in a diabetic patient. The physician first goes in and interacts, and the patient comes in, he has an encounter in a hospital. Even before the physician goes and asks them. The system would have analyzed all the data. What his blood sugar levels are. What is, you know, what his weight loss is, or, you know, what is his insulin level is. It would actually capture all the information and would come up and say, this is the data and this is the right course of action for the patient.

[12:28] Avinash: The physician would just look at it and confirm yes or no.

[12:33] Steve: So, would Allscripts want to just build this themselves or did they want to have a partner like you to kind of be that last mile?

[12:40] Avinash: So, you know, there’s always this thing of everyone wants to build it themselves. But I think, or in the case of Allscripts, one of the good things that they are realizing is they cannot be everything to everybody. I think they’ve got a good, broad framework of, for, you know, allowing 3rd party solution providers to offer an add solution too, that would work with EHR.

[13:05] Avinash: That’s one of the good mature frameworks that Allscripts has. So we are leveraging it and offering it and, you know, we feel that, you know, that success that we achieve with Allscripts should drive other EHR vendors to come to us for, you know, for better traction.

[13:22] Steve: Excellent. So the master plan. What about 10 years. What does the world look like?

[13:26] Avinash: The technology is going to be transparent. It means that an average man does not have to learn technology. It’s gonna be in every aspect of his life but you won’t even realize it. I think that’s what really it is, and we are focusing on the clinician and making his work life easier.

[13:46] Avinash: But I think, you talk about patients, you talk about insurance providers, you talk about everything. I think the technology is going to be seamlessly built into everything, making all the smart decisions and leaving the final yes or no for a human being to say. You know. That’s really what it is.

[14:04] Steve: Excellent. I want to shift a little bit over your entrepreneurial background or your view of what you thought entrepreneurship was going to be like before you got into it, and now, what you feel like you wish you knew then.

[14:14] Avinash: So, surprises that I had. I guess, you know, I worked for big companies and I had a few people working for me taking orders and that’s what you really think about when you talk about all these big dreams of Bill Gates. Hey, he’s got a big team of people just following, executing his orders. But you don’t, you miss that first initial few years of building it where, pretty much, you’re doing everything. I think that’s the hard part. But, it’s fun. I think.

[14:46] So that’s the surprise, but I guess the second part of your question is, you know, what is it that I should have known, I guess.

[14:54] Steve: You wish you knew. Not should have, but wish you.

[14:56] Avinash: Wish I know. It’s all about outcomes. At any time, any entrepreneur is trying to build something. It starts off with, what is the outcomes? Outcomes are all the matter for the industry. Especially in healthcare we’re talking about patient population and patient health. Then, go back from there. In order for the outcomes to be generated your solution is, but what kind of technology you have? It has to be such that your target end user relies on a day-in and day-out.

[15:30] And in order for that to happen the technology has to be simple. Simple enough that the person does not have to train for it. That means that the technology has to be this thing. So, the way you achieve it, so if you go with that thought process and build your solution they will come. That’s essentially, I think it’s a simple thing. I mean, you just follow that and it’s like stating the obvious, but.

[15:54] Steve: No, no. It’s, you know, people listen to StartUp Health NOW! Who aren’t entrepreneurs yet, want to be entrepreneurs, and a lot of them are developers or in technology positions that have ideas and I always like to, kind of, open up the kimono a little bit and show what it’s really like and get people to understand. A, you don’t need to know everything going in, and then B, you know, there’s gonna be surprises along the way and you just gotta have a mindset that is thinking long term and is open to these things.

[16:19] Avinash: Yeah. You have to. Nothing that you plan is gonna happen. You always learn and be flexible and adjust to the current situations.

[16:29] Steve: So, what does your day and week look like right now as an entrepreneur running a company?

[16:36] Avinash: So, pretty much, it starts off the day with the team meeting with engineering. Figuring out where we are with the deliverables. Then it’s essentially, then the second part of it is talking to the salespeople. Where are we with the potential leads, potential opportunities. But the rest of the thing is all about championing. Going out and do marketing. Being the spokesperson for your company. I think that’s where you, whether you are trying to be a spokesperson in front of an investor or a customer, but that’s essentially what you’re gonna be spending most of your time. You’re going to be the spokesperson.

[17:16] Steve: Are you good at it?

[17:18] Steve: I’m getting better at it. I don’t know if I’m good at it but, you know. Let’s see, I’m working through it.

[17:23] Steve: What do you consider your unique abilities? The things that you’re awesome at, that you love doing, that you think you make the biggest impact in?

[17:30] Avinash: It’s about understanding the customer’s situation, challenge, and figuring out what’s the best way to solve it. Articulating, getting back to the engineer. Probably, because I gotta engineering background. But, articulating it in a way where the engineers will actually deliver what the customer needs. I think that’s, the, I’m essentially between the customer and the go-between between the customer and the engineers.

[17:58] Steve: You love that part?

[18:00] Avinash: Yes, I love that part. Yeah, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I think, I started off from CA as a product manager and that’s what I’ve been doing. So gradually refine and getting better at it.

[18:12] Steve: All right. So what tools, productivity

or otherwise, do you rely on in your day-to-day life as an entrepreneur?

[18:19] Avinash: Pretty much ninety percent of my time relies on my iPhone. I used to be relying on my laptop two years back almost sixty to seventy percent of the time. But now, ninety percent of my time I’m spending on my iPhone. I don’t even open my laptop. Frankly speaking, if my other laptop goes bad I don’t even know if I’ll go a new one.

[18:40] Steve: What apps do you use?

[18:43] Avinash: It’s a simple calendar. I essentially put my calendar to everyone in my team. They know and they do it. I have a simple black board that we use that we create in house where I know, what are the tasks remaining, and what are the ones that have been completed, not. It’s a simple view. 1-click, I need to see the view. That’s essentially what it is. Nothing, I don’t believe in,

[19:08] Steve: You said you developed yourself. Not a physical blackboard, a digital blackboard?

[19:12] Avinash: It’s a small app that we built in-house, because we could not find one simple enough. All I want is the list of things that are pending to be done and what’s the status of it. At any given point, if whether it’s via sales,

[19:25] Steve: No fancy project manager, no actual software, nothing. Development platform, nothing.

[19:32] Avinash: I mean, you learned the hard way. We built it, built an app for a physician. We learned it. If the physician has to go to three clicks to perform a task, he’s throwing it away. And trust me, so many physicians have taken our app and thrown it out.

[19:46] Steve: Your app.

[19:47] Avinash: Our app. Our own MDLog app, that assistant that we’re building. It took us three years to refine it to a point where they’re sticking with it day in and day out, and it’s no different. Physicians are more demanding, but on average, an average man, he can be no less demanding. Because we’re living a busy life. It has to be one click. You get what you’re done or that app is not worth the time.

[20:11] Steve: Is your app now 1-click?

[20:14] Avinash: We are working on it. Because as the complexity increases the click start increasing. That’s the challenge.

[20:19] Steve: You gotta keep removing the friction, removing the clicks, and doing all that.

[20:23] Avinash: Removing the clicks. It has to be one click. It should be done or forget it.

[20:27] Steve: Excellent. So, we’re just coming off a summer. Favorite book of the summer that you read or the book on your nightstand you haven’t read or that you want to read or that you would just recommend but haven’t even had a chance to think about yet?

[20:39] Avinash: I don’t have any new books per say, but there was there, there’s one,

[20:43] Steve: Favorite book of all time.

[20:46] Avinash: I wanted to read this book of Alfred Sloan. Do you know the guy who turned around General Motors? I have been wanting to read that book. I started so many times, but never completed it. It’s fascinating. A guy who took, because I believe, I can’t imagine someone taking such a huge organization and turning it around. I want to read that book, I never come around to it, but someday I’m gonna get

[21:09] Steve: Alright, well you just said that on the episode now, so everyone heard you and we’re going to have you back to tell us about it. So

[21:16] Avinash: Hopefully I’ll live by that pact.

[21:18] Steve: Well, I love what you’re working on. I think we’re very early in the transformation of health and I think its solutions like MDOps that continue to focus on removing the friction and I think, I love the idea of and could go deeper and probably do a whole session on what you’ve done to iterate your product and to keep removing the friction and making it simpler, even while it’s becoming more complex to deal with.

[21:43] Avinash: Yeah, and we are actually going to be demonstrating at the Health 2.0 in their session of Reimagining EMR. So, they asked us to demonstrate it, so let’s see how that goes, hope we get the response there.

[21:54] Steve: Fantastic. Always a pleasure to sit down and talk to you. Good luck and thanks for being on the show. We’ll have you back.

[21:59] Avinash: Thank you for having us.

[22:00] Steve: Thanks so much.

[22:01] Chime

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