iTriage is a free mobile app that allows people to look up symptoms, diseases, procedures, and medication information, as well as locate hospitals & clinics.
The app also acts as a medical hub on a mobile phone by tracking appointments, healthcare provider contact information, and organizing health information for patients.
Dr. Hudson accomplished many successes in his path to entrepreneurship: he’s founded multiple companies with four exits, became a healthcare investment banker, and served as managing partner to emergency medical practices. He has practiced emergency medicine in county systems, non-profit systems, and around the world: Nepal, Guatemala, and Kenya.
We recently sat down with Dr. Hudson at the Health 2.0 Silicon Valley 2013 conference and spoke to him about what drives and inspires him.
iMedicalApps: What kinds of traits should students & residents have in order to make it in healthcare entrepreneurship?
Dr. Hudson: Restlessness. Creativity. Always wanting to be challenged. Healthcare is not super-creative. When I was an ER doc, it was all about recognizing patterns and taking good care of people, but it’s not super-creative. I trained at Highland [General Hospital in Oakland, CA] in the 1990’s, and it was a knife and gun club, and HIV was untreatable at the time. But there was the Internet [boom] going on across the [San Francisco] Bay. I was in residency while Netscape went public, seeing the [dot-com] explosion, meeting Chuck Saunders at Healtheon [which merged with WebMD]. So, I started focusing on problems that I saw.
iMedicalApps: What kinds of problems did you see at the time?
Dr. Hudson: The first problem is related to practicing medicine. In 1995, HCFA [the Health Care Financing Administration] guidelines came out, and for doctors, that drove them crazy. Docs would pick up the phone, give a narrative. [The calls would go through] the billing and coding systems, and those people would return their calls and say to the docs that they missed 5 parts of the review of systems [and so they could not bill]! I got involved with the regulatory framework and structure, and paper forms and products. That was my first company.
Then I got involved with hospital-based doctors. We had communication challenges. We had 30 ER docs who would fax requests back and forth to each other. They weren’t using email, online timecards, and there was no transparency of what anyone was doing, and because it was hospital-based we didn’t have a common electronic medical record or practice management system they could use. I created a company that was sort of a virtual intranet for hospital-based practices.
I saw tons of pain points, and software is a great way to do it, because generally:
- there are low start-up costs,
- you can iterate,
- you can build beautiful products that people enjoy using.
iMedicalApps: Not everyone can live in an area so rich with engineering talent like the San Francisco Bay Area or Boston. For those healthcare providers looking to create the next big app, what should they do to get started?
Dr. Hudson: Some of the ideas around here [at the Health 2.0 conference] are a result of technical interests and capabilities and interest in healthcare, but maybe not true identifiable pain points. To know about those pain points, you’ve got to be living in [medicine] day in and day out, saying “I have to do this. I can’t stop thinking about it.” You can always find great people to help you. There’s a lot of great talent in software development around the county, more than you realize. There’s the ability to virtually manage people.
The core thing is having the idea, the passion that you see a big problem, and that you want to fix it. A lot of people come to me and say, “I really want to start a company!” but I ask, “For what?” Most start-up companies will fail. If you want to solve a problem, and a company is a way to solve that problem, that’s a great way to start the company. It begins with identifying, living with, and understanding the nuances and complexities of a problem that’s big enough to be a great target to take on, big enough to be meaningful so that investors are interested, so that your clients are interested, and users of your technology become avid users.
iMedicalApps: That’s interesting, because more and more students and residents — especially at this conference — are questioning, “Should I still do residency?” Or even “Should I do medical school?” What is your take on that?
Dr. Hudson: I never thought, “I should just get this [medical] degree to get into this space.” I went into healthcare technology because I thought, “Wow, there’s a lot of problems that bother me!” and that’s what got me interested in the technology. My whole philosophy for building companies: see a big problem, get passionate about how to solve it, and then build a solution to make it better. There’s going to be a need to understand the medicine. If you have the real-world experience of taking care of people beyond med school, it’s a great value-add.
iMedicalApps: Any last recommendations for our readers?
Dr. Hudson: Involve the 3 “P’s”: patients, providers, and payers. That way, everyone would have a benefit from what you’re building. We [at iTriage] are building a network of consumers. They’re using our stuff more than 80 million times per year, with over 40,000 doctors, encompassing over 20% of the hospital systems, and we just announced a release available to over 4,000 employers. For those who want to be entrepreneurial, have your eyes open thinking about what your life is like practicing or for patients receiving care, and I bet you see 1 million problems day-in and day-out. You’ll find problems that can be solved to make a great impact.
About the conference
Health 2.0 recently held their annual conference in Silicon Valley, bringing together business leaders and entrepreneurs along with physicians, empowered patients, and nurses making headlines with their new apps and software. The Health 2.0 organization has, since 2007, has held conventions throughout the world, established local grassroots chapters of health technology enthusiasts, and provided media coverage of emerging companies and products.
Steven Chan, M.D., M.B.A., is a resident physician at the University of California, Davis Health System, researching psychiatry, telemedicine, mobile technology, & human behavior. Steve previously worked as a software and web engineer as well as creative designer at Microsoft & UC Berkeley. Visit him at www.stevenchanMD.com and @StevenChanMD.