Startup Insider: 5 questions with Edgility CEO Balaji Ramadoss on situational awareness

For the past year, Edgility has worked to bring mission control — a concept most readily associated with NASA launches and military operations — to the healthcare space.

The San Francisco-based startup, which operates under the trademarked banner "The joy of practicing medicine," aims to improve healthcare operations with data science. Its business centers on building a platform for "situational awareness," or a cognitive system that processes information to provide team members with insights into their "mission," in this case, efficient hospital functions.

"[Our goal] is to essentially bring air-traffic-control-like situational awareness to transform healthcare operations," says Balaji Ramadoss, PhD, founder and CEO of Edgility. The platform brings together data from across a clinical network, such as a health system, to oversee logistics so physicians can focus on patient care, rather than operational or administrative demands, Dr. Ramadoss explains.

Prior to founding Edgility, which launched August 2016, Dr. Ramadoss served as vice president for technology experience and innovation at Stanford (Calif.) Health Care. "The urge to solve this problem, and the need for situational awareness in healthcare, got me very excited," he says. "My wife, too, is a partner in this. She has extensive healthcare experience, so she quit her PwC job and I quit my Stanford job, and we started this company together."

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with Dr. Ramadoss to discuss how the Edgility team communicates the importance of situational awareness to hospital leaders.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What prompted you to found Edgility?

Balaji Ramadoss: I was working at Stanford Health Care, where we had some of the smartest brains in the country and were strategically located by Silicon Valley. That allowed me to think bigger and to look at healthcare in its macro form. I started to study how complex systems operate. I looked at NASA mission control; how they manage the shuttle launch and all the complexities associated with it. Or how packages are shipped, tracked and delivered. Or aircraft control; how it guides pilots through take off, flight status changes, weather patterns and everything through baggage claim. After studying all of this, we started envisioning bringing this level of control and coordination to health systems.

Q: How does Edgility fit into the broader healthcare landscape?

BR: Physicians and nurses are spending more time coordinating logistics than caring for patients. With Edgility's transactional data model, we control the operational data physicians and nurses are currently involved with. Our idea is, when we control this operational data, Edgility can enable physicians and nurses to spend more time with their patients and focus on their wellness plans rather than the technology aspect of what they do. We call it bringing back "The joy of practicing medicine" for physicians and nurses, and that's how we fit into the healthcare landscape.

Q: What challenges has Edgility faced since its launch?

BR: One major thing we have struggled with is awareness. That's the challenge we face every day. I've looked at the market, and there's just a few groups starting to take about this concept of situational awareness. We are a brand new segment of technology. The KLAS ratings do not have ratings for situational awareness. And for Edgility, it's not just a technology platform, but a new operating model for healthcare we have to communicate. It's an awareness campaign, and we have to let hospital leaders know they should demand the same amount of coordination other industries are getting. It's a message that resonates really well with the CEOs and the COOs, but our challenge is getting to them.

Q: What advice do you have for other health IT companies working to improve situational awareness in the hospital setting?

BR: Situational awareness is not about cramming more alerts into mobile devices. I see a lot of IT companies trying to do that, but it's all of this information and data that's driving physicians and nurses to the edge because they're already oversaturated with technology. We need to start thinking about situational awareness as not another stream of information that physicians and nurses need to act on, but as a support system for them. That's the model we should go after. We're always saying technology cannot change patient experience or clinical outcomes until the experiences of physicians and nurses are changed. We need to start investing in physician and nurse experiences.

Q: What are some of your goals for Edgility in the next year?

BR: Edgility is focused on developing three key partnerships with leading health systems in the next year. We hope these health systems will not only take advantage of our data catalog, but also help us develop the platform, bringing it to the next level. That's one goal for Edgility, looking for these three key partnerships. My personal goal, as part of Edgility, is continuing to educate and communicate on the value of situational awareness and the need to restore "The joy of practicing medicine" to physicians and nurses.

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