Starting a Company as a Medical Student: Part 1

We were recently asked by The Doctor’s Channel to share some of our thoughts about being an entrepreneur while in medical school and how that came about. It’s not easy to take the plunge into starting a business with so much medical training already behind you and so much to go.

Here our some of my answers the the questions we are typically asked about starting Symcat while in medical school. Since there are a lot, I’m splitting it up into a two-part series. This week I will be answering

  • Did you have prior experience in business/start-ups before launching your own?
  • Before you started medical school, did you have any feeling that you would be starting a business while still in school?
  • At what point did you start thinking your idea could be scaled from just your school to medical schools across the US?
  • Can you tell me how you made the tough decision of taking time off from school and the different pros/cons you weighed?

Continue reading Starting a Company as a Medical Student: Part 1 on the Symcat blog.

Cardiovascular Risk Calculator


Screenshot 2015-07-11 19.47.57The 2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk introduced a new risk assessment calculator based on aggregate data from several cohorts. According to these guidelines, a patient’s risk according to this algorithm is critical in determining if a cholesterol-lowering statin should be prescribed. Initially, this calculator was available only through a somewhat onerous Excel spreadsheet. Moreover, this was nearly impossible to access through mobile phones, a preferred modality. Continue reading

The Myth of the “A-ha” Moment

I am frequently asked about the “A-ha” moment that led to the creation of Symcat. This is frustrating because I usually have to make something up about an apple falling on my head or a dream about a snake. People generally think of ideas as spontaneous, as not existing one moment and existing the next. But Symcat has taught me that they are wrong.

About 5 years ago, I started a notebook of random ideas for products and technologies I wanted to develop further. My (rather uninspired) titles included “Website for creating prediction markets,” “computer simulation of viral news spread,” and “HUD built for smartphone.” Original, right? They were the idea du jour brought on by whatever I happened to be reading or thinking of at the moment. They were definitely not bolts of insight that immediately and obviously led to the creation of a company.

Continue reading The Myth of the “A-ha” Moment on the Symcat blog.

The Death and Rebirth of Primary Care

Much ink has already been spilled about the impending primary care crisis. Fifty years ago, 50% of physicians practiced primary care. Now, it is only 30% of them and many of those primary care physicians (PCPs) are approaching retirement. According to a recent Senate report we are short roughly 16,000 PCPs already and this number is expected to grow. Wait times have been steadily increasing and it is becoming harder and harder to access the quality PCP that we all need. It would seem that physician-provided primary care is dying.

In truth, the PCP is already dead. Step inside any PCP office for a moment and reflect on how many substantive interactions there are throughout the day. The average PCP spends less than 15 minutes with each patient, leaving 5 minutes for your history, 5 (generous) minutes for your physical, and 5 minutes for assessment / wrap-up. Somehow, these brief interactions are expected to do some of the most challenging work a physician faces: educating the patient and promoting healthy behaviors. A pediatrician I spent time with during medical school often joked that he needed roller skates to keep up with the patient volume. Something like these babies might’ve helped.

Continue reading The Death and Rebirth of Primary Care on the Symcat blog.

What Does the Massive Health Acquisition Really Mean?

If you’re like me, you’re extremely excited about the potential for design to reshape health care. I’m not talking health care system redesign (ACOs and such–though that’s great too), I’m talking about the type of design you see on Dribbble: the focus of a recent (awesome) HHS-sponsored competition.

One of the promising upstarts of health care re-design was a 2-year-old-or-so startup called Massive Health founded by ex-Mozillite Aza Raskin. Though I tend towards the skeptical, there was a part of me that thought that not only were they on to something, but they clearly had managed to aggregate real design talent. And in health care, no less! Apparently, I was not the only one as they convinced a number of investors to throw $2.25 million in to test out what they could do.

Continue reading What Does the Massive Health Acquisition Really Mean? on the Symcat blog.

The Real Problem with Physician Decision Support

Early in medical school, I was involved in the care of Ted, who could have been my grandfather. At 76 he was as spry as any of the patients on the ward and always welcomed me with a “morning, Doc!” He was admitted because he was having concerning chest pain several times a week. Opening and closing 2.8 billion times throughout his life, his heart valves had gradually become hard and inflexible preventing blood from leaving at its usual rate. Now, it was risking his life. He had several treatment options available to him: valve replacement through open-heart surgery, a new minimally-invasive procedure where they snaked a new valve through the body’s blood vessels and into the heart, or just taking medications to help with his symptoms. It was my job to help Ted figure out which option was best for him.

Continued reading The Real Problem with Physician Decision Support on the Symcat blog.

How the Big Data Trend will Support Medical Research

It is no secret that research relies critically on data collection. Whether you’re talking about pharmaceutical research, market research, or outcomes research, successful analysis can only be done with robust data that captures the metrics most relevant to the question at hand. Unfortunately, that degree of data collection can be an expensive proposition, especially when it comes to health care.

Continue reading How the Big Data Trend will Support Medical Research on the Symcat blog.

Symcat: A Consumer-side Expert System for Diagnosis (Johns Hopkins Informatics Grand Rounds)

I am appreciative for the opportunity to share alongside David some of my journeys in conceiving of and building Symcat during the Johns Screenshot 2015-07-11 19.17.18Hopkins Informatics Grand Rounds. In it, we talk about some of the history of decision support, the technology behind Symcat, and some additional points about entrepreneurship and web development that excite us.

  1. video of the presentation
  2. slides

Blueprint Health Startup Accelerator: Was it Worth It?

blueprint-cover-page-david-craigAs exciting as the digital health space is right now, there is still little guidance or validated path to getting off the ground. As part of an effort to help aspiring health care entrepreneurs, I’ll be writing a series of posts explaining some of the decisions we made for Symcat. It hasn’t been a year since we’ve started, but my hope is that our few months of experience can help those who are just getting started themselves.

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is if our time at Blueprint Health, a health start-up accelerator, was worth it. To participate, the program requires 3 months of relocation to the NYC offices in SoHo and the forfeiture of a nearly 6% equity stake in the company. The program basically offers $20k, mentorship from its network, and office space. A few other health start-up accelerators (ie Rock Health, Healthbox) have some variations but basically the same theme. They are all very selective accepting 3-5% of applicants. While it’s nice to be accepted, there’s still the important matter of deciding if it is right for you.

Continue reading Blueprint Health Startup Accelerator: Was it Worth it? on the Symcat blog.