5 Key Takeaways from the 2020 Rock Health Summit

5 Key Takeaways from the 2020 Rock Health Summit

This past week, our team attended the 9th annual Rock Health Summit, a two-day digital health conference well worth attending for all stakeholders in the healthtech industry. As the first venture fund dedicated to early-stage digital health companies, Rock Health convened a really diverse set of speakers: from policy makers, to leaders in technology and medicine. With the summit taking place in virtual form this year, Rock Health did not disappoint in keeping the panelists and the Slack discussions engaging for attendees. Here are just some of the key takeaways from the event.

COVID-19: a crisis of opportunity

Several panelists commented that the current COVID pandemic has unfortunately highlighted just how severe the health inequity crisis is in the US.  Abner Mason of ConsejoSano shared that COVID-19 has not been the great equalizer—on the contrary, it has been the “great revealer”  that our healthcare system isn’t working equally for everyone.  Furthermore, Secretary Eric Hargan of HHS highlighted that the pandemic has also revealed trust issues with respect to the development of safe and effective coronavirus vaccine. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted health disparities, it has also rapidly accelerated the adoption of some digital health technologies, particularly telehealth.Many participants expressed optimism that digital health and telemedicine innovations can create a more accessible and equitable healthcare delivery system across the country. In fact, Aneesh Chopra, president of Care Journey, highlighted that 10M Medicare beneficiaries have had at least one telehealth consult, and one-third of frail elderly patients have accessed some form of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. He went on to say that the top-performing accountable care organizations in the country have had ~50% of patients engaged in telehealth during the COVID crisis. There is no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telehealth: from just 11% of US consumers in 2019 to well over 46% during the COVID crisis, presenting a tremendous opportunity for the implementation of novel remote patient monitoring applications. 

Telehealth will persist long after the COVID crisis

While the pandemic spurred widespread adoption of telemedicine by necessity, many panelists commented that they believe it will persist far into the post-COVID era. With one third of Americans not having a primary care physician (PCP), Hill Ferguson (CEO, Doctor on Demand) says there is every reason to believe that telemedicine can address this need by offering virtual PCP consults, particularly for high-risk patients. Some speakers underlined the need for clear and consistent reimbursement rates as foundational to the broad adoption of telemedicine, particularly with the increased focus on value-based care. Another emerging dynamic is the interplay between brick-and-mortar and telehealth providers: Some predict an uptick in enabling “application access” between providers and patients, among  physicians, and between providers and payers, in order to provide seamless care coordination for telehealth patients.

When it comes to vulnerable patient populations, trust is foundational

Abner Mason, CEO of ConsejoSano said it best: We have an enormous trust deficit in our healthcare system, and to treat everyone the same is to say “You don’t matter.” Vulnerable patient populations have different concerns, constraints and needs.  When it comes to developing digital tech for these patient populations, “REAL (race, ethnicity and language) data is necessary but not sufficient: Companies must understand patient cultures. Mason says some health plans are finally investing in getting to know their patient populations but they have to do more—including collecting more social determinants of health (SDOH) data—because they are in a unique position to lead and drive change to care delivery models. Chris Klomp (CEO, Collective Medical) reminded us that we should be thinking “digital first, but not digital alone.” A logically-tuned IT infrastructure, he said, is one that is anticipatory and allows humans to do what technology can’t: Engage with other humans and build trust.

“Hire and Wire”: the key to creating racial diversity in digital health

One summit highlight was the panel on racial diversity in which  Rock Health presented some key findings from their survey data, including: 

  • Only white respondents felt that digital health has become more inclusive. Black and other minority respondents felt it has stayed the same, and 17% of Black founders felt it had gotten worse.
  • White and Asian founders are more likely to be backed by venture investment, while Black founders are more likely to bootstrap. This is a pretty important finding given that sustainable scale tends to be highly dependent on VC backing, 

A discussion that followed highlighted the disparity in funding available to minority versus white entrepreneurs. André Blackman (CEO, Onboard Health) said that the solution is building a diverse team and a diverse board. Tech companies need to be building teams that represent the consumers or patients they are building for. With Silicon Valley’s bias for white male founders (it’s estimated that 77% of VC backed founders are white), this was a particularly important topic for Rock Health to address. While many acknowledged the efforts of organizations like the American Medical Association and Peloton for making strides to address racial inequity, Sydney Thomas (Sr. Associate, Precursor Ventures) said she would like to see more capital going into minority-founded companies and, further, she would like to see white and Asian founders and investors acknowledge the disparity and actively work to build bridges across all races.

There were two additional highlights from this session: The first from Ulili Onovakpuri, a partner at Kapor Capital, who pointed out that investors invest only when they can relate to the problem. Therefore, they are constantly investing in companies and founders that solve problems for the “top of the pyramid.” And yet the bottom of the pyramid is infinitely bigger, with larger market sizes (better for investors) that need different, lower cost solutions. Investors need to think differently and humble themselves to learn. 

The second highlight came from Derrick Reyes, founder of Queerly Health. Reyes’  advice to the healthtech industry was HIRE or WIRE: Create opportunities to HIRE people from more diverse backgrounds or WIRE:write the check and invest in them.

Investment dollars are still flowing, despite the pandemic

When Silicon Valley Bank published its mid-year Healthcare Investments & Exits Report 2020, it was surprising to most that venture fundraising in healthcare had reached $10.4B in the first half  of 2020, nearly matching the 2019 full-year record. In a pandemic?? Yes, says Julie Yoo (General Partner at Andreessen-Horowitz), who went on to say that deal flow increased even more radically in Q3, with YTD deal volume up 22% over the third quarter of 2019. In fact, an increase in new investors is making the rounds more competitive.  A Rock Health report earlier this year showed that $5.4B was invested in the digital health space, in the first half of 2020 in the US alone, despite the pandemic—providing optimism for the space despite a difficult year, 

Thank you to the Rock Health team for bringing together such wonderful panelists and for drawing our attention, if even virtually, to some difficult but necessary topics. 

 1. McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, April 27th 2020

Morgan Donaldson, MDisrupt

Morgan Donaldson, VP of Business Development, MDisrupt

Morgan Donaldson is a business development executive with more than 15 years of experience bringing genomics technologies and molecular diagnostics to global markets (EMEA, LATAM, APAC, North America). She has developed international sales channels, managed business development teams, led product developments, led contract negotiations with Fortune 500s and participated in due diligence assessments. She has led the international growth strategy for several genomics startups in the Bay Area and in Canada.

If you are healthtech company who is trying to develop and scale a health product and need access to industry leading health experts, talk to us—we can help.

The List of Female Physician Healthtech Founders that was Impossible to Find

The List of Female Physician Healthtech Founders that was Impossible to Find

The list of awesome female physician healthtech founders.

At MDisrupt I spend a lot of  my time talking to practicing physicians who are mid-career and thinking about reducing or winding down their clinical practice. Many are considering how they can engage and work with the healthtech industry and ask me how they can add value to healthtech companies. 

So this weekend I sat down to write a blog called 3 Leadership Roles Doctors Can Play in Healthtech Companies. As I was writing it, I wanted to showcase examples of physicians who had successfully made the transition from clinical practice to healthtech. One of the most shocking things I discovered was how hard it is to find physician healthtech founders who are women. There are many female founders out there (not nearly enough, but many) and lots of female scientist founders, too (though also not enough). But finding female physician healthtech founders was ridiculously difficult. And not because they don’t exist—but because for some reason no one is creating lists of them and showcasing them enough. 

After about 10 hours of scouring the internet for these elusive lists, I went to my trusty source, Twitter, and asked two very networked women in the health industry to help me through their networks: Chrissy Farr @Chrissyfarr and Sally Church @MaverickNY.

Fortunately, Twitter did not disappoint. I was soon inundated with recommendations of awesome women physicians who’ve founded healthtech companies. So in case anyone else ever needs this list, I’ve compiled it here. Because women founders are awesome, and women physician founders who build healthtech companies should always be easy to find! 

Since we started building this list, many more female physician founders have come to our attention. We tried to capture as many founders as possible on this list, however, in case we missed you—we’ve created a way for you to add yourself.

If you are a female physician founder, and want to be added to this list, add yourself to the list by clicking the button below:

Aaliya Yaqub, MD

Company: GoForward
Preventive primary care, powered by technology

Twitter: @DrAaliya
LinkedIn: Aaliya Yaqub, MD

Pamela Pierce Palmer, MD

Company: AcelRX
A specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative therapies

LinkedIn: Pamela Pierce Palmer, MD

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

Company: Medstro
The only online community and challenge platform as a service designed specifically for healthcare professionals

Twitter: @JenniferJoeMD
LinkedIn: Jennifer M. Joe, MD

Iman Abuzeid, MD

Company: Incredible Health
Preventive primary care, powered by technology

Twitter: @ImanAbuzeid
LinkedIn: Iman Abuzeid, MD

Robin Berzin, MD

Company: Parsley Health
Doctor-led holistic medicine proven to treat the root cause of your health issue, in-person or online

Twitter: @robinberzinmd
LinkedIn: Robin Berzin, MD

Michelle Longmire, MD

Company: Medable
A decentralized trial platform providing a seamless experience, connecting patients, sites, and clinical trial teams

LinkedIn:Michelle Longmire, MD

Joy Bhosai, MD, MPH

Company: ChatrHealth
Creating technology that protects patients and keeps people healthy through driving communication for providers and patients

Twitter: @JoyBhosaiMD
LinkedIn:Joy Bhosai, MD, MPH

Asima Ahmad, MD, MPH

Company: Carrot Fertility
Global fertility benefits for employers that save money and tame anxiety

Twitter: @AsimaAhmadMD
LinkedIn:Asima Ahmad, MD, MPH

Sarah Munkholm, MD

Company: MyMedCards
Innovative digital solution that ensures accessible and high-quality medical guidelines

Twitter: @mymedcards
LinkedIn:Sarah Munkholm, MD

Courtney Hill, MD

Company: Yonder
Yonder makes an app, custom to your practice, for young children & parents to use at home to prepare for their visit.

LinkedIn: Courtney Hill, MD

Bronwyn Harris, MD

Company: Tueo Health
Childhood asthma management and monitoring

Twitter: @DoctorBronwyn
LinkedIn: Bronwyn Harris, MD

Janene Fuerch, MD

Company: Emme
Offers smart case and app to support healthy and effective use of the birth control pill

LinkedIn: Janene Fuerch, MD

Stephanie Eltz, MD

Company: Doctify UK
evolutionising the global healthcare market, enabling patients to search, book and review clinics and hospitals online

Twitter: @StephanieEltz
LinkedIn: Stephanie Eltz, MD

Bhavagaya Bakshi, MBBS

Company: C the Sign
A multi-platform digital tool that uses AI mapped with the latest evidence to identify patients at risk of cancer

Twitter: @bakshib87
LinkedIn: Bhavagaya Bakshi, MBBS

Hajnalka Hejja, MD

Company: Super Izzy
A femtech chatbot that offers personalized health advice for women, based on data collection and contextual understanding

Twitter: @HajnalkaHejjaMD
LinkedIn: Hajnalka Hejja, MD

Emily Anhalt, PsyD

Company: Coa
Therapy & expert-led classes for mental health, all grounded in community

Twitter: @dremilyanhalt
LinkedIn: Emily Anhalt, PsyD

Nadine Hachach-Haram, MD

Company: Proximie
A secure, complete software solution that expands surgical collaboration, enabling surgeons to share expertise using augmented reality tools before, during and after surgery

Twitter: @DrNadz
LinkedIn: Nadine Hachach-Haram, MD

Lucienne Ide, MD, PhD

Company: Rimidi
A cloud-based software solution that enables personalized management of chronic cardiometabolic conditions across populations

Twitter: @Lucienneide
LinkedIn: Lucienne Ide, MD, PhD

Lynda Chin, MD

Company: Apricity Health
Empowering patients and their clinical teams with real-time data and expert knowledge to manage cancer therapy

Twitter: @LyndaChin
LinkedIn: Lynda Chin, MD

Tisha Rowe MD, MBA

Company: RoweDocs
Reliable Online Wellness Experience (ROWE); one of the largest and most diverse women-owned multi-specialty telemedicine networks

Twitter: @tisharowemd
LinkedIn: Tisha Rowe MD, MBA

YiDing Yu, MD

Company: Twiage
Powerful data and real-time care coordination for EMS, ED, and hospital teams

Twitter: @YiDingYu
LinkedIn: YiDing Yu, MD

Mahnaz Hashmi

Company: Medstars
Medstars provides a range of innovative clinician-designed health tech products to make it easier for patients and health professionals to connect

Twitter: @mahnazhashmi
LinkedIn: Mahnaz Hashmi

Satasuk Joy Bhosai, MD MPH

Company: Pluto.health
A smart health assistant that bridges siloed data to help patients get things done.

Twitter: @joybhosaiMD
LinkedIn: Joy Bhosai, MD, MPH

Lyndsey Harper, MD, FACOG, IF

Company: Meet Rosy
Research-based technology solution for women who suffer from low libido

Twitter: @babymamadoctor
LinkedIn:Lyndsey Harper, MD, FACOG, IF

Mylene Yao, MD

Company: Univfy
Highly-scalable AI platform to provide scientifically-validated, personalized reports that counsel patients from diverse demographics about their probability of having a baby with IVF

Twitter: @MyleneYao
LinkedIn: Mylene Yao, MD

Maria Artunduaga, MD, MPH, MTM

Company: Respira Labs
Developing the first wearable device that can monitor lung function before it leads to COPD exacerbation attacks

Twitter: @DrArtunduag
LinkedIn: Maria Artunduaga, MD, MPH, MTM

Kimberly Gandy, MD, PhD

Company: Play-it Health
Virtual health management; dependable revenue and continuity of care in changing times

Twitter: @KimberlyGandy1
LinkedIn: Kimberly Gandy, MD, PhD

Stephanie Canale, MD

Company: Lactation Lab
As the first company to offer a complete milk analysis, we provide detailed explanations and actionable insights to make your breastfeeding journey as empowering as possible

Twitter: @Stephan79740428
LinkedIn: Stephanie Canale, MD

Roopan Gill, MD, MPH, FRCSC

Company: Vitala
Co-creates and implements open-access digital sexual and reproductive health (SRH) solutions

LinkedIn: Roopan Gill, MD, MPH, FRCSC

Alexandra Greenhill, MD

Company: Careteam
Virtual care collaboration and communication platform that enables care planning and patient engagement across all health conditions and workflows

LinkedIn: Alexandra Greenhill, MD

Sarah Welsh, MBBS

Company: Hanx
Female-founded intimate wellness products

LinkedIn: Sarah Welsh, MBBS

Vedrana Högqvist Tabor

Company: Boost Thyroid
Preventing health complications caused by autoimmune diseases with our smart solution BOOST Thyroid

LinkedIn: Vedrana Högqvist Tabor, PhD

Sophia Yen, MD

Company: Pandia Health
A one-stop online shop for recurring medications, starting with birth control

Twitter: @teenmd
LinkedIn: Sophia Yen, MD

Mary Jo Gorman, MD, MBA

Company: Healthy Bytes
Personalized, expert nutritional counseling via telehealth that is covered by most major insurance plans

LinkedIn:Mary Jo Gorman, MD, MBA

Rayna Patel, MBBS

Company: Vinehealth
Allows people living with cancer to track their symptoms, manage their medications and understand their care

LinkedIn: Rayna Patel, MBBS

Monica Bolbjerg, MD

Company: Qure4u
Complete virtual care platform offering patients and providers a fully integrated solution that supports the entire patient journey and optimizes care before, during, and after office visits

LinkedIn:Monica Bolbjerg, MD

Evelyn Chan, MD, MPH

Company: Smileyscope
Medical device that alleviates the fear of needle experiences through innovative VR technology

LinkedIn:Evelyn Chan, MD, MPH

Suzanne Clough, MD

Company: Welldoc
Leading digital health company revolutionizing chronic disease management to help transform lives

LinkedIn:Suzanne Clough, MD

Michelle Dipp, MD, PhD

Company:Biospring Partners
Leverages deep experience in life sciences and technology to support B2B services, tools, and enterprise software companies that are driving innovation across the life sciences industry

LinkedIn:Michelle Dipp, MD, PhD

Aakriti Gupta, MD

Company:Heartbeat Health
Personalized care, starting with cardiology

LinkedIn:Aakriti Gupta, MD

Chitra Akileswaran, MD, MBA

Company: Cleo
Family benefits platform made for working parents

LinkedIn:Chitra Akileswaran, MD, MBA

Subha Airan-Javia MD

Company: TrekIT Health
A secure, collaborative, patient-centered think-space enables clinicians to share and assign tasks to anyone on the care team, while quick access to real-time clinical data empowers clinicians to make more informed decisions at the point of care

LinkedIn:Subha Airan-Javia MD

Rasha Gadelrab, MBBS

Company: MyHealthSpecialist
The UK’s only private specialist recommendation service. Company’s aim is to connect doctors and patients to the very best specialists in private healthcare. 

LinkedIn:Rasha Gadelrab, MBBS

Breanne Everett MD

Company: Orpyx
Sensory insoles and remote monitoring solutions for diabetic foot management


Julielynn Wong, MD, MPH, FACPM

Company: 3D4MD
3D4MD is a social enterprise that makes high quality, 3D printing solutions to impact over 1 billion lives at home, abroad, and in space.

Twitter: @julielynnwong
LinkedIn: Julielynn Wong, MD, MPH, FACPM

    Minnie Sarwal, MD, PhD

    Company: Nephrosant Inc
    Kidney transplantation is the treatment of choice for patients with end-stage kidney failure. However, the life of a kidney transplant is limited due to unrecognized immune injury. There is no sensitive, non-invasive method to detect this injury at an early-stage. We have developed a reliable, inexpensive, and noninvasive assay to monitor kidney injury.

    LinkedIn: Minnie Sarwal

    Toyin Ajayi, MD

    Company: Cityblock Health
    We bring together primary care, behavioral health, and social services to deliver better care for every member.

    Twitter: @toyinajayidoc
    LinkedIn:Toyin Ajayi, MD

    Jennifer Meller, MD, MBA

    Company: Navimize
    Put patient and provider safety first with Navimize, the easiest virtual waiting software.

    Twitter: @drjen_Navimize
    LinkedIn:Jennifer Meller, MD, MBA

    Carolyn Lam, MD

    Company: eko.ai
    Complete AI decision tool for echocardiography

    Twitter: @iamcardio
    LinkedIn:Carolyn Lam, MD

    Natalie Davis MD

    Partners with providers to delay onset of lifestyle disease for their at-risk populations, at scale.

    Twitter: @nataliehodge
    LinkedIn:Natalie Davis MD

    Sandy Penn Whitehouse, MD

    Company: Tickit Health
    Proprietary platform that captures high-fidelity person-reported data and empowers organizations to understand each unique individual they serve, to improve outcomes for the entire population

    Twitter: @PennWhitehouse
    LinkedIn:Sandy Penn Whitehouse, MD

    Bora Chang, MD

    Company: KelaHealth
    Delivers patient-specific predictive insight and risk stratification software to help improve surgical quality and prevent complications

    LinkedIn: Bora Chang, MD

    Karen Otte, MD

    Company: Motognosis
    We are experts in the automated assessment of motor symptoms, providing easy-to-use software solutions with a focus on neurologic disorders.

    LinkedIn:Karen Otte, MD

    Cheryl Lee Eberting, MD

    Fully connected digital health technology platform designed to enable all healthcare providers to deliver their services over the internet

    LinkedIn: Cheryl Lee Eberting, MD

    Susan Gross, MD

    Company:The ObG Project
    Educational resource for women’s health / primary care professionals

    LinkedIn:Susan Gross, MD

    Jane van Dis, MD

    Company: Equity Quotient
    We work with standout healthcare organizations, employer groups, and academic centers to create cultures of equity, safety, and respect.

    LinkedIn: Jane van Dis, MD

    Elizabeth McGloughlin, MBBCh

    Company: Tympany Medical
    Designing and developing solutions which will drive the next generation of sterile endoscopy in ENT and beyond

    LinkedIn: Elizabeth McGloughlin, MBBCh

    Mahnaz Hashmi, MBBCh

    Connect with the very best private UK health specialists, chosen & curated by doctors.

    LinkedIn:Mahnaz Hashmi, MBBCh

    Dana Corriel, MD

    Company: SoMeDocs
    Curated online spaces allow healthcare professionals to connect, use tools that help optimize personal branding and business success, and grow effective presence that translates into better healthcare delivery.

    Twitter: @DrCorriel
    LinkedIn:Dana Corriel, MD

    Alaa Elnajjar, MD, Msc

    Company: Kinect Space
    A digital platform that provides 24/7 mental health services for physicians by integrating telepsychiatry services, group support services, and meditation

    LinkedIn:Alaa Elnajjar, MD, Msc.

    Katrina Firlik, MD

    Company: HealthPrize
    Creates direct-to-patient medication adherence programs for branded therapeutics

    LinkedIn:Katrina Firlik, MD

    Ailis Tweed-Kent, MD

    Company: Cocoon
    Engineered the world’s most adaptable and sustainable natural material to be used as a sustainable ingredient in various healthcare, consumer, and industrial products

    LinkedIn:Ailis Tweed-Kent, MD

    Jerrica Kirkley, MD

    Company: Plume
    Gender-affirming hormone therapy from the phone

    LinkedIn:Jerrica Kirkley, MD

    Casey Means, MD

    Company: Levels
    racks blood glucose in real-time, so users can optimize diet and exercise.

    LinkedIn:Casey Means, MD

    Paula Muto, MD

    Company: UberDoc
    Provides priority access to the best doctors for an affordable, transparent price for in-person and telemedicine appointments

    LinkedIn: Paula Muto, MD

    Wendye Robbins, MD

    Company: Blade Therapeutics
    Advancing a risk-diversified product portfolio to address various fibrotic diseases and their underlying pathophysiology

    LinkedIn: Wendye Robbins, MD

    Alexandra Haessler, MD

    Company:FemPulse Therapeutics 
    A wearable neuromodulation solution for personalized, discreet, and affordable treatment of OAB

    LinkedIn:Alexandra Haessler, MD

    Stacy Lindau, MD, MAPP

    Company: Nowpow
    A personalized community referral platform that makes it easy to help people stay well, meet basic needs, manage with chronic illness and care for others.

    LinkedIn:Stacy Lindau, MD, MAPP

    Suzanne Mitchell, MD MS

    See Yourself Health is a digital health platform founded on a decade of research using immersive technology to help people with chronic illness become high performing drivers of health.

    LinkedIn: Suzanne Mitchell, MD MSc

    3 Leadership Roles Doctors Can Play In Healthtech Companies

    3 Leadership Roles Doctors Can Play In Healthtech Companies

    Healthtech is defined as the application of technology to solve problems in healthcare—think wearables, apps, cellphones, connected devices,  software, databases, etc.  It can also include medical devices, personalized medicine, and even at-home testing solutions.  

    The healthtech industry (also known as digital health) is growing rapidly.  According to Rock Health, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic the first half of 2020 saw a record investment of $5.4B in the sector in the US alone. Healthtech products are designed to solve problems in healthcare related to

    • improving patient outcomes 
    • reducing healthcare spend 
    • increasing access to care, and 
    • improving the patient and physician experience. 

    Many companies in the industry are started by nonmedical founders— technologists, scientists or business leaders who see the $4 trillion healthcare industry as ripe for disruption. But doctors, too, are playing many critical roles in this industry. Increasingly, mid-career physicians are reducing or ending their clinical practice to join or found healthtech companies themselves.  

    What leadership roles can physicians play in healthtech and how are they contributing?

    Physician CEO/Founder

    Doctors have a clear understanding of problems they have witnessed and experienced within the healthcare system. And they often have a good understanding of how the healthcare system works and who its important stakeholders are. This can make doctors very well-suited to creating health products and solutions that will not only solve real challenges in healthcare but will also be valued and adopted by other healthcare professionals.  

    Some examples of physicians who founded health companies include: 

    • Kartik Modha, MD, a UK-based GP who founded myhealthspecalist. He recognized patients’ struggles to find private physicians recommended by other doctors and built a search and recommendation platform to address this. 
    • Suzanne Sysko Clough, MD, co-founded Welldoc a digital health delivery platform for chronic disease management through lifestyle interventions and behavioral coaching.  
    • Moira Schieke, MD, a clinical radiologist, founded Cubisimi to digitize radiology practices and create a new category of precision imaging.   
    • Nate Gross, MD, co-founded Doximity, the world’s largest medical network for physicians, and then went on to co-found Rock Health, a VC fund focused on digital health. 
    •  Andrew Beck, MD, is a molecular genetic pathologist who co-founded and leads PathAI. The company seeks to use AI and machine learning to modernize pathology and improve diagnostic accuracy and treatment efficacy for diseases like cancer.  
    •  Jeremy Friese, MD, MBA,  founded and leads Verata Health, a  company that has created an AI-powered Frictionless Prior Authorization™ platform to optimize both the patient and physician experience.
    • Oliver Kharraz, MD, founder and CEO of ZocDoc, a platform that solves access to care through telemedicine.

    Often physicians who found companies need to augment their executive teams with both technologists and product leaders who understand how to turn the insight into a product. They also need to include commercial leaders who can ensure the commercial viability of their solutions and then help them develop  market access strategies. 

    Chief Medical Officer (CMO) 

    As mentioned above, many innovators who start healthtech companies do not have medical backgrounds. That’s why the Chief Medical Officer role can be one of the most critical hires for the success of a healthtech company. This role is a key executive position and is essential for companies that expect their product to be adopted and paid for by stakeholders within the healthcare system. The responsibilities of the CMO are broad and can include: 

    • Develop and communicate the clinical strategy
    • Represent the voice of healthcare and patients inside a company
    • Enable the company to find product-market fit and solve real (not perceived) problems in healthcare 
    • Ensure the company meets regulatory requirements
    • Design studies to generate the evidence required to prove the products are safe, useful and cost effective
    • Develop the product’s global value and reimbursement dossier 
    • Ensure that patient care and safety are a consistent company priority
    • Communicate with medical advisors, key opinion leaders and medical societies 
    • Educate payers and other stakeholders in presentations on clinical utility 
    • Ensure that the company is designing its products responsibly and ethically. 

    If you want to look at the career paths of some incredible physicians who have left clinical practice to become chief medical officers in health companies, here are some great examples: 

    While the chief medical officer role is critical for companies creating health products, many early-stage health startups often can’t afford to hire one full time. This is where new versions of this role are emerging; they include:

    • Part-time Chief Medical Officer – This is where a chief medical officer can work for a company just a few days a month so the company gets the benefit of their expertise without the full salary costs. Federico Monzon, MD, one of our senior CMO consultants at MDisrupt, currently works with three separate healthtech companies in this capacity, dividing his time between them. 
    • Interim Chief Medical Officer – Hiring a CMO is a big decision and it’s important to choose the right one. You want a person with the skills and knowledge you need for your health innovation but also one who can fit in culturally with the rest of your team. It’s important not to go for long periods without any medical oversight at all. Companies whose CMO leaves suddenly may also require an interim CMO.  In this case, a physician works with a company for a few months, filling the key responsibilities while the search for the long-term CMO is underway. 
    • Virtual Chief Medical Officer – This is a very new way of engaging a CMO for companies that need flexibility—think of it as a CMO on demand. The virtual CMO isn’t usually there physically (who is these days since the global pandemic?) but they work with companies to solve some key clinical issues, particularly early on. The time commitment can be anything from 2-10 hours a month as needed. It’s a perfect role for physicians who are still in clinical practice but want to experience working with healthtech companies in a lighter capacity.

    These roles allow healthtech startups to have an executive-level medical voice at the table in a way that they can afford. They also allow physicians to add value to health companies, and try working with the founders and ensuring alignment with product strategy and company  culture before making a full commitment to join. 

    Head of Medical Affairs 

    Medical affairs professionals often (but not always) report to the chief medical officer and are the medical face of the company.  Many physicians take medical affairs roles, but non-MD clinicians, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, genetic counsellors, and PhD scientists do so as well.  The primary role of medical affairs is to educate, communicate, and engage the clinicians who will be adopting the product the company is developing. Medical affairs roles are ideally suited for clinicals who love to make sense out of data, develop content, and teach.

     Their responsibilities can include: 

    • Building, managing and engaging Key Opinion Leader (KOL) programs 
    • Overseeing clinical trials 
    • Executing publication plans
    • Developing education programs for healthcare providers 
    • Educating sales and marketing teams 
    • Developing content for patient education 
    • Coordinating data and communications at scientific conferences 
    • Gathering and sharing market intelligence
    • Providing clinical and technical support to the clinical users of the product.

    Some notable physicians who have had successful careers in medical affairs include: 

    The medical affairs professionals are critical to the commercial success of a health product. They work hand in hand with the sales, marketing and product development groups within an organization. The key to adoption of health products is educating the providers who will be using them; this is the primary function of this role. 

    Adding Physician Leaders to Health Companies May Enable a Faster Path to Market. 

    These roles discussed above are just three examples of leadership roles that physicians can play. There are many more that we will outline in future blogs. 

    At MDisrupt, we believe that the most impactful health products should make it to patients faster. From reviewing and advising hundreds of companies, our insight is that healthtech companies that hire and engage healthcare experts early and often are the most likely to be successful. We currently have 31 physicians in our network who are looking for opportunities to advise and consult for healthtech companies.

    If you are a healthtech company that requires a CMO or Medical Affairs leader (full time, part time, interim or virtual) please click here. 

    If you are a physician who would like to join our network to become a CMO or Medical Affairs lead for a healthtech company, please click here.


    Ruby Gadelrab, CEO + Founder, MDisrupt

    Ruby Gadelrab is a seasoned health executive with a track record in successfully commercializing healthcare and healthtech products. Her expertise lies in developing high-impact B2B and B2C marketing, branding, and commercial strategies. Ruby served on the executive team at 23andMe as vice president of commercial marketing and has worked for many leading companies in the biotech and genetic spaces. Before founding MDisrupt, Ruby consulted for, advised, and mentored more than 25 companies in the healthtech space.