Why former Rush, Atlantic Health System IT chiefs joined a startup

Two former health system IT leaders told Becker's they joined a digital health company because they felt they could make more of a difference helping their former industry from the startup side.

Last year, digital platform Tendo hired Bala Hota, MD, the former vice president and chief analytics officer of Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center, and Benjamin Maisano, the former chief digital and innovation officer of Morristown, N.J.-based Atlantic Health System.

Both men said they expect more of their former colleagues in the health system C-suite to similarly jump to startups in the years ahead.

"People are more aware, the fluency has gone up, about what startups and digital can be," Mr. Maisano said. "Health execs get this space, and they actually realize: 'Hey, I can be an innovator.' There are a lot of creative people in health systems that don't necessarily have that outlet."

Tendo is working to build a digital "chassis" or front office platform for health systems to make better use of all the data and apps at their disposal. It has already begun collaborating with Dr. Hota's former system as well as Rockledge, Fla.-based Health First.

"It's a good thing that people who have a deep expertise of how the health system actually runs are joining startups because it brings real knowledge of the complexity. The solutions will be more nuanced and not superficial," Dr. Hota said. "It was attractive for me because we were living with these problems: 'Why is it so hard to fix things? Where can I go to actually make a difference?'"

He said he found it challenging to build a startup from within a health system because of the difficulty of scaling it. He also tried to integrate artificial intelligence and predictive data modeling.

"What I learned out of that whole experience is people aren't necessarily looking for more dashboards. They're looking for solutions to problems," he said. "What they really want is: 'How do I make these 10 patients not be readmitted? How do I prevent complications in these 20 patients with diabetes?'"

"Physicians feel like their voices are lost in the system," Mr. Maisano said. "They are some of the most progressive folks that want to try this stuff. It's not usually them saying no."

They noted how healthcare is at the crossroads of technology, from the "20th-century model" of ICD codes to futuristic generative AI.

"It feels like there's something in the middle where we leverage the data better and help anticipate the needs of patients," Dr. Hota said. "There are so many headwinds for hospital administrators. A year ago, I was in their shoes. How do we make their jobs easier?"

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