Margaux Gleber, part of Veta Health’s research and strategy development team, sat down with co-founders Dr. Nora Zetsche and Tanvi Vattikuti Abbhi to talk about their passion for healthcare and what drove them to start the digital technology company.
Tell me a little bit about how you two met.
Tanvi: Nora and I met in 7th grade English class. She had just moved to Michigan from Germany and spoke very little English! We became close friends through middle school and high school (her English quickly became impeccable and I still speak “null” German). Though our studies and careers took us to different continents for the better part of 10 years, we always stayed in touch.
What motivated you to start Veta Health? How did the thought come up?
Nora: My career started out in medicine which provided me with a very clear and long road towards fairly certain success. I struggled, however, with the concept of knowing what my life would be like in 40 years. During my residency in radiology, I began exploring alternative career paths. I recognized that by coming at healthcare from a different angle, I could increase the positive impact I could have on entire populations rather than the few individuals I could reach on any given day.
I experienced gaps of care on a daily basis and fixated on how they could be addressed at a greater scale. Technology was the obvious answer. Tanvi gave me the final push to leap into this new adventure. She always knew she wanted to start a venture on her own, had the business background to support a great idea, and, having been friends for such a long time, I knew we could be an incredibly successful team.
How did you recognize the opportunity in the marketplace for the platform?
Nora: There were a few different validations.
1. Experience. I worked as a doctor, saw the issues, and knew existing tech or non-tech solutions have yet to crack the problem (and market).
2. Loads of conversations. Tanvi and I have spent innumerable hours speaking and listening to industry leaders across all constituents of the healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare is complex. If you want to successfully fill a need, you have to understand the actual gap, the urgency, the current and desired experience, and the ROI for every stakeholder.
3. The noise! No one can deny this market is busy. It wouldn’t be if there wasn’t tremendous opportunity.
What is the idea behind Veta Health?
Tanvi: Technology can be an incredibly powerful tool. We firmly believe that it will transform how we experience our health and healthcare for decades to come. Care will no longer be centered solely around the hospital or doctor’s office, but will become accessible anywhere, at anytime. This necessitates new tools for patients and clinicians.
Veta Health was founded under two primary principles: facilitating greater transparency in the care journey (90% of which happens outside of the hospital or doctor’s office) and giving patients the tools to become active participants in their health. We provide technology and services to healthcare organizations to facilitate better patient management in non-traditional care settings.
So there is a provider online platform and a patient app. Can you explain the strategies behind each?
Nora: Traditionally, medical providers had a fairly one-sided approach towards their patients. After a patient briefly met with a doctor, they would be given printed instructions to manage challenging and life-threatening conditions. More often than not, these complex treatment plans were not discussed in length. If patients struggled to manage their condition and returned to the hospital, their care providers had a hard time understanding why their instructions were not followed and their expectations not met.
Our clinician platform helps doctors gather key information they need from patients when they are at home, including symptom assessments, medication management, and vitals data. This creates a feedback loop so that care teams are notified before there is a major disease exacerbation. Providers (including hospital administrators, doctors, and their extended teams) are able to look across their populations and drill down on specific patients through auto-populated task lists, resulting in better health outcomes.
Tanvi: Imagine you are a patient who has just spent six days in the hospital. You’ve been connected to all sorts of machines that beep when you need attention. A deluge of nurses, nutritionists, physicians assistants and doctors come through to check on you constantly. When you are finally well enough to go home, you get a piece of paper and a wish of good luck!
There is something wrong with this picture. That’s why we built a platform to guide patients when they leave traditional care settings. Our patient app serves as a 24/7 on-demand health partner to provide patients with their health history and instructions on how to manage their health while motivating patients throughout their care journey. Our app also loops in family members like spouses, parents, and children who are involved in helping manage a patient’s health. Patients are consumers and they are demanding healthcare experiences that more closely match the experiences and conveniences of how they access information, how they shop, and how they interact socially. This means a robust mobile experience. For too long, patients have been overlooked as essential members of their care teams. Veta Health changes this paradigm.
Digital health has seen a major transformation in the past few years. What impact has it had on Veta Health? Do you see anything that could affect your current business model?
Tanvi: The first wave of technology adoption in healthcare was driven by meaningful use and the adoption of EHR systems in the early 2000s. Today, over 67% of providers (hospitals and mom-and-pop individual practitioners) have adopted EHR systems.
The current wave of innovation in healthcare technology is being driven by a movement from the fee-for-service model to value-based care. This means treating patients wholistically, not symptoms discreetly. While the political climate has opened numerous questions about the future of healthcare access and regulation, we believe that value-based care is here to stay and will continue to gain momentum.
What differentiates Veta Health from other digital health startups?
Nora: There is a lot going on in digital health right now – there is no question about that – but it’s important to filter out the noise. At Veta Health, we differentiate ourselves first and foremost by our approach. From the outset, we put user experience at the center. We continuously ensure that we create the most intuitive and user-friendly technology, focusing on what is most important rather than adding bells and whistles solely for effect. The user experience also has to be simple. To be an industry-leading technology company, you must have a simple front end and with all the complex workings happening in the background. This is especially true in healthcare, which is complex in delivery and even more complex in its technology systems. Unlike other industries, we cannot have “disruptive” technology, but rather technology that meets patients, providers, and the industry as a whole where they are. At Veta, we ensure simplicity by integrating our modular platform with existing technologies and clinical workflows so we complement and enhance rather than disrupt.
How do you envision the future of healthcare?
Nora: Innovation has always been focused on creating more convenience and efficiency for society. The transformation of the healthcare industry is no exception. The consumers (patients) are driving the shift from traditional care settings to a more convenient model: healthcare on-demand at your fingertips.
Tanvi: Doctors aren’t going anywhere! We so often hear about technologies that promise to replace physicians. Innovation in healthcare is about enhancing the patient-provider relationship and driving efficiencies.
Do you have any advice or recommendations to other female entrepreneurs who have startup ideas?
Tanvi: My father has always told me not to chase success but to work hard, show results, and success will follow. And make sure your work has impact that speaks to you at a personal level. It’s what drives you through the tough times.
Nora: My recommendation to female entrepreneurs would be the same as to our male colleagues. Work hard and make sure you are the best at what you do.