For entrepreneur and investor Aaron Patzer, the jump from financial apps to emergency room software is shorter than you might expect.
After founding the personal finance app Mint.com (acquired by Intuit) and mobile video assistance platform Fountain, Patzer teamed up with his brother-in-law, Dr. Justin Schrager, Emory emergency room doctor and assistant professor, to form Vital in 2016.
“In the abstract sense [Mint and Vital] are very similar. They’re both in highly regulated areas, they’re both full of complexity and confusion and intimidation for the average consumer,” he told Hypepotamus. “Mint has saved people $4 billion in bank fees and additional interest by being on the side of the consumer. We hope to do the same on the side of the patient.”
Both startups, he said, are about cleaning up dirty data. “Mint had connectivity to about 12,000 banks and brokerages, and loans and, so the question was how do you maintain feeds from so many different places and present it in a cohesive way. At this point [with Vital], we are getting data feeds from 80 different hospitals. They all call their labs different things, and they need to be normalized and rationalized and explained.”
The key, Patzer said, is using AI to improve patient experience and clinical operations. Patients and their family members can get text-based updates on estimated wait times, securely share information, get an education around lab and imaging — all without needing to download another app.
For Schrager, it is about “empowering” patients with key information during their visit.
From a clinical perspective, Vital helps hospital staff by modeling follow-up visit information and providing better predictions around wait times, and providing a convenient place for AI-powered alerts for specific patients. By plugging into current electronic health records, Vital can provide a more UI-friendly look at how a patient is progressing during their wait at the emergency room.
The team says that Vital’s solutions are used by about half of patients entering an ER that uses their technology. The best use case is for patients who aren’t critically ill and therefore tend to wait the longest for care.
Emergency Innovation During COVID and Beyond
Improving both the patient and the hospital staff experience has helped Vital gain traction at more than 80 hospitals and 15 healthcare systems nationwide to date. That includes Atlanta’s Emory Healthcare system.
It also helped them close a $15 million Series A round this September, led by healthcare-focused VC Transformation Capital.
The two co-founders said the team has nearly doubled since March of this year.
“The last year has been challenging for people in the United States because COVID, and emergency departments have been hitting hard at various times,” said Schrager. “Every ER in the country is understaffed right now for a variety of reasons, so even patients that don’t have COVID are waiting a long time.”
The extra burden forced emergency rooms to find ways to streamline and offload work. Schrager said it became even more important to give patients a way to provide updates to family members outside of the ER as visiting policies changed throughout the pandemic.
“It’s hard to deliver information to people in the emergency department because it’s such a fluctuating environment, and doing this sort of predictive analytics that we do, it’s extremely difficult. We have great ER partners we work with who tell us what their pain points are and we’re able to address them quickly as a startup,” Schrager added.
“Emory signed on to pilot Vital at a time when we couldn’t have predicted how essential its real-time view across our EDs would prove,” said Dr. David Wright, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Emory Clinic, in a press statement. “As people’s expectation grows for transparency and ease-of-use, it’s really great to be able to provide both to patients and their caregivers while also alleviating the burden on our nurses and staff.”