Medal CEO's patient, provider experiences showed the human cost of interoperability woes

By Jonah Comstock
02:10 pm
Lonnie Rae Kurlander is a health tech CEO speaking at HIMSS 2.0 conference

Lonnie Rae Kurlander has seen the healthcare system from a lot of angles: as a doctor-in-training, as a health tech CEO, and twice as a patient with a serious condition — once with a broken hip in a city far from home, and once with a mystery disease that left her too weak to walk or think.

All her experiences have one thing in common: they’ve led her to the same conclusions about the biggest challenge facing our healthcare system.

“This was a huge problem it turns out, and it was killing more of my patients than I would ever be able to treat,” Kurlander told MobiHealthNews. “So what I realized is if I became a doctor and was able to save the life of every single person I touched, literally, I would never be able to help as many people as if I instead just focused on solving the interoperability problem.”

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Kurlander will be taking the Health 2.0 stage as part of the annual fall conference’s popular 4 CEOs panel on September 19th. Her company, Medal, is focused on solving health data interoperability on the receiving end.

“Medal makes it easy to extract medical data and clinical data from a variety of sources where it’s typically trapped,” she explained. “The problem that we’re solving is that healthcare professionals cannot easily collaborate on medical data today, and that contributes to about $215 billion in administrative expense and a trillion dollars in lost human potential. It’s a huge burden. Eighty percent of all medical errors are related to errors in exchange of clinical data, which is the problem that Medal addresses head on.”

Using machine learning, Medal helps hospitals clean and analyze the data in patient records that come in from various sources.

“You’re never going to get completely uniform data from disparate data sources, so you have to get really good at understanding that variation and reclassifying it in a very comprehensive manor. That’s one thing that Medal has done,” she said.

In addition, the company offers collaborative workflow tools that help hospital staff integrate the software into their day-to-day.

“I think a lot of times people come in and say ‘we can do this all better’ and kind of turn everything on its head, but they don’t have an appreciation for why it ended up the way it is today,” Kurlander said. “So they don’t understand there are reasons for what it is today. It’s important to respect that. That’s one of the things that Medal has done well.”

But for Kurlander, the potential for the technology is much bigger than just preventing errors and repetition, like the $10,000 she ended up paying when she broke her hip in Nevada and returned home to the Bay area post-surgery.

She thinks her technology can also people beat complex medical conditions such as the mast cell disfunction from which she recently recovered, a condition that doctors told her would leave her permanently disabled. Instead, she’s back on her feet and about to start biking to work again.

Part of the reason for that, Kurlander said, was that she was able to pull all the data from her disparate records together and her doctors were able to identify the root cause of her symptoms.

Part of the long-term goal of Medal is to expand a feature called Medal Insights, which uses big data to catch risk factors doctors didn’t see in members of a patient population. That’s the tip of the iceberg for the technology, Kurlander says.

“If you have a cleaner, better dataset, and you can start to predict the features that are not present in the record but maybe should be, and you can start to link the record to the available research, then yes, I think you can actually improve the dataset which you are studying,” she said. “And yeah, I believe if you have that the quality of care will improve and the insights and what we learn from it will be fundamentally different from what we have today. We will learn things that we don’t even know we don’t know.”

Kurlander will take the stage at the 4 CEOs panel on the Health 2.0 main stage, at 2:25 pm on September 18th, where she will be interviewed by Jessica DeMassa, executive producer and host of the 'WTF (What's the Future?) Health Show’.

Health 2.0

The Santa Clara conference will showcase cutting-edge innovation transforming healthcare Sept. 16-18.