Sramana Mitra: I always ask this question of people who have interesting vantage points. What do you see as interesting open problems? If you were not running this company right now and starting out as an entrepreneur today, what problems out there do you see are good pain points to solve?
Gautam Sivakumar: I’ll give you three buckets of problems that I think could use more innovation. There are lots of opportunities to create real companies that can make a real impact.
The first group is what I call the unsexy problems and using software to automate a lot of the mundane work required to make the healthcare industry run. To use a US-specific example, I was talking to a Utilization Review Manager at a hospital. She was telling me that she was spending most of her day trying to get through to the right person at the insurance company in order to then get the authorization that she needs for her patient.
Why is that the case? Why is that so painful? Is there a way to automate some of that to make it better for both hospitals and insurance companies? There is a myriad of unsexy problems like that that people can, and should, solve. A lot of great companies are built around these unsexy problems. You just need a fresh mind and some tenacity.
The second big one is around AI. A large part of the future of healthcare will be driven by AI systems that are focused on specific conditions. There will be AI for certain conditions or workflows.
Let’s take a specific example where people are already starting to work on. You’re seeing a lot of systems that will now monitor all of your patients to identify those that are at a higher risk of sepsis. Sepsis is a huge problem. In the US, CDC estimates around 270,000 are dying of sepsis every single year. One in three deaths in hospitals is because of sepsis.
On a global scale, how big of a problem is that? They say it’s pretty hard to estimate this, but they estimate that around six million people die globally every year because of sepsis.
As an entrepreneur, why would you not be trying to tackle a problem of that much impact? If you can solve that, you can build a great business and also have an immense impact on society. I think that machine learning and AI will be a central force in solving problems like that. There is a myriad of different conditions like sepsis that you can build very specific AI tools for.
The third bucket is exploring interoperability between existing systems. It’s one of the biggest issues in healthcare. Fundamentally disconnected systems mean disconnected care. Unless we make it easier to connect to these systems, you’re limiting how much innovation can happen on top of them.
There are a few companies working on this and doing some interesting work. That’s a huge area of opportunity.
Sramana Mitra: How many hospitals are you working with right now?
Gautam Sivakumar: We don’t disclose the number of hospitals exactly. It’s in the high tens.
Sramana Mitra: If somebody has deep penetration into the hospital channel, what they should do is PaaS and invite the entrepreneurs who can extend the platform with new applications and offer solutions to some of these workflows that are more esoteric. A good strong PaaS for the hospital industry by a leading player in the cloud would be a great help.
Gautam Sivakumar: I 100% agree with you. If you have any entrepreneurs in mind, get them to reach out to us. Our philosophy on interoperability is we think that the most connected systems will win in the future.
We do integrate with a number of different solutions that hospitals already have. Every company that operates in the space should have the same kind of thinking that you’re outlining. Everyone should have a somewhat open platform that people can connect and build other applications on top of.
Sramana Mitra: Have you read this article I’ve published called, “Calling All PaaS Leaders?”
Gautam Sivakumar: I did not but I think I might have to check that out.
Sramana Mitra: Thank you for your time.