Building bridges

BILL: President and Chief Executive Officer of Texas Medical Center, talks about what the world's largest medical city is looking for in Denmark. "We look to create an opportunity for the world's best companies to come to the United States and be successful."

Q: So, Bill: Why is Texas Medical Center, the world's largest hospital, coming all the way to Denmark?

It's really for the technology that we see here. Texas Medical Center is the largest medical city in the world, we have over thirty-two hospitals in our campus and we produce about 22 billion in GDP. And we look for the best technology in the world. We really look to create an opportunity for those companies to come to the United States, and an ecosystem where they can land quickly and efficiently, gain access to investment and be successful. I would argue that pound for pound the startup community at the academic centers across Denmark is second to none. So that's why we created a BioBridge with Denmark.

Q: Where do you see health tech solutions making the biggest difference?

A: Well, they're already making a big difference. And I would argue that healthcare is huge with opportunity as we look more to the future. We have to manage patients not just as they come into our hospitals, but really in their homes and at work. And so digital health solutions and medtech solutions are playing more and more of an important role, as we manage not just people coming through at the time when they're terribly sick, but managing their health. 

Q: Can you give us some examples of great uses of health tech solutions at TMC?

Sure. So, we're using artificial intelligence to align patients to clinical trials. Anyone that's ever run a clinical trial before anywhere around the world knows that it's a manual process. You have to go through electronic medical records and physicians' notes. We're putting a system in throughout the medical center that actually goes through physicians' notes and the structured data like electronic medical records. And we're finding patients in hours, compared to what used to take us months - and sometimes years. And we hope to see this here in Denmark as well. We could actually do trials collectively! The data never moves, so it's safe and we're never violating patient security. So it's a great new way of really understanding where your patients are, before you ever spend a dollar on clinical research. It's really exciting! 

Q: Very exciting indeed... What do you see as the barriers to using more health tech solutions at TMC?

I don't necessarily see that in TMC, because we are really looking for avant-garde ways to... We are managing 10 million patients. Each year we treat twice the population of Denmark on our campus. So, we are always looking for innovative ways to make things happen faster. And you'll hear about some of the Danish companies that are looking at fast tracking radiology using AI, so it can do the work that a radiologist would do. And then a radiologist can just look at the report and she can improve it or modify it. So that's really about throughput and driving more through while actually creating higher quality standards. So, I think there's a number of applications that we can apply right away, streamlining the health care process.

Q: TMC seems to be leading the way. Do you see any barriers in the rest of the USA and the rest of the world, that are preventing adoption of health tech?

Well, I've worked for big companies like Medtronic and DuPont, but I've also been the CEO of a startup. And one of the things that I always look for in a startup is how do you get access to a multitude of customers? The problem is that when you go in you build a relationship with a hospital - and then you have got to move on to another hospital. The sales cycle could be anywhere from 12 to 48 months. That's too long of a period of a time for a startup. So what we have tried to do at TMC is letting companies come in and have access to all 32 hospitals, to our 130.000 employees, to our 10 million patients. And we believe that that's really going to be a cornerstone for a successful company coming into the United States, rather than trying to build out a national sales force and approach the entire country with a sales team.

Q: Do you have any advice for the health tech startups wanting to sell to U.S. hospital systems like TMC?

I have a lot of advice! One, do much harder work on your intellectual property. I have heard many founders say, well, I've done a couple of Google searches and therefore I'm in great shape. It is never the case. You really need to invest in your IP, because that is your property that you're going to need to defend. And if you start going up against large corporations, they will defend their space, even if you're not infringing on it. They will defend it vigorously. It's what we call intellectual property, a contact sport. And you must be willing to play in that pool. Secondly, you need to not just work with a single physician, you also have to get the voice of the customer. And not just one, but twenty, thirty, forty of them, and you must do that early on.

Q: That is great advice, thank you!

Thank you, it's delightful to be here, and it's really impressive what you've built here. I have been overwhelmed with and really pleasantly surprised by the number of companies, the technology that I'm seeing here. So, congratulations on all that you're doing.

Read on:

The power of the brain

In Conversation

PAULA: CTO of Brain+ on collaboration between corporate and startup, the need for curiosity and on daring to fail: "You need to be able to fail, because that's the only way you will learn."

Doing the right thing

In Conversation

HANS: Founder of Be My Eyes on language barriers, taking our health into our own hands, and the importance of just getting things done. "Today we are the biggest community of blind people in the world. I didn't expect that to happen."