Startup Insider: Zillion

Bill Van Wyck, president and chief innovation officer for Norwalk, Conn.-based Zillion, founded the company in 2010, after spending years in industries like shipping, logistics and e-commerce and finding that, in many ways, healthcare is just another messed up vertical with a variety of pain points in need of solutions.

"Healthcare is not unlike other verticals in that it's a big industry with problems," Mr. Van Wyck says. "And there are players trying to solve those problems using technology who often end up trying to be technology companies at the same time. I wanted to bring value to healthcare by using a technology and software perspective to solve industry problems."

Zillion is an open application programming interface software platform that works to facilitate efficient delivery and design for healthcare solutions.

Mr. Van Wyck spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about why stakes are so high for providers, the four components that underlie common themes in healthcare and how legacy vendors will fare in a changing landscape.

Note: Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: You mentioned healthcare is similar in some ways to other industries you've worked in. How is it different?

Bill Van Wyck: What's interesting about healthcare is the regulatory restrictions around it and the significant security concerns in the space in general. In healthcare, the stakeholders and the field that's being played are changing. You see payers and providers starting to look and act the same in dealing with populations, dealing with individuals and looking to scale efficiencies in order to stem the tide of progressing illness. You're also dealing with interoperability issues. There are lots of legacy systems and legacy infrastructure, and then you compound that with a problem, like shake-ups in the provider world where it's a largely eat-or-be-eaten environment where they're dealing with their own IT issues, like how do we manage our EHR installations while at the same time integrating these new companies and providers we're acquiring? Let alone take on new technology initiatives in order to gain efficiencies and improve outcomes and ride the tail wind of the ACA.

All of that together really creates opportunity. So healthcare is another big messed up industry in terms of all these various points coming together. I think taking a fresh technology perspective is how the innovation is going to occur.

Q: How does Zillion fit into that picture?

BVW: We're a software technology startup working in that space, and in my eyes the answer for healthcare is in design. As I move into healthcare I see common themes like population health, telemedicine, telehealth, digital IT, engaging patients — all of that industry jargon from a technology perspective is quite simple, and it's what Zillion provides. Those themes are all just combinations of communications, scheduling, dynamic content delivery and data analytics. This is a drastic simplification of what we do, but if you bring those four components together on a common platform like Zillion and you have the software approach that Zillion provides, you can build any one of those applications in short order, and you won't end up with a point solution that doesn't work with anything else.

Those solutions can be built as you're moving along the continuum of care, and when you do so with a common platform, it's compelling because you can start fixing things at a much lower cost and with much faster implementation. It provides a product path that you can execute on without having to go back and re-engineer your technology.

Q: How do the more nimble solutions that many startups in healthcare are offering square with those legacy systems?

BVW: Zillion sits at the nexus between inpatient systems and population-type systems, meaning patient engagement programs and products that work outside of facilities. When you look at the EMRs and inpatient systems and the convergence of all of those systems together from a technology perspective, it's a mess. I don't think any providers or payers would disagree with that. When you look at how you're going to move outside of that space, the Epics and MEDITECHs and Cerners of the world, they're not very open. They don't want a lot of a lot of integration, so until you end up with an industry standard like HL7's FHIR, which might come out in a couple of years, you're going to see this wall between the legacy systems and newcomers. You'll see the EMR companies trying to move outside the wall and the technology-focused and point solutions trying to move inside that wall. Zillion is trying to be as interoperable as possible with those systems to the extent that if a provider or payer wants to integrate with them we can do it quickly and at low cost. But once the standard comes into place, we'll be there and we'll be compatible with whatever comes into play.

Q: What is Zillion hoping to accomplish this year?

BVW: We're an open application programming interface software platform, meaning by definition you can build products on top of Zillion. A couple of years ago, the story would've been "build a product on Zillion and then you end up with this thing that can scale and leverage all the technology." Today's story is about our new product which we rolled out with our first customer a couple of weeks ago, and this upcoming year is a story about scaling through a template-based system, which is from a technology perspective, widgetized. What that means is in the healthcare vertical, you have things like trackers and labs and blood results and medications and instructions on what a patient needs to do at a certain time, and we now have all that configurable out of the box. That means that payers or providers or device manufacturers can very quickly implement pilots and commercially scalable products into the market at very little to no cost up front. And that's a real game-changer because as you look at healthcare, so many companies are trying to raise money to just build another point solution, or raise money to build a pilot, and all of that cost and time is a barrier.

Zillion has been largely undercover with a few large customers to date and now we're going to be really coming out and making our products available. We'll be focusing on payers, device manufacturers and also the provider world to help them extend their reach outside their four walls. That's our direction for 2016.

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