Breaking Health Data Barriers with Atom Health
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What kind of training do you have? What’s your typical week like?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs and business owners, I have been fortunate to be born and raised in a high energy and modern city like Mumbai. I completed my education in a reputed school which allowed me to not only excel in academics but also into various activities including sports. I have seen the value of “giving” by way of education through schools that are run by my grandfather and father for over 5 decades in a rural village in Gujarat, India.
I went to one of the most oldest and reputed medical schools in Mumbai for general medicine and thereafter completed my Masters in Ophthalmology in Aurangabad. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a physician.
My husband and I chose to move to Canada to find work-life balance. My typical day and week starts with meditation and workout at 5 am followed by planning my day with my husband at our “morning tea-time”. My time is split equally between my medical practice and my digital health startup. I love exploring new ways of learning with my kids and a couple of hours each day are spent in that. I like to spend an hour each week talking to one of my mentors and learning from them, and a couple of hours each week are devoted towards giving back to the community, mentoring students, and mentoring women of colour. In my spare time I love writing and travelling.
How have your previous entrepreneurial efforts informed how you are approaching your current venture?
I grew up playing different roles in our family businesses while in India. I learned the basics of entrepreneurship from my father. But when I started my first venture in healthcare interoperability and Health Information Exchange (HIE), and tried building a healthcare data repository in 2015, I realized that healthtech is a completely different ballgame and I had a lot to learn there. Especially in North America, where healthcare is a multiplayer market. I tried my second venture in mental health and artificial intelligence (AI) in the consumer health market in 2017. Both were very different in their approaches and go-to-market strategies. The most important lessons from these were that in healthtech, if you are able to identify the fine play between the multiple players, have a team with knowledge/experience and most importantly, to time it right. Any innovation succeeds when the market and the industry are ready for it, and in healthtech it is crucial to time it right.
And for once, with Atom Health, I feel all these things are falling into place.
What kind of problem is your innovation trying to solve?
With Atom Health, we are solving the problem related to access of time-critical health information of a patient. A physician, paramedic or dentist needs this information for appropriate diagnosis and management of a patient. Every brick or click clinic or healthcare organization needs access to this information for improved patient outcomes. Data democratization, patient as point-of-care and healthcare equity is our main goal. This applies to every patient with chronic conditions, every patient who travels and deserves the right to good health, every individual who wants to share their health information with their family members. My family lives across the globe, my family travels a lot, and I have experienced first hand, every pain point and can speak from patient as well as physician dilemma.
Estonia is one country in the world where they have implemented this model really well, and I guess we have a lot to learn from them.
What’s your long-term vision for technology-enabled health care?
Democratization of data, equity of healthcare, right to positive outcomes are the underlying needs we are trying to address with Atom Health. With a detailed aggregated personal health history, we can build predictive AI models that can not only take into consideration the medical practice guidelines but also lifestyle and other confounding factors and provide the most personalized health advice to each individual.
Today a few major stakeholders hold all the access to health information, and while complaining about that we forget that those are just written versions of what we hold in our minds and our bodies. “Some locks do not need a key, because the true treasure is elsewhere!”
What are some of the big challenges you’ve faced along the way, whether technology-related or at system-level?
I probably wouldn’t be the first one to say this, but the bureaucracy is the biggest challenge I have faced along the way. Although I have never thought of myself as a minority as a woman of colour in technology, I have been made aware of this fact several times. The other common problem is that in each major area, there are 2–3 major players who control the innovation and opportunity in that area. But I like to think of myself as someone who takes on challenges knowing what you’re taking on, and challenging the control of power.
How did you seek out mentorship? Which individuals or communities have contributed to your success?
I have been fortunate to find the right mentors all along, and I believe it is extremely important to have guidance and mentorship along the way. Every person I have met in my life has taught me something and I am thankful to each one of them who have knowingly or unknowingly contributed to my success. Completely random strangers have kindly taken on the role of mentors in my life and I feel truly blessed! I cannot discount the role of my father and my husband, who have contributed to my success by being my biggest critics and my inspiration at the same time.
Do you agree with the following statement “Even if it fails, I’d be proud of it.” Why or why not?
I wouldn’t have been able to answer this question a year ago. I grew up in Mumbai, and the competition was crazy while studying or working. I was trained to work hard and to always come out as a topper. So failure was more personal and very hard to accept. I always looked at it as maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Now, I can say I have matured enough to accept failures gracefully without the guilt. Now I carry each failure as a scar that I feel proud of! My failures have shaped my thinking, my understanding and my strategy as well as my personality.
How can current physicians, residents, med students take part in your work?
I am always looking for inspired, like-minded individuals who are willing to think out-of-the-box. I’m happy to connect with physicians, residents, med-students through LinkedIn or physician innovator communities like your MedTechEntrepreneurs Slack Community.
What is the next big question you’re trying to answer?
Breaking barriers! (hahaha)
I’m always keen on democratization and disruption in old, redundant systems. Healthcare if what I’m working on right now, and education is next on my list!
What’s one resource you wish you had right now that would help you move forward?
It’s not one, it’s two … a core team of trained and knowledgeable professionals and funding! It’s all falling into place slowly, but I wish things would go faster and I would find the proper resources to make this vision a reality. I have the drive, the perseverance, the dedication and the urge to succeed, but need a few external resources like manpower and money.