Joseph Mayer, MD is founder and CEO of Cureatr.
Tell me about yourself and the company.
I started Cureatr when I was a resident at Mount Sinai here in New York City. Prior to that and during my residency, I’ve always been a clinical research guy. I did med school at Columbia and focused on clinical operational workflow research. How you optimize consults, communication between the floors and pharmacy, and even looked at inter-organizational workflows like PCP into the hospital, etc. This is an area I’ve been passionate about since I started my training.
I started Cureatr with a guy that I had gone Stanford undergrad with, Alex Khomenko, about two weeks before I started my residency. I had formed this idea during the last couple of years of medical school and worked closely with Bob Sideli at Columbia. I got together with Alex who, at that time was director of engineering at 23andMe on the West Coast, flew out and met with him, and said, “I’ve got this idea. I’m starting my residency in a couple of weeks, but let’s work on this together. I’ll be in a great environment to get feedback to understand what our users need, also what the administrators need.”
One thing led to another. We built out Cureatr during the first year of my clinical training. Our first real launch was in the medicine department at Mount Sinai in January 2012.
It’s been really a whirlwind since then. We were part of this New York Digital Health Accelerator program, with 20 leading payor-provider orgs in the state which works closely with companies like ours to make sure there’s a product fit for what their needs are. We just closed our Series A financing with Cardinal Partners and Milestone Venture Partners. It was a $5.7 million around in October of this year.
Many companies are suddenly offering secure messaging for clinicians. Who are your biggest competitors and how is your product different?
We’re running into the guys you would expect, the TigerTexts of the world on the lightweight messaging side of things and on the nurse-first device side of things, Voalte and the legacy guys like Vocera and Avaya.
When I started Cureatr, I was interested in messaging as a part of some of these workflow problems. If you look at what a workflow consists of, you’ve got the communication piece. That’s a huge part of it, probably about a third of your time. You’ve got the documentation piece and CPOE documentation — that’s probably another third of your time.The last third is management, getting access to actual data. Obviously, unfortunately, you probably spend less time on implementation than you do in a lot of other areas of the care process. When I started Cureatr, I was interested in how do we build a tool for the whole part of this.
Let’s start with messaging. There probably are a lot of messaging companies, but the penetration of these types of modern communication and workflow tools is incredibly low in this market. There’s no clear leader. It’s still a very green market.
We’re trying to differentiate ourselves by coming at this from the angle of, let’s find a couple of specific use cases or workflows that are highly repeated in your organization or for your patient population. Let’s deploy this combination of communication plus some task management plus some basic integration with other systems. Routing and care team mapping is a big part of that. That’s our differentiator. That’s the way we’re looking at helping our customers.
The other big thing is more and more of our customers are interested in inter-organizational use cases. They need to think about what goes on beyond the four walls of the hospital, because from their perspective, the care episode no longer ends with discharge. We’ve gotten some early customers, like the DaVitas of the world, who are thinking a little bit ahead of the curve on cross-continuum care management and want to apply our tools to those areas. We are focusing on customers who are interested in that today because we think that’s going to be a growing need in the future where we can build some expertise.
Is the model that an enterprise would pay for the system, but there’s an individual app that people can download for free?
We are very hands on around implementation, very hands on around working closely with the enterprise and finding these specific use cases. But we get contacted all the time by folks like my father, a small private practice who want to use it. We obviously see value in letting them, but above value to them, the value to the bigger hospital customers we work with making the onboarding experience for the smaller organizations very easy, very lightweight. But our customers are mostly large enterprise guys like Sinai.
It’s same product that could be downloaded for free, just with more enterprise-type services bundled?
It’s modular. We have our core messaging piece. Then we have something we call structured messaging, which is a feature that the enterprise needs to create a step-by-step workflow for a specific use case. There’s a core, very lightweight messaging piece that’s very easy to download and get up and running within a couple of seconds, but if you want to get those other modules, if you want to get single sign-on, if you want to get documentation or tie in to your ADT or EMR or lab system, that’s what our enterprise customers will get.
What kind of numbers do you have using just the standalone free version versus those that are using it via enterprise?
It’s almost all enterprise customers. We wanted to get the product right. We wanted to build the infrastructure of a company before we started doing a lot of marketing. We haven’t done a lot of this “are your docs texting?” replacement-type marketing. We’ve mostly focused on talking to thought leaders and rolling it out to larger enterprises. I would say 90 percent of our customers are through an enterprise customer, any organization that’s purchased 500-plus licenses.
How many organizations do you have as customers?
We have about 10 large enterprise customers and then some large primary care groups, some larger multi-site practice groups. But in terms of large paying enterprise customers, we have about 10.
You offer read receipts and the ability to attached a photo securely. Is that unusual?
That stuff’s great and useful, but it’s what our customers expect. I would think anybody who is a serious company in the states does have that type of functionality.
The things that are really different between us and the product are, first of all, we built this from the ground up in a hospital and a health system. Our products have been optimized for clinical users. We have status and presence, which is a big thing in a clinical space.
The way I look at the world, and I think the way most providers do, is that there are only probably four or five pieces of information at any given time that are actionable and valuable to the care team. We are trying to create a shared view of the patient around this in real time as much as possible for the care team. It’s tying into those other systems and understanding how to smartly separate the signal from the noise around very actionable information is what we’re trying to optimize the product. But also maintaining a very good, solid, secure messaging user experience.
That’s why things like read receipts, directory integration, scheduling integration, photo sharing, document sharing … we have the wound care company that’s piloting our product, and it’s revolutionary for them because all of a sudden they can, instead of having to fax the face sheet from the patient when they’re discharged where they’re going to follow up with wound care or with vascular, they can send the PDF or even send a photo of the face sheet and have a very real-time, two-way back and forth to make sure that that patient is getting the right follow-up care. We’re starting from almost ground zero in healthcare, so things like that can have a very large, positive impact on workflow, on efficiency, on provider and patient experience, and satisfaction and experience.
You have data from Mount Sinai that was self-reported from a survey. Do you have any more specific analyses of either outcomes or anything more than just what the users report?
We’ve got a study that just came out that I can share with anybody who’s interested in following up privately, but we don’t have permission yet from this large academic health center to share that data because it’s literally fresh off their presenting at a conference. But we have some very exciting data around time saved, efficiency linked to earlier time of discharge, i.e. length of stay reduction and HCAP impact. We do not have randomized, evidence-based clinical trial data at this point. Very few companies in healthcare IT do.
We have two customers we’re partnering with to run some 12-month longitudinal studies looking at outcomes on specific clinical hospital performance metrics, both on the inpatient and outpatient side.
How did working with an accelerator help the company?
I am very grateful to the NYeC because we got unique exposure to the best hospitals in New York. Even more than that, everybody who was doing this program was very invested in trying to create a new ecosystem around where … Hospitals are just not used to working with startups. As a startup, time is your most valuable resource. Hospitals don’t move quickly. The thing that we got from the accelerator — more than the money and more than the PR — was literally a very accelerated access and feedback to the C-suite and users.
The big challenge for anybody in healthcare IT today is, how do you think through the ROI story and how to measure the ROI for your product? There are a lot of companies right now in this healthcare IT space sprouting up. The death of many them will be not thinking about that piece, not having access to the right folks in the big health systems and the healthcare world in general to think through that piece.
That’s what we got out of this accelerator much more quickly than we would have from one customer or from going and talking to your friend’s dad who’s some executive at a hospital. We had invested folks giving us that kind of feedback through this program. I would recommend that program for anybody and I would do it again.
Where do you see the company going in the next few years?
There’s real value in secure texting or replacement pager stuff, but we’ve come up with what I think is the most effective, repeatable process for deploying secure messaging leveraging mining of the data for optimizing secure messaging in these larger enterprise customers. The next 12 months is really about what’s coming after messaging. Optimizing the care team mapping side of things, i.e. routing of messages to the right person at the right time, or routing information at the right time beyond messaging, task management.
These are the workflow tools. That’s what customers are telling us that they want. When you look at the most successful implementations of technology in healthcare IT and most successful companies, they’re very much focused on a couple of specific use cases or clinical use cases or workflows where they’re doing that better than anybody else. Our goal is, let’s find those use cases, let’s deploy messaging and these other tools around it, then let’s actually measure an ROI and let’s actually make it very clear for our customers how to achieve that ROI in future implementations.
Building the product and the implementation and services side of the business to support that is the most critical thing right now, because from a sales side, there’s great demand for this right now. It’s almost a function of keeping up with that demand and making sure that our product is truly adding value to our customers.