This is part two of a series in which we talk with Maryland health IT executive Chris Meenan about his company Analytical Informatics, Inc. (AI), and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Read part one, here.
Chief executive: Chris Meenan, Co-founder and CEO, Analytical Informatics, Inc. (AI)
Location: Baltimore, MD
Started in: 2011
- AI’s core product is a platform technology called the AI Bridge. This software aggregates data from a variety of hospital information sources and provides the foundation for a suite of software-based tools designed to improve quality and provide analytics for use in health care.
- AI has built over 30 applications to solve various challenges in hospital settings, including patient wait-time monitoring, workflow optimization, and quality improvement tools. AI’s software is designed to improve communication and operational efficiency in health care. The software solves a number of health care problems by helping hospitals and other providers get real-time access to the information they need.
Goal: The next step is to expand the number of software tools that are available so that they can be used in a variety of health care settings
Customers: Academic hospitals, community hospitals, hospital systems, existing health care IT vendors
Revenue: Privately held
Funding: Initial seed funding from founders, product revenues; received Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) award from TEDCO
AI started in Baltimore because you were tied to the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Did you ever consider locating anywhere else?
We love Baltimore. It’s a great center for innovation in health care for a number of reasons: innovative hospitals, two large academic medical centers, and a vibrant tech/startup community all call Baltimore their home. It feels like a great place to be for us as a health care IT startup.
What advice would you offer to entrepreneurs?
If you want to be a CEO of a start up, you have to think about what that role means and what it will take to run the company. Max Levchin, one of the co-founders of PayPal, called it the “coffee shop fallacy.” He said that a lot of people think they want to run a coffee shop someday, but in reality they don’t want to actually run a coffee shop. Instead, they want to just hang out in a coffee shop, and enjoy that experience. Running a coffee shop and visiting a coffee shop are two different things. His point is, you can’t just be in love with the idea of a business. You have to be in love with the idea of running a business. As a university scientist, you have to recognize that running a company is very different than the idea or implementation of the technology. I was a faculty researcher and systems engineer, but I was also an MBA student at Johns Hopkins. For me, it was a natural fit. I love the idea behind the technology, but I really enjoy the business and the financial side. Bottom line: Before you start a business, think about what a normal day in your life will be like running that business.
That is good advice. Could you tell us a little about your partnering strategy? What are you looking for?
Our strategy is to work with innovative partners who understand clinical informatics and really believe in the ability of improved information technology to have a big impact in improving health care. We’ve helped to create a consortium of hospitals, academic medical centers, and startups working together to build tools that bridge the gap between clinicians and disparate information systems that have the data they need. This strategy of bringing amazing software created by our consortium members and other innovative partners to the larger health care community is at the heart of our mission to improve quality and efficiency in health care.
All of our partners who develop tools are developing them to be portable, which makes it easy to take a technology built by one member and use it across any site with the Analytical platform. There is a huge cost savings for hospitals to get access to these tools without additional integration costs.
You’ve successfully received a Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) award from TEDCO. Can you offer advice to others who may be considering that path?
TEDCO’s support is instrumental to us. Although we had been growing organically at a good pace, we needed resources to go faster, to accelerate. The MII award helps us to do just that. We will use the grant funding to enhance sales and marketing efforts, demonstrate our technology at national meetings, and for product development. It allows us to hire more staff and move in parallel on more key product initiatives.
If you are looking to apply for an MII, one of the things to think about is the financial aspect. Be thoughtful and specific about how you will use the funding and how that will accelerate your company. You have to be very realistic about your projections and clear about the impact the grant will have on your company. Most importantly, be persistent and reapply if you are not successful the first time.
Any final thoughts?
It’s definitely an exciting time to be involved in health care. There’s a massive amount of disruption going on, and lots of things happening. Now more than ever there is a huge opportunity for technology to help with big efficiency and quality improvements in the health care industry, much as it has had in other industries. What makes our approach unique in health care is that, much like the Apple app store or Android marketplace models, we have a common data platform with tools developed by lots of different groups, designed to solve different types of problems in health care. We think this model could have an important and positive impact in health care. That’s what keeps us going. We called our technology the Bridge as a result of so many conversations with clinicians across the country. What we heard was that they needed better, more intuitive access to data and that’s our goal: To bridge the divide between clinical teams and the data that they need with innovative technology focused on solving real challenges in health care.
This article is based on a conversation between Chris Meenan and Jamie Lacey-Moreira in July 2013.
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