How co-founders of Herald Health leveraged their frustration,
knowledge and connections to position their product for success
Believe us when we say we know that navigating the health care space is easier said than done. Here at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we aim to be the digital health collaborator of choice. Innovators and entrepreneurs know that no matter how cleverly their solution addresses an unmet need, in order to succeed, they need to team up with the right collaborators to support and accelerate their ideas. Take the story of Brad Diephuis, MD, MBA, a former resident at the Brigham, and co-founder Andrew Hillis, PhD, who had a great idea – and got the help they needed to navigate the right paths within the Brigham.
FINDING INSPIRATION IN FRUSTRATION
Diephuis started his journey as a computer scientist and an Internal Medicine resident here at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, positioning himself as a unique and enterprising innovator with a knack for spotting pain points. He co-founded and launched Herald Health in 2015 during the third iHub Hackathon.
“Sometimes ideas can just sit in notebooks for a long time, but being a part of the Brigham community really gave us the ability to bring the right people together in order to bring Herald Health to life,” explains Diephuis. “Being part of the Hackathon gave us access to connect with the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub, and to receive the Health IT mentorship and perspective from Adam Landman, MD, CIO of Brigham Health. They were able to guide us and tell us if this idea was worth it.”
Diephuis had watched his physician colleagues struggle to simultaneously talk to their patients while also sifting through a large amount of patient data coming from various sources. The information overload made it hard for physicians to determine which pieces of data were the most important for an individual patient. The tools to display the patient information were cumbersome and unfriendly – nonetheless, physicians continued to use them. Both Diephuis and another co-founder, Craig Monsen, MD, were physicians and had personal experiences with this issue.
“The idea really came from observing a process that already existed but wasn’t perfect,” explained Diephuis. “We thought, how do we reimagine this user experience? How do we take the good and make it better?”
Herald Health aims to help providers deliver responsive care with actionable data. The platform flexibly integrates with and plugs into existing workflows and data streams, sending important, timely and customizable information through push notifications, such as meaningful changes in medical profiles.
Both having experience using the old process, with the combination of understanding the existing workflows and processes, Diephuis and team were better able to position their product for success. “Being part of the health system already gave us a different start and visual to the conversation,” explained Diephuis.
Are there day-to-day tasks that you believe can be improved? Take these frustrations and the knowledge base from your own work day and think, “Is there a better way to do this?” Then figure out how to move that idea forward.
MAKING CONNECTIONS WITHIN THE HOSPITAL WALLS
In 2013, the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub was launched as a resource center for innovators and entrepreneurs inside the Brigham walls. A space where Brigham innovators could bring their ideas and were given a pathway on what to do and where to go next.
Interested in learning about more ways iHub has fostered innovation?
Join us on September 12th for iHub Turns Five:
Celebration of Digital Health Innovation in Hospitals
Josie Elias, Program Manager of Digital Health Innovation at the iHub, worked closely with Diephuis and team when it came to navigating pathways inside the hospital. This kind of navigation is critical in helping an idea advance:
“Josie was able to understand the barriers that we came across, and she balanced what we wanted to create with what we should and could create,” said Diephuis.
“It’s not often we get to support startups like Herald,” says Elias. “Beyond business and technical acumen, their intimate knowledge of how clinicians think and how the hospital functions gave us the confidence in their product to expand quickly and in new directions. Through connections to programs such as BCRISP, which aims to provide care to patients by investing in innovative proposals, Herald had access to critical resources to build and validate new features and get first-hand access to hospital pain points.”
Making the right connections with iHub team members, Brigham leadership and other programs such as BCRISP gave Herald Health the mentorship, guidance and expansion opportunities they needed to move forward.
Diephuis and his team are currently working with two Associate Chief Medical Officers at BWH, Kathryn Britton, MD and Chuck Morris, MD, to improve patient flow in both the Emergency Department and the inpatient setting, with users ranging from MDs to PAs, Care Coordinators, Resource Specialists and Bed Management.
“We’ve realized that the core customizable notification functionality that we had initially built for physicians was also useful to improve operational processes across the board at BWH,” said Diephuis.
CHANGING YOUR MINDSET TO MATCH YOUR END CUSTOMER
One of the not-so-obvious barriers when it comes to transforming the health care space is the entrepreneur’s mindset: startups are all about moving fast. When working with large organizations, there are timelines and rules of the road you must play by. But when working with a large health system, these timelines and rules become even more dense and hard to navigate.
The iHub has started to put processes in place such as the Digital Health Innovation Guide to ease some of the frustration that comes with navigating the hospital while also making sure all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. But timelines are still not always up to the usual entrepreneurial speed.
“As an entrepreneur, it is easy to become jaded and frustrated when working with large systems. I challenge you to step out of your startup shoes and perspective and step into the shoes of an administrator at an AMC,” said Diephuis. “What is their job? What are their concerns?”
As an innovator and entrepreneur in any space, you will run into barriers and challenges along the way. Health care is no different. Having real familiarity with existing solutions and their limitations, pushing to get in the right room with the right people, and changing your mindset can position both you and your company for success.