MDisrupt’s Chief Commercial Officer on Building & Innovation

MDisrupt’s Chief Commercial Officer on Building & Innovation

greg-nagy

Greg Nagy is a seasoned global executive in life science and medical technology, with expertise in go-to-market strategies. Previously, Greg was chief marketing officer at Drawbridge Health and VP of global marketing at Topcon Eyecare, and has held leadership positions at other biotech and medical device companies, including Solta Medical and Amgen. Here, he talks about his path from engineer to healthcare technology commercial expert and what it takes to thrive in a startup.
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Healthcare from the inside out

MDisrupt: What led to your interest in healthcare?

Greg Nagy: Just a pure fascination with the human body, and a genuine interest in helping people.

When I was just a teenager, I got hit by a car while I was walking to the bus stop. I was thrown about 50 feet from the impact and had a major concussion, a fractured hip, fractured shins, and severely injured my knee.

I went to an all-boys Jesuit high school, and our motto was “Men for others.” When the accident happened, it was a lesson in experiencing a traumatic event surrounded by others who lived by that motto and really wanted to help.

Having your life flash before your eyes, your perspective really changes. It makes you value your healthcare support system, and is a reminder that anything can happen at any time to make you or your loved ones the “patient.” That’s part of why I chose healthcare—it’s personally fulfilling and I feel like I can make a real impact on improving people’s quality of life.

Building right, from the beginning

MDisrupt: You call yourself a “recovering engineer.” What brought you to engineering and then into marketing and commercialization?   

Greg Nagy: I was always interested in science and medicine. When I started college at UC San Diego, they had recently established their program in bioengineering. I found it fascinating to apply engineering tools to clinical applications in biology and medicine. This led me to an opportunity to develop drug discovery automation for a company that was acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and later a very large-scale global drug discovery operation for Amgen.

After completing my MBA, two things stood out: I really wanted to be a “builder,” which is easier at small companies, where you can build and scale products from the beginning. And I was drawn to the commercial side, because there is a whole lot of strategy involved in bringing healthcare products to market.

I discovered along the way that there were a lot of products that were fantastic, but never made it in the market. And a lot of terrible products made so much money. The difference was about how they entered the market. I wanted to be part of that downstream success story, so I transitioned from engineering into product management. That allowed me to get my feet wet on the commercial side, but still be upstream in product development and connected with the engineers. To be effective commercially, it’s super-impactful to be able to talk to scientists and technologists in their own language.

MDisrupt: What do you like about being part of a startup?  

Greg Nagy: I’m a builder. To me, that’s the most exciting thing—building in a place where there’s a lot of freedom. Some structure is needed, but you’ve got a blank sheet of paper. I’m enticed by that.

At a startup, it’s like there’s a fire behind you—if you slow down you’ll get burned. You don’t experience that in bigger companies because you’re comfortable and there are lots of resources and established processes. And I thrive in that uncomfortable position. It makes me get up every day and have to think hard and strategically about how we do the next thing.

Bringing innovation where it’s needed 

MDisrupt: What attracted you to MDisrupt in particular?

Greg Nagy: I met MDisrupt’s Founder and CEO, Ruby [Gadelrab], when hiring her for a branding project at my previous company, Drawbridge Health. I was super-impressed with the people she surrounded herself with, and by the phenomenal respect for her in the industry. When she said, “Can you help me build MDisrupt?” it was an easy decision to say yes. The fact that there was already a great team in place, with some resources and market traction, was appealing too. I saw this as a chance to make a profound impact in an industry that really needs change.

MDisrupt: Is there anything you’ve learned since coming to MDisrupt that’s surprised you? 

Greg Nagy: I didn’t realize how many folks want to engage in innovation, but just don’t know how to get involved. Despite what you read about doctors being overworked, I don’t think it’s the overworking that bothers them. I commonly hear that they would love the opportunity to be more involved with innovation—not just using products, but guiding their clinical development. We can help them get involved and help them contribute upstream of patient care. And being here gives me a perspective on how much opportunity there is in the digital health market.

Digital health is absolutely exploding right now—record amounts of funding, large IPOs, and an increase in M&A activity. Most importantly, tons of breakthrough healthcare innovations are coming to doctors and their patients to improve quality of life. It is an exciting time for MDisrupt: We have the opportunity to make a real impact, working with some of the brightest minds in healthcare to bring life-changing digital health products to market and ensuring that clinicians and patients have the information they need to choose the best products that are the right ones for them.

Making a difference

MDisrupt: How do you see the role of marketing and commercialization in digital health startups?

Greg Nagy: I think it’s got a tremendous role. Successful companies understand how to get the product to market and to the masses efficiently. It requires a delicate balance to get to commercial scale while preserving precious capital. Quite literally, it’s a race against the clock.

The more we can speak the language of both sides—science/technology and commercial—the more great technologies we can help bring to market. To me, that’s where we can add the most value. There are hundreds of digital health companies starting every month. How do we make sure they actually make a difference for people? I think there’s been a lot of missed opportunity for humankind, because a lot of products get shelved.

MDisrupt: Co-workers say they appreciate your calmness. What helps you be that calm guy? 

Greg Nagy: I’m always surprised to hear that. I think I’m more like a duck—looks calm on the surface, but paddling really hard underneath.

In startups, there are always lots of ideas and changing priorities. You have to be that person who steers straight down the middle: “This guy is not overreacting and he’s confident about what he’s doing.” I think that confidence is important to feel and to project. By tuning into the challenges people at some of these digital health companies are dealing with, I can show them confidence very quickly out of the gate.

Dog joy

MDisrupt: One last question—why’d you get your dog?

Greg Nagy: The dog got me! I’m a “foster fail.” Frida, a Great Dane named after artist Frida Kahlo, was adopted from a rescue group in Southern California. After just a few weeks of fostering, we fell in love with her and she is now part of the family. I didn’t want a dog—didn’t want to give up my freedom—but now we take her everywhere. You forget about everything else when you’re throwing the ball for your dog. It brings so much joy to everyday life.

 

At MDisrupt we believe that the most impactful health products should make it to market quickly. We help make this happen by connecting digital health innovators to the healthcare industry experts and scientists they need to responsibly accelerate product development, commercialization, adoption, and scale.

Our expert consultants span the healthcare continuum and can assist with all stages of health product development. This includes regulatory, clinical studies and evidence generation, payor strategies, commercialization, and channel strategies. If you are building a health product, talk to us.

Making the Patient Experience Better

Making the Patient Experience Better

Jennifer Swoyer, DO

Meet Jennifer Swoyer, DO, who leads the family medicine residency program at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center in La Grange, Illinois.

podcast available

Dr. Swoyer is a family physician who has been in practice for over 20 years. Her passion lies in teaching and clinical medicine, helping underserved populations, and improving access to health and wellness programs.

Health consumers driving change

MDisrupt: How is the traditional family practice evolving to meet the demands of health consumers?  

Jennifer Swoyer: Family medicine is evolving quickly, as are most aspects of medicine. For primary care providers, the pandemic shed new light on how we need to integrate technology to improve the quality of care for our patients.

For example, telehealth has been around for a while, but with the pandemic, there were changes that allowed us to be able to integrate it better. The beauty of telehealth is that we were able to screen patients differently, do follow up visits more easily, and stop limiting patients to the schedules that we set. We were able to be much more flexible in making sure that patients got the care that they need and deserve—and this is here to stay.

Technology to engage patients and improve health

MDisrupt: It’s been estimated that there are somewhere between 200K to 400K avoidable, preventable deaths each year in the US. How can physicians partner with health innovators to improve those stats?

Jennifer Swoyer: For medical professionals, preventing deaths is always our goal. Technology, depending on how it’s utilized, can really become a team approach between the provider and patient. The best thing about point-of-care technology is that the individual who has the disease or condition being monitored now has a daily opportunity to understand their own health. That allows me to do a better job as a provider and it becomes more of an opportunity for us to prevent bad outcomes. There are many examples of where we can use these technologies to help this partnership work better.

When we talk about population health and social determinants of health, we’ve seen the healthcare landscape change over the last few years. Healthcare systems have consolidated services to try and create one-stop shopping experiences: If you need to go see your provider, you can also get your X-ray and your labs, everything done in one location. This is really great and improves convenience. When health systems moved to single locations, however, they removed a lot of the providers that were in the community and consolidated them, reducing some of the access. Having mobile clinics that go out to shelters or large church organizations is an amazing outreach opportunity where you can reach a large population and then connect them with technology.

A call to action

MDisrupt: Many in the MDisrupt audience are entrepreneurs who have access to capital, technology, and engineers to build solutions. How can we help?

Jennifer Swoyer: Digital innovators are focusing on important problems that we need to solve, but to truly solve problems requires the right input. Providers in an urban setting, for example, may bring up a very different set of needs than providers in a rural setting. Engaging entrepreneurs and digital thinkers to incorporate views from many types of providers will help align how technology is utilized and ultimately change the trajectory of patient care.

What physicians need from digital health  

MDisrupt: As a provider, what do you see as the most important components of a digital health product?

Jennifer Swoyer: I look at digital health products through two different lenses: patient-forward technology and physician-centered technology. In terms of patient-forward, I look for technology that is usable by the patient and builds ownership and accountability, which will then help me, as the provider, help them manage their health differently. If the technology is physician-centered then it really needs to be technology that is going to help physicians do their jobs better by improving patient outcomes, more easily meeting quality measures, and saving time. Ideal solutions will improve patient satisfaction and physician well-being.

Meeting patients where they are

MDisrupt: Is there something you’ve changed your opinion on since you started practicing medicine?

Jennifer Swoyer: There can be numerous factors that contribute to individuals being successful in managing their genetic predisposition and lifestyle-created conditions. I’ve realized that my job is to work with someone where they are to get the best results and not necessarily focus on all the things that they need to do. For example, when we talk about obesity or diabetes, we focus on the type of diet and exercise you need. Those are things I will continue to talk about, but you have to look at where someone is in their life and what they are facing on a daily basis. If your meal supply is supplemented by a food pantry, you no longer have the same control over the foods you eat. We need to make sure the solutions we are providing and the advice that we are giving work with the individual’s social needs. This is the piece where I have changed the most. I ask questions very differently. I try to work with people where they are and help them get to where they should be.

Bringing healthcare home

MDisrupt: How will traditional health systems do things differently to adapt to a new model of healthcare?

Jennifer Swoyer: We’re all connected all the time now. Continuing to utilize the tools that almost everyone has—a cell phone, an iPad, a laptop—is part of where we need to start. The healthcare landscape is going to continue to change, and it should. Hospitals will be for the sickest patients and people who are less sick will—I hope—no longer be hospitalized and instead will be home-monitored remotely through digital tools.

Providers who are not in an acute setting like the emergency room, but who are part of a primary care practice, will be linked into how the followup gets done and will have access to daily technology for that individual.

As a family medicine physician, I still see patients in the hospital. Patients will ask me,”How long am I going to continue to feel tired?” I always give my math, which is not scientific but is founded on my experience: Every day you spend in the hospital is a week of recovery. We could do better by recuperating at home in our own beds if we could be monitored.

Advice for innovators

MDisrupt: What advice would you give a founder who wants to create tools for better health and wellness?  

Jennifer Swoyer: Most physicians go into medicine because we love what we do. It’s an art and a passion. I want to help people be well. I’m most willing to adopt technologies that help me improve my patients’ health, and reduce burnout. It’s critical to look at who is the adopter of the technology and whether it will help me provide better care. Can that adoption of technology ensure that my billing and collections are better? You don’t want technology to be an additional burden on an already-busy life and schedule.

At MDisrupt we believe that the most impactful health products should make it to market quickly. We help make this happen by connecting digital health innovators to the healthcare industry experts and scientists they need to responsibly accelerate product development, commercialization, adoption, and scale.

Our expert consultants span the healthcare continuum and can assist with all stages of health product development: This includes regulatory, clinical studies and evidence generation, payor strategies, commercialization, and channel strategies. If you are building a health product, talk to us.

Are Telemedicine and Virtual Care Here to Stay?

Are Telemedicine and Virtual Care Here to Stay?

Aditi U Joshi

Meet Aditi U. Joshi, MD, MSc, chair of the telehealth committee for the American College of Emergency Physicians and former senior advisor of acute care telehealth at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

podcast available

Dr. Joshi has worked in telehealth for over eight years, most recently leading Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s on-demand telehealth program. She holds an assistant professorship in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Thomas Jefferson. Dr. Joshi is a champion of health innovation and has a passion for training students and residents about how technology is fundamentally transforming how we interact and care for patients.

An early adopter of telehealth

MDisrupt: How did your passion for health innovation and specifically telehealth evolve?

Aditi Joshi: I graduated residency in 2009 and started my career in a busy emergency department. After a few years, I had symptoms of burnout and decided to try something different. I found an advertisement for Doctor on Demand and decided to apply. This was in 2013 when they were just beginning. I was one of their first doctors and eventually became the assistant medical director. During my time there, I helped develop best-practice protocols to ensure patients were getting a quality visit.

In 2015, Thomas Jefferson University started a huge enterprise-wide telehealth program that piqued my interest. I eventually joined Jefferson in the department of emergency medicine and was the medical director of our telehealth program. My role here has been interesting because, as an academic center, there’s room to try new things. This is also encouraged by our CEO, Dr. Steve Klasko, who has a commitment to health innovation, creating home-based health care, and improving health equity. The team here has expanded and achieved a number of things like a direct-to-consumer program, a triage program in our emergency department, and telehealth education. We also have a telehealth fellowship for post-residency training.

MDisrupt: What is the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?

Aditi Joshi: Telemedicine is the actual service between the patient and the provider. Simply, it’s direct care or a medical encounter. The term telehealth is much broader because it’s not only the services but also includes preventive maintenance, follow-up, and the regulatory portions of telehealth. It’s a more relevant, all-encompassing term. In the future we’re going to realize that telemedicine, or telehealth, is just going to be part of healthcare and the “tele” is going to go away. We may call it virtual care, but eventually, it is just going to be healthcare.

Bringing telehealth to more people

MDisrupt: What are some of the challenges and solutions of adoption in telehealth?

Aditi Joshi: Reimbursement tends to be the biggest reason that clinics and hospitals have shied away from telehealth. It was viewed as an added amount of work without being able to charge for it. With the Emergency Care Act, telehealth got reimbursed to a much broader degree. In respect to that, telehealth visits cost less for both patients and payers. Of course, the caveat is sometimes we need to send patients to a higher level of care because not everything can be done via telehealth. When I first started out, there wasn’t much engagement by either clinicians or patients in telehealth. Patients would pay out of pocket for these types of visits—a limiting factor for many people. As more payers have adopted telemedicine, whether it’s a contract with companies that supply direct-to-consumer telemedicine or a hospital system, it has continued to evolve.

A second challenge is cost. The setup costs to cover technology can be prohibitive for small practices or hospitals that can’t buy the necessary software and hardware. With the realization that telehealth needs to be integrated into the future of healthcare, it’s important to consider the cost to establish these services.

Internet connectivity and access to phones and smart devices is a third major challenge. During the pandemic, there were a number of people in Philadelphia who could not access our platform due to connectivity and technology access. Given the dire emergency situation, my colleagues applied for a grant to do targeted outpatient testing via a mobile van. There’s a second round of grants that focuses on access and expansion of devices and internet connectivity. It’s probably the first time the government has really put that much money into this type of health innovation.

In the future, we’re going to have to figure out how we access rural areas. Today it’s being done with local community interventions such as setting up kiosks or enabling people to access the internet by coming to libraries and community centers.

How innovators can make a difference

MDisrupt: Many in our audience are digital health innovators who have access to capital, technologies, and engineers to build solutions. What could we do better and what are we not doing enough of?

Aditi Joshi:  It has been a beautiful thing to see how many people are committed to trying to improve healthcare with all of the digital health solutions that are out there.

When it comes to innovating in healthcare, it can be very complicated, so at the very least you have to understand the healthcare system and how it works.

The biggest complaint from clinicians is that health innovators don’t understand hospital workflows and so they create solutions that make it harder for us to get our jobs done. Physicians are overburdened, so adding something that isn’t useful or efficient or that can’t be reimbursed ends up being a problem. Some ways to get around this are really understanding what your solution is and ensuring that what you’re creating is solving a problem in the first place. I will say that speaking to clinicians early on is a really good idea—with the caveat that we don’t always know the right solution. It’s great to get people who are outside of medicine to innovate, but it’s important to have someone onboard, like a chief medical officer or an advisor, who understands how clinicians practice and how patients respond or use the solution.

MDisrupt: What advice would you give a founder who is interested in telehealth solutions and improving patient care?

Aditi Joshi: First and foremost, understand what you’re trying to solve and get the right team around you—people who work in a similar fashion and have similar goals. I usually give this advice to residents or medical students, but it also works for anybody who is starting a company or has an innovation.

When I started out in telehealth, I really enjoyed it. I kept saying yes to things. I said “yes” to being the assistant medical director, at Doctor on Demand. I said “yes” to Jefferson. And here at Jefferson, every time there was a new program where people came to us and said they want to try this telehealth solution, our department would say “yes” and then we would do it. It didn’t always work! We have a lot of programs we never brought to fruition, but every time we went through the thought process and the workflow it became easier and easier. Now if a health innovator were to ask me, “Can you set up a process to do this type of program?” I would say, “Absolutely!” I can do that because I’ve had practice through trial and error.

Telehealth, ten years out

MDisrupt: What will an interaction with the health system look like in ten years?

Aditi Joshi: I love this question because this is my favorite thing to work on. At the American College of Emergency Physicians, where I’m chair of telehealth, we have a task force looking into how we are going to define emergency medicine for the next five to 10 years because of telehealth.

First, there’s going to be a lot of home-based healthcare for patients with both acute and chronic disease. We’ll be able to use the emergency medical system for acute care and deliver a lot of what we can do in the emergency department at people’s homes. We can also employ more cross-consults which will allow patients to access specialists. We’ll be able to observe patients at home and take better care of them.

There’s also going to be better health literacy once we figure out how to make it palatable. We need to uncomplicate the terms we sometimes use in medicine, so patients can have more control over what they’re doing and what they understand for their health care. The future is going to rely on more individual practice and giving patients the ability to understand and improve their health along with us will be essential.

Medical education is going to change significantly for medical students, residents, and care providers. We’ll also have to continue to understand how smartphones are optimized to work in the healthcare space. They are part of our daily life and we need to make them part of our healthcare, too.

At MDisrupt we believe that the most impactful health products should make it to market quickly. We help make this happen by connecting digital health innovators to the healthcare industry experts and scientists they need to responsibly accelerate product development, commercialization, adoption, and scale.

Our expert consultants span the healthcare continuum and can assist with all stages of health product development: This includes regulatory, clinical studies and evidence generation, payor strategies, commercialization, and channel strategies. If you are building a health product, talk to us.

Real-world Innovations to Reduce Maternal and Child Health Disparities

Real-world Innovations to Reduce Maternal and Child Health Disparities

Sarah England, PhD

Meet Sarah England, PhD, the
Alan A. and Edith L. Wolfe professor of medicine and vice-chair of research at Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

podcast available

Dr. England has devoted her academic research career to maternal and child health, with the goal of reducing disparities and poor outcomes across affected communities. She has been a champion of simple and elegant solutions that, at scale, are poised to make a big impact. Partnering with digital health leaders on innovative solutions can have a global reach and feed into a system where the benefit can be felt across generations.

Maternal and child health disparities today

MDisrupt: Can you describe the current state of health disparities for maternal and child health in the US?

Sarah England: Women of color are not faring well in terms of maternal health outcomes compared to white women. Pregnancy-related death is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy; a complication of that pregnancy; or a chain of events initiated by the pregnancy. The statistics are staggering. Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a significant issue and it’s about time that we address it. Many people think it’s due to socioeconomic status, but this is not true. Black women with at least a college degree are still 5.2 times more likely to face these consequences compared to their white counterparts.

Building momentum for change

MDisrupt: How are maternal and child disparities being addressed by the health system and government entities?

Sarah England: Most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable and many of the causes of death can be addressed. Women of color face higher rates of stress associated with situational experiences of racial discrimination in the health system. A well-known example is Serena Williams. She knew that she had a complication from her pregnancy and was not believed by the medical professionals that were caring for her. This happens to Black women more commonly than it does to white women. This is something that we can really address by listening to women during their pregnancy.

And healthcare professionals have to be more cognizant of listening to women of color. Medical schools are developing curricula bringing more attention to issues of this nature. The federal government, especially funding agencies, are realizing that we need to address health disparities more than we have in the past. So the tides are changing. We are realizing that this is not good for the future: In order to reduce the trends in maternal and child health, we have to be much more aware of how we treat patients, how we study them epidemiologically and have a greater focus on those that are carrying the burden of disease.

In summary, we must implement standardized protocols in quality improvement initiatives, especially among facilities that serve disproportionately affected communities We need to identify and address implicit bias in healthcare that would improve patient-provider interactions, health communication, and health outcomes, and there needs to be a greater focus by funding agencies to address racial disparities.

A call to action for digital health leaders

MDisrupt: Many in the MDisrupt audience are entrepreneurs who have access to capital, technology, and engineers to build solutions. How can we help?

Sarah England: There is no shortage of good ideas, but often existing ideas remain stuck in “innovation bottlenecks” as they struggle for attention, funding, or the means of implementation. Healthtech founders can help lift us out of the bottleneck and bridge that gap from academia to commercial.

Fortunately, many digital health entrepreneurs are not only highly innovative but also have a desire to make a social impact. And solutions can be pretty simple. For example, we know that the twelve weeks after childbirth (fourth trimester) is a key window of opportunity to provide healthcare to mothers and babies. However, we often do not focus on the immediate post-pregnancy period. My colleagues and I have talked about getting a mobile unit that could go to underserved or remote areas and check in on new mothers. We could provide women access to services to help their emotional well-being, provide contraception and talk to them about birth spacing, ensure they are getting enough sleep, provide help with medications, and prevent substance abuse, and make sure they have physically recovered from childbirth. This relatively easy solution could make exceptional strides in maternal and child health, especially during this critical fourth trimester period.

Building better and more effective information-gathering systems that connect across all parts of our country is also an area where tech solutions are vital. Many people in remote and underserved communities are routinely left behind. And not all states collect information on race, ethnicity, income, and health insurance status because there are no national standards for data collection and reporting of maternal mortality statistics. Such data are critical for recognizing and understanding disparities, and without them, there has been insufficient accountability for maternal mortality.

Motivating for change

MDisrupt: How do you motivate healthtech entrepreneurs to innovate in maternal and child health?

Sarah England: Investors are interested in companies with broad portfolios and a message around social good. It’s a great time to go into maternal child health for this reason because improving maternal health improves child health and ultimately family health. It’s a feed-forward system that has long-term gains.

Another aspect around innovation is this concept of academia and companies working together to solve big problems. When I started my career, it was really important to be independent and have your own ideas and solutions. Now it’s really gone to “team science” and working with others to move your ideas forward. Also, women are pursuing technological fields. Oftentimes, they have children and raise awareness of this issue and push for robust solutions. There is going to be great innovation in this space in the years to come.

Passion-forward

MDisrupt: What advice can you give to women on their career and personal journeys?

Sarah England: It’s about following your passion. My original career path was cardiovascular sciences, not women’s health. Then I read a paper about preterm birth and felt compelled to connect with people in the field and find out more. I ended up going into a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with a friend of mine who was an NICU nurse. I saw a baby who had been born at six months and was being kept alive by multiple machines. It was heart-wrenching. I talked to the mother of the child and she blamed herself, even though the medical professionals didn’t know why she delivered the baby early. It made me realize that we don’t have all the answers, and you need innovative, creative minds in this space. So my advice is to follow opportunities because they may end up changing your course in life and opening up a chance to follow your interests and passions.

For women interested in connecting with other women in health, there’s a group that I’m part of called the Women’s Health Collaborative. The goal of this group is to support women in the field by networking and finding others to connect with who can help you move your ideas forward. You just have to be fearless and be ok not knowing everything. It’s very rewarding when you get to where you want to be.

Parting wisdom

MDisrupt: What parting wisdom can you give digital health entrepreneurs?

Sarah England: First and foremost, we need to raise awareness that maternal health is key for child health, and often the health of the entire family. Addressing maternal health issues has long-lasting health benefits across many generations. Second, you can partner with reproductive health researchers and clinicians. For example, we are partnering with engineers to develop devices needed for the care of women during pregnancy. We are very interested in partnering with other innovators with a sincere desire to improve maternal/child health.

At MDisrupt we believe that the most impactful health products should make it to market quickly. We help make this happen by connecting digital health innovators to the healthcare industry experts and scientists they need to responsibly accelerate product development, commercialization, adoption, and scale.

Our expert consultants span the healthcare continuum and can assist with all stages of health product development: This includes regulatory, clinical studies and evidence generation, payor strategies, commercialization, and channel strategies. If you are building a health product, talk to us.

How Health Economists Add Value to Digital Health

How Health Economists Add Value to Digital Health

Ragan Hart

Ragan Hart, MS (public health genetics), PhD (health economics), is a co-founder of MDisrupt and its director of operations. Previously, she served as entrepreneur-in-residence at F-Prime Capital. Ragan recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with MDisrupt, and sat down for an interview to talk about the career path that brought her from science to startup.

Bringing innovation to the clinic

MDisrupt: Why did you choose to study health economics?

Ragan Hart: I was an exercise science major doing lab work in the genetics of diabetes, and I wanted to better understand genomics tools and sequencing. That led to an interdisciplinary graduate program in public health genetics. I was very interested in biostatistics and how to get these technologies to the clinic.

With colleagues who were physicians, research scientists, genetic counselors and others in an academic medical center focused on genetic testing, I kept hearing, “Payers don’t want to pay for this.” And so I asked, “What type of evidence do the payers need? Are we having conversations with payers?” And the response was, “No, we haven’t been engaging payers.”

That was pivotal. I said, I need to train in applied health economics to understand payer decision making. Economics and business are two things I wish had been introduced to sooner.

MDisrupt: What did you envision for yourself in terms of a career?  

Ragan Hart: I definitely knew I wanted to work in industry. I didn’t know the term commercialization at that point, but I was absolutely trying to find my way into commercialization. I knew I had an understanding of startups in the genomics diagnostics space. So I started following the market of early stage venture capital into a set of these companies. I really started to understand the different levers at play for health tech adoption.

MDisrupt: Why did you decide to join MDisrupt?  

Ragan Hart: Because I absolutely understood the mission that MDisrupt was founded to serve—getting the most impactful health products to market faster and more responsibly—and I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to have a role in connecting scientists and health experts to digital health founders. I pride myself on being able to appreciate new ideas; I value a lot of lessons learned from the tech sector and I want to be part of figuring out how we can bring this into health care.

How health economists add value 

MDisrupt: How do you see health economists as helpful to digital health companies?

Ragan Hart: Health economists can help digital health companies by identifying:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are their economic incentives?
  • How do we build a product that can meet those incentives?
  • What evidence do we need to generate?
  • How do we assess how well the product performs in a clinical setting?
  • What’s the added value? For example, is this improving quality of life? Are cost savings being generated?

From a value proposition perspective, the digital health companies may have a really awesome product. But it’s also critical to their success to be able to articulate why their product should displace standard of care. Applied health economists can support economic evaluation for cost effectiveness studies—evaluating the new health technology against whatever is currently being used and comparing cost effectiveness.

Often, costs are going to be increased by investing in new health technology. But we’re getting this gain in the quality outcome or the health outcomes. The next step of data that needs to be generated is, can the purchaser who’s evaluating this technology afford it?

And so applied health economists can generate budget impact data, honing in on the financial consequences for adopting the new health technology. These are things that a health system needs to know, and in an ideal world, maybe the health system would do that kind of analysis. But they don’t necessarily put resources into doing it, so it really has to be done by the digital health company themselves. However, in the healthcare industry’s transition to value-based care, we may start to see more health systems identifying gaps from a cost-benefit perspective.

Integrity as the North Star

MDisrupt: Can you describe a challenge you’ve faced that’s been formative to the way you work now? 

Ragan Hart: In the academic space, something came up where a senior individual was operating without scientific integrity. The challenge was a dilemma for whether or not to say, yes, we’re willing to accept your lack of scientific integrity. There would have been limited consequences for everyone involved. I was really fortunate that my advisor said, look, here are the two options. And this one—to accept the lack of scientific integrity—is not an option. And that forever changed my ability to be able to navigate situations from that perspective. 

MDisrupt: Can you say more about that? 

Ragan Hart: It allowed me to anchor myself in thinking through the competing incentives, and, going back to my economic roots, that everything is about tradeoffs. It was a valuable lesson in what’s the North Star, and, when are we allowing ourselves to veer away from that? At what cost?

Health startups need scientists

MDisrupt: What advice would you give other scientists who might be thinking about working with a health startup?

Ragan Hart: Do it! Startups building health products need individuals who have critical thinking skills and subject matter expertise. They also need to generate data and evidence that their products work and are safe, effective and clinically useful.

Oftentimes, scientists are conflicted and wonder, Well, am I still going to be in an environment that maintains the academic rigor, intellectual curiosity, and stimulation of the academic environment? The answer is yes, tenfold in a startup environment. Because you’re also getting to cultivate new skills on top of contributing domain expertise you already have. It’s incredibly enriching.

Fresh ways to work

MDisrupt: What have you discovered in your role at MDisrupt that’s been fresh and surprising for you? 

Ragan Hart: I’ve been exposed to the value of marketing. And building trust with colleagues and working in a team. Previous environments have been quite siloed and building that bridge and rapport hasn’t been valued as much. It’s so valuable, because we’re trying to build and execute on the same mission. And I’ve learned that it’s OK to depend on others. Necessary, in fact.

MDisrupt: Can you say more about that? 

Ragan Hart: Building off of that trust piece, there are too many critical things that need to be completed to meet the goal, and not one of us can complete them on our own.

MDisrupt: What would you say to scientists who might be interested in joining MDisrupt?

Ragan Hart: It’s an easy way to work with digital health innovators. It’s about being able to apply your scientific skills in a new environment. And the energy and pace are invigorating! You are able to contribute to getting your science placed in the hands of patients or providers or health systems or whoever the intended user is, faster and more responsibly with data. Scientists don’t often have that opportunity.

At MDisrupt we believe that the most impactful health products should make it to market quickly. We help make this happen by connecting digital health innovators to the healthcare industry experts and scientists they need to responsibly accelerate product development, commercialization, adoption, and scale.

Our expert consultants span the healthcare continuum and can assist with all stages of health product development. This includes regulatory, clinical studies and evidence generation, payor strategies, commercialization, and channel strategies. If you are building a health product, talk to us.