Aaron Patzer, the Mint.com founder who sold his company to Intuit for $170 million, is venturing into the healthcare space with Vital, a new company that launched out of stealth today with $5.2 million in funding and four hospital clients set to be announced in the coming weeks.
This is actually Patzer’s second healthcare company, in a way — he sold Fountain, a company focused on delivering expert opinions, including medical opinions, via video chat, in 2015. For Vital, he cofounded the company with Dr. Justin Schrager, doctor of emergency medicine at Emory University Hospital and Patzer’s brother-in-law.
First Round Capital and Threshold Ventures (formerly DFJ Ventures) led the $5.2 million seed round, with additional participation from Bragiel Brothers, Meridian Street Capital, Refactor Capital and SV Angel. Angel investment came from Vivek Garipalli, CEO of CloverHealth, as well as Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg, founders of Flatiron Health. Patzer also invested $1 million of his own money prior to this round.
WHAT THEY DO
Essentially, Vital is offering a patient and clinician-facing software for emergency rooms that, while not replacing the EHR (notably the software isn’t designed for billing), aims to replace the EHR’s user experience as much as possible. The software uses artificial intelligence to offer up-to-the-second predictions about a patient’s likelihood of admission, which hospital staff can use to proactively prepare beds.
“There is a patient-facing mobile app for check-in, for getting wait times and setting expectations throughout the visit,” Patzer told MobiHealthNews. “And then on the clinic side it’s a full EHR specifically designed for the emergency room. So you can do patient triage, note-taking, see a track board of who’s in the waiting room, who’s at other hospitals nearby that are in the same chain, take vital signs, and then it has all of the AI predictions about whether somebody is likely to be admitted to stay overnight, how severe they are, what labs and imaging they might need.”
Patients who come into the emergency room are directed to a web app they can use to fill out intake information like medical history, age, height, weight and medications, as well as describe what’s bringing them into the clinic by selecting an area on a graphic of a body then providing more information, including free-text fields. They can also take a picture of themselves and their insurance card through the app.
All the information patients enter is automatically populated into the clinician-facing app, which uses that data to calculate a risk level for the patient that is prominently displayed in red or green on a dashboard app visible to nurses. Whenever nurses or doctors take vital signs, get lab results or interview patients they can enter that information into the app, which then updates that risk rating. And patients can keep track in the app of what’s happening with their care.
“You’ll sit there for three hours [in an ER] and not know what’s going on,” Patzer said. “So to be able to say ‘You’re sitting here because four out of five of your lab tests have come back but one of them’s taking a while because it’s backed up’ or ‘Three patients of a greater severity came in and took the bed that we thought was going to be assigned to you,’ just setting those expectations without a doctor or nurse having to talk to the patients is really important.”
On the technical side, the app is cloud-based and integrates with Cerner, Epic or Allscripts EHRs using FHIR and HL7 resources.
WHAT IT’S FOR
The funding announcement is timed with the public launch of the company, which has already signed deals to launch with four hospitals, although Vital isn’t quite ready to disclose those partners.
The funding will support those rollouts as well as additional sales efforts. Patzer said the software is a hard sell at first, but the product is such a dramatic change from what nurses are used to, they often come around once they see a demo.
“As soon as they see it, they believe it,” he said. “But our biggest problem is the industry being a bad actor. The software is so bad and the experience is so bad that people don’t think it can be usable. They don’t think that it can follow consumer principles that you can basically use this with no training, because it’s just intuitive.”
And while the company is very much focused on the emergency room initially, they're not ruling out further expansion.
WHY IT MATTERS
It’s always worth a look when a well-known tech entrepreneur takes a swing at healthcare, particularly at one of clinicians’ biggest frustrations: their EHRs.
But beyond the star power, Vital is also somewhat novel because it takes a holistic swing at the problem, and offers both an enhanced user experience and a value-add with the use of AI, trained on human doctors and nurses’ decisions in 250,000 patient visits.
“There are no startups really that have gone after Epic and Cerner and Allscripts,” Patzer said. “All of these tools originated in the 1970s. They have really old code bases. But it’s such a complex area where you have to solve for so many things, that people really only chip away at the sides and they go after the core. But our view is you do really have to go after the core experience because that’s how you improve patient safety, that’s how you improve doctors and nurses’ lives. You can’t have little things unless it’s right in the workflow you’re using 10 hours a day.”
ON THE RECORD
“Vital successfully built software with a modern, no-training-required interface, while also meeting HIPAA compliance. It’s what people expect from consumer software, but rarely see in healthcare,” Kopelman said. “Turning massive amounts of complex and regulated data into clean, easy products is what Mint.com did for money, and we’re proud to back a solution that’ll do the same in life and death situations.”