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Thought Leaders in Healthcare IT: Matt Johnson, CEO of EarlySense (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Dec 10th 2019

Sramana Mitra: What is the level of penetration of your technology in the healthcare system right now?

Matt Johnson: The answer is very low but very rapidly growing. Let’s say we have a million hospital beds in the US. About 25% of those are already monitored in a really sophisticated and, frankly, complicated way. Picture an ICU bed or a telemetry bed. There are devices surrounding the bed. There are wires and chest straps.

This is an indication of very intensive care. This is the gold standard of patient monitoring, but it’s also a very obtrusive way of patient monitoring. The care in the ICU is really great. It’s also not a patient-first choice. Frankly, it’s a terribly expensive way to deliver care. That is an example of where high-level patient monitoring exists today.

Our target is the three-quarters of bed that are not currently monitored. If you’re not in an ICU bed or a telemetry bed, your vital signs are only being monitored on those occasions that a nurse visits you. The enemy in the movie of EarlySense is the unmonitored bed. In this day and age with our technology so readily available, the unmonitored hospital bed is soon going to be a thing of the past.

What’s exciting to me and why I joined the company was that I think we have an opportunity to change the standard of care. At some point in the near future, we will look at this before all beds are monitored and say, “I can’t believe we have somebody who had just a surgical procedure and was not being continuously monitored.”

We’ll deploy this contact-free, continuous patient monitoring to about 30,000 to 40,000 beds per year. That number grows each year. It snowballs. Within a few years, we expect to have critical mass where we feel like this is standard of care change that hospitals are ready to make.

Sramana Mitra: How long will it take for that kind of standardization to happen?

Matt Johnson: It’s not happening fast enough. What keeps us up at night is the number of patients that are on unmonitored beds. This is not to condemn the way we’ve always done it in healthcare but as you know, inertia is a powerful thing especially in healthcare.

Within 10 years, we should look back and say, “I’m glad we’re past the point where there’s such a thing as an unmonitored bed.” The reward for all of us is that we’re all a lot safer.

Sramana Mitra: As you look at the healthcare space, what are some problems that could be solved with technology where if you were starting a new company today, you might consider starting a company in that field?

Matt Johnson: What I’m really interested in as an investor is the social determinants of health. I think that of the companies that I’ve run, one of them was a technology company. It owned a very large provider footprint. We owned 30 home healthcare businesses that took care of tens of thousands of patients per year.

What I’ve learned being up close was that there are a lot of problems that are healthcare problems, and then there are a lot of problems that become healthcare problems because people don’t have the ability to take care of themselves. I’m always looking for opportunities in that space. What’s most interesting to me are opportunities where you have some intersection of social determinants.

A rate limiter that we’ve had for a long time is this idea that ultimately, the buck stops with the risk-bearing entity. Those relationships are typically time-bound either in a year or just a little bit longer than that. A lot of the problems that we face are generational problems. To the extent to which we can intersect longer-term thinking with the social determinants that help cause the problem in the first place is a really cool place for innovation. It’s really tough.

Frankly, I haven’t seen a ton of opportunities in the space that are exciting. If I were to give advice to entrepreneurs, look at that overlap. It’s meaningful work.

Sramana Mitra: Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Healthcare IT: Matt Johnson, CEO of EarlySense
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