Health Tech Incubation Insights with Andrew Richards, College Technology Incubator Officer, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University

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Health Tech Incubation Insights with Andrew Richards, College Technology Incubator Officer, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University

Hey Outcomes Rocket friends, thanks for tuning in to the podcast once again. As a leader in health care, you have big ideas great products, a story to tell, and are looking for ways to improve your reach and scale your business. However there's one tiny problem. Health care is tough to navigate and the typical sales cycle is low. That's why you should consider starting your own podcast as part of your sales and marketing strategy. At the Outcomes Rocket, I've been able to reach thousands of people every single month that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach if I had not started my podcast. Having this organic reach enables me to get the feedback necessary to create a podcast that delivers value that you are looking for. And the same thing goes if you start a podcast for what you could learn from your customers. The best thing about podcasting in healthcare is that we are currently at the ground level, meaning that the number of people in healthcare listening to podcasts is small but growing rapidly. I put together a free checklist for you to check out the steps on what it takes to create your own podcast. You could find that at outcomesrocket.health/podcast. Check it out today and find a new way to leverage the sales, marketing and outcomes of your business. That's outcomesrocket.health/podcast.

Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast we chat with today's most successful and inspiring health leaders. Today I have an outstanding guest for you today. His name is Andrew Richards. He's over at the College of Technology Incubator Office at Elson Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University that is. He's got over 10 years in the tech industry and he's held many year old in software. Q and A with development process starting as a developer. He's been part of QA Software Design Software Architecture and has been hands on in a variety of development environments. He strives with every challenge that he faces. But the beauty of the work that he does with health care is particularly interesting and why we wanted to have him on the podcast so without further ado, just want to welcome you to the podcast, Andrew.

Oh thank you and thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here and to chat a bit about some of the fun things I'm working on.

Yes so anything in that intro that I left out that maybe you want to share?

I think you nailed it pretty well there. I've got quite a varied history of what I've worked on in the technology space. I like to tell people that I've done all kinds of crazy stuff artificial intelligence and language processing to working on tax software and online gaming. So it's been involved with everything and little bits and pieces here and there and somehow landed in healthcare and health technology and I've never looked back.

Man that's awesome. You definitely have done a little bit of everything. So what made you decide to get focused on health care?

Yeah. So one of my previous companies I was working at and CTO of we did a lot of service work consulting or protection groups. And like I mentioned we touched on tax software and online gaming and we started having some health technology clients and that really fascinated me and it felt good to be working on solutions that actually had this impact on life. We knew that the things we built and fixed proved would make lives better for people and I clung on to that and over time I eventually had an opportunity to co-found a health technology company so I jumped at that chance and I've been in the sector ever since and that's led me to where I am now at the Elson Floyd College of Medicine. I'm building this new technology incubator from the ground up.

That's awesome man. So now you're doing this incubator. You're seeing a lot of issues surface with problems that we have in healthcare and all the things that have come up. Andrew, what would you say a hot topic that needs to be in every medical leaders agenda today. What is that?

So this is interesting is that I work primarily with rural and urban underserved population. That's the big focus for a college of medicine. One thing we've seen a lot of is ways we can be sharing data better and that's evolving. We've been talking about this in the health tech space for it for quite a while. You know the advent a fire and all the ways that is being shared Glock's and of course being the buzzword right now. Apple in particular has done a great job with healthcare. We've been working with all of that. But what I think is the next big thing coming out of this is the evolution of kind of patient experience type solutions where as a patient owns their data they're going to drive their own care and who builds those solutions that allows the patient to drive their care. And I'm not talking about 25 siloed apps that run from different hospitals and clinics because we see that specifically in these rural populations is everybody is different than segmented out. But what about me as a patient what can I use to manage my own care? How do we tailor those solutions? And so I see that is a challenge we're going to need to address sooner rather than later to really empower our patients to have better health outcomes.

Now that's a really great callout and as you guys dive through this and you what would you say you and your organization are doing to create results with this incubator?

So are our incubator takes a unique approach in that many out there will look for really innovative and exciting technologies and help improve them and rapidly validate their models and the market. Are big driving factor is the challenging healthcare environments in the state of Washington and that's our goals in med school is to address that. So rather than building a single teaching hospital we've affiliated ourselves with clinics and hospitals statewide. We just signed our fiftieth hospital and we're on track to 100. It's fantastic.

Nice, congratulations.

Yeah. Thank you thank you. We work with those affiliates to understand the challenges they face and those problems are the solutions we go after as an incubator and we look for technologies and companies that fit into that space which puts us in an interesting position where I've seen some amazing ideas that really we don't really have a market for them to our incubator that fantastic crispr research and innovative solution. That's awesome. I'm concerned at this moment about really high readmission rates and to rural hospitals in rural Washington and as much as CRISPR research is fantastic. I need to worry about those patients right now. So our hyper focused on embrace at the end of the day has really allowed us to work on a very a niche set of problems and comes from really exciting solutions.

That's such a novel approach you know and you go straight to the folks that need what you need. I mean c'mon. So many people build products and they think it's going to work. And I think that's the approach that you guys are doing is definitely going to help generate some great ideas for the startups that you guys end up incubating.

Exactly and working directly with our affiliate partners allows the companies to rapidly validate their solutions. And you hit on a really important point. So much tech innovation that we see in the healthcare sector is built on a bubble. It's an engineer or even a patient or a provider that said had this cool idea I'm going to build this app or this widget or whatever and they don't have a place to validate they don't have the workflow to plug into. They don't have the end user telling them throughout the development hey that's a great idea. I would love if that would work. I don't have time to use this or this will be functional if it worked this other way and I could fit it into my day. And we provide that. That's one of the really exciting put together is the ability to rapidly validate your your ideas and solutions in a realistic environment and really work with honestly probably your first customers.

That's awesome man and hugely valuable first startup companies wanting to get off the ground. What would you say. Andrew I time that you made a mistake or had a setback. And what did you learn from that moment? Take us to that story.

Oh how long do we have? I've got quite a few. Because I'm a serial entrepreneur so I have made quite a few. But I'll pick one that really aligns to help technology and that would be one of my startups I was working with in that we built the technology that we thought like we better hurry up and get this launched. We're going to get to market everyone this is already going to be out there and we thought we had this really narrow window to get it out the door. We raced and we built and we launched this technology and we thought the train had left the station. But we realized the train tracks hadn't even been built yet we were so far ahead and we've been approaching this as engineers and people in other technology sectors would have approached it. We ended up in the health tech in these meetings and presentations where we go here's our solution and then we had a back up and actually explain what the problem was and why you need to solve it. And then you need to use our solution to solve it. We were so far ahead of the curve that we saw herself. And it gave me pause and I'm in a really stand back and go some of the processes and ways that innovators work outside of a healthcare space needs to be re-evaluated. You take a look at a different lens. When you were in the health tech space and things move differently there is regulations and procedures and payer systems and care delivery models and even the culture around accepting new ideas and technology. Healthcare is completely different than other industries and there's these big barriers around it like you know you can't just everyone says they want to "disrupt healthcare". We can't just flip a switch and disrupt healthcare. This isn't the taxi industry where you can just say The heck with it I'm doing my own thing. And health care people die when we do that. So how do you work within a system and within those constraints to make those changes. And I honestly didn't realize how big of a hurdle that was when I first got into this industry and it was a humbling lesson. What I think I've come a long way and that's something I've been working with partners on quite a bit ever since those early days.

It's super valuable realization to make and. And what about the other side of things. You definitely have had some successes. Talk to us about one of the most amazing leadership experiences or moments you've had in health care?

Yeah I would I would have to say it was the there's two components to this. So as we've been watching the incubator at the med school here one of the big successes for us was raising the funds to drive it where being in the startup world for many years. We've all done fund raising as part of the hustle to build your company. And everybody we met with that had even expressed an interest in being part of our incubator. They said yes not only did they say yes they exceeded our expectations. I've never batted a thousand when building a business on the financial side. And I was this mind blowing. Wow we're on to something in the story of that is we're community driven. This is about helping patients. It's about the changing outcomes improving healthcare that's our driver. The fact that we can generates revenue too. That's great. But the reality is that what we're trying to do so that was a really problem for us for me personally was to see that buy in and the other component of that as well was meeting the companies and the affiliates that want to participate with us where they started. Hey wouldn't it be cool if we could do this and now we're at this for all these elements have come together and it's something I'm really proud of to see all of this. Just close. We are we're really excited to do final formal announce that we've kind of been doing this in stealth mode in the worst off mode ever because everyone knows we're doing it but we haven't really announced who the investors are or who the companies are which specific affiliates but all the pieces are there. So we're really excited to publicize all of the good work come together that seeing it happen is fantastic.

Now big kudos to your team, brother It's hard to get buy in on that you know and to get somebody to not only buy in but invest is a huge milestone and very important. So big congrats to you guys.

Thank you. It's been a long road but the people that we've worked with believe in it and they resonate with this story resonates with them and they're excited to you know help change things. And it's great.

So tell us a little bit about an exciting project or focus within the incubator that you're just stoked about.

Well I would love to talk about all the companies we're working with but I think my legal team will come stick to me about that but I'll tell you something we've done in relation with an incubator so while people who have hackatons four years ago yeah we said it those five years ago. So part of the incubators role is to interact with our med students and for people that don't know the Alcinous Floy College of Medicine is brand new. Our first class finished their first year are out in June and yes our second class starts in August so we are literally building a new med M.D. program from the ground up. So we are we have this blank slate ahead of us an incubator is the path that it's on and the incubators part of that is we're owning the technology future of what healthcare delivery should look like for these students. So we started finding ways how do we get students and the technology companies start playing ball together how we get them in Iraq. So we built a hackathon where you can make a lot of people dunnies. So we did an interdisciplinary hackathon here at the med school in April and we had med students but we also had students from all the different colleges at WSU but also in the Spokane region so you know Gonzaga University a bunch of the colleges. We had high school students come and we pick them up with experts from around the region. We had people flying in from around the country to participate with us. And we saw that students build solutions for rural health care challenges using augmented reality. They were using all kinds of just like cutting edge stuff and it was great to see a med student working with a doctor working with the developer working with some of that as user experience design and they'd never met. And by the time they were done they built these solutions. And three of them have already spun off into businesses and now we have students that have coming out of this hackathon and they are doing. They want to pursue their idea scholarly work which is a project that our med students have to do in conjunction with the curriculum. There's like 320 hours of her three or four years after the outside of the workload of being an MBA student and the incubators are weaving into that. So we're working on ways to teach med students to look forward to critically think about technology to kind of when you go into a hospital clinic don't look at it and go This is the way it's always been done this is how we have to do it. Start thinking about what that hackathon was like working with the incubator. What was that like looking at an idea from a different lens?

I think that's so interesting and a very novel way to approach. Again the whole medical innovation piece so kudos to you guys and super exciting time to be working in rural medicine. The strides that can be made are pretty impressive.

Absolutely. Firm believer that the barrier to entry is low. And I mean that's a very positive way that a lot of these clinics that we work with are independent or there are small consortiums and they're willing to try new things. You know there's not that they're not culture. No there's not 12 layers of lawyers and 90 teens to tell you why you can't do it. It's a small group of people that are willing to try new things. We know obviously within reason that can help solve their problems and it will to have a partner come in and help them do it. Having a med school and university and investors all willing to participate in all of us being on the same page and working towards the same goal is just a delight to see all these things come together.

Now for sure. Now getting close to the end here Andrew. Great things ahead with this lightning round. Let's pretend you and I are building a medical leadership course and what it takes to be successful in the business of healthcare. The 101 of Andrew Richards. Got four questions for you. A lightning round style followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners are you ready?

All right let's do it.

Alright. What's the best way to improve health care outcomes?

I would say engage patients they need to have an amazing experience. And if your patients are engaged ideally to maybe simplifying your interactions with whatever your healthcare system automate where you can you're going to hire teams to practice the top of the license nurses and doctors don't need to take all the calls automate stuff like that. How can you make a patient interact with your system efficiently. They'll be happier and you'll deliver better care.

What's the biggest mistake make or pitfall to avoid?

I mentioned this earlier. It's the culture of no. It's dismissing an idea just because you don't understand it or if you say well there's not 10 years of evidence to back that up and understand a person from a health technology perspective so not something that if you do it wrong people are going to die but be open be empathetic be willing to say yes and try new things.

How do you stay relevant despite constant change?

You need to set aside time to keep up with what's happening. A lot of specialists will keep up with what's happening in their field which you know makes perfect sense. We need to have time set aside for specialists to keep up with what's happening in technology space and maybe people under 18 keep up with that. I'm an informed specialist so everyone can kind of understand what's coming and best ways to use that to better deliver care.

Great callout. What is the one area of focus should drive everything in a health organization?

Understand what your care delivery model is and how to best meet that. For us it's challenging healthcare environment and the state of Washington. That above all else is our mission. So how do we deliver care improve outcomes for patients or reduce costs reduce burnout. We dress all kinds of problems identified that drives us is going to be different for every health system that you need to understand what the core vision is and go after it.

What would you say your favorite book is that you recommend to the listeners, Andrew?

Was kind of a curveball but one of my favorite books is An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. Chris Hadfield the first Canadian to walk in space and he's that book has awesome insights on life on challenges and just always being prepared for what life's gonna throw at you.

Love it. Listeners you could find all of the questions that Andrew and I have just been chatting about the transcripts, links to the book that he just recommended just go to outcomesrocket.health/Richards. That's Andrew Richards. You'll be able to find all of the resources there. Well Andrew time flies before we conclude that love if we could just have you share closing thought with the listeners and the best place where they can get in touch with you.

Yes absolutely. Just remember specifically in this health tech world you know we're all in this together right. We need to all fight that culture of no. We need to be willing to say yes need to listen we need empathy. The only way we're going to change things. So find that niche that one thing you're good at and go for the best way to get a hold of me is on Twitter my handle @andrewintech I'm on there quite a bit and love to chat with you in this kind of conversation.

Outstanding. Andrew big thanks for spending time with us today and super excited to see where this incubator goes.

Excited as well. Thank you so much for the time.

Hey Outcomes Rocket friends, thanks for tuning in to the podcast once again. As a leader in health care, you have big ideas great products, a story to tell, and are looking for ways to improve your reach and scale your business. However there's one tiny problem. Health care is tough to navigate and the typical sales cycle is low. That's why you should consider starting your own podcast as part of your sales and marketing strategy. At the Outcomes Rocket, I've been able to reach thousands of people every single month that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach if I had not started my podcast. Having this organic reach enables me to get the feedback necessary to create a podcast that delivers value that you are looking for. And the same thing goes if you start a podcast for what you could learn from your customers. The best thing about podcasting in healthcare is that we are currently at the ground level, meaning that the number of people in healthcare listening to podcasts is small but growing rapidly. I put together a free checklist for you to check out the steps on what it takes to create your own podcast. You could find that at outcomesrocket.health/podcast. Check it out today and find a new way to leverage the sales, marketing and outcomes of your business. That's outcomesrocket.health/podcast.

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Recommended Book:

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

Best Way to Contact Andrew:

@andrewintech

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