Merging Medicine and Entrepreneurship: UW Health Docs Share Lessons

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common in the life sciences, but it also happens in the software industry. Perhaps most famously, in 2001, three years after incorporating, Google named Eric Schmidt as its CEO (though co-founder Larry Page has since taken over the top job at Alphabet, which is now Google’s parent company).

Another example is ImageMoverMD, which has developed software that allows healthcare providers and patients to securely transmit pictures and videos they’ve taken with their smartphones to a healthcare organization’s electronic health records (EHR) system. The startup was launched in 2013 by two UW Health radiologists, Gary Wendt and Richard Bruce.

Wendt, who worked in computer networking and earned a master’s in business administration before enrolling in medical school, said ImageMoverMD is the only company he has co-founded. He said he has advised other local startups, however, including HealthMyne and UltraVisual Medical Systems, which merged with Emageon in 2003. K. Thomas Pickard, whom ImageMoverMD brought on last year to run the show, is a former sales and marketing executive at Emageon, and worked at UltraVisual prior to that.

One startup that’s still led by the doctor who founded it is HealthDecision. Jon Keevil, who earned a degree in engineering and computer science before going on to medical school and working at UW Health as a cardiologist, started HealthDecision in 2004. It’s developing software that fetches data from a hospital or clinic’s EHR system and displays the information in a manner that helps patients and their physicians make a care plan together. These types of collaborations, known as “shared decision-making,” are becoming more frequent in exam rooms and even emergency departments across the country.

While HealthDecision has been around for more than a decade, Keevil said it was only in the last five years that he decided he wanted to get the startup’s tools “out into the world.” UW Health was the first organization to use the company’s software, but HealthDecision has since added multiple health systems to its client roster, he said.

Earlier this summer, Keevil left his job at UW Health to devote his full energies to HealthDecision, which now has a nine-person team.

The company’s progression, which Keevil calls a “slow burn process,” is not uncommon among doctors who stop treating patients to pursue business ventures, according to a Forbes article by David Shaywitz.

“Many physicians who ultimately leave medicine to become full-time entrepreneurs do so gradually, or else make the decision before they even enter clinical practice,” Shaywitz wrote.

Plenty of physicians who start companies opt to continue working in the hospital, though.

Take Josh Medow, for instance. He’s a UW Health neurosurgeon and the founder of Integrated Vital Medical Dynamics. Medow launched the startup in 2014 and said it has developed adapted physiology algorithms” aimed at reducing the amount of time doctors spend monitoring critical-care patients, among other objectives.

Medow created the company to address specific issues he encountered while caring for patients. He has since added advisors and computer programmers—who have “completely overhauled” the code that was in place initially—and secured the backing of investors.

Medow now wants to take a step back and let the team he has assembled jell.

“I still plan on being a clinician every day,” he said. “Even though I can do programming, for me, the patients and their needs are my muse. And then my canvas is the company, or the lab. I think the key is to build a quality team of people that each do their part, and let them run with it.”

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