About five years ago, Dr. Brian Fengler found himself in a scary situation. He was working as an ER doctor in a busy Nashville, Tennessee, hospital, when a 36-week pregnant woman with a massive pulmonary embolism came in. He knew how to treat the mother, but was less sure about the impact the treatment would have on her unborn child. So he did what a whopping 86 percent of providers in similar situations do—he turned to the Internet. “I spent precious time trying to find data to allow me to make the right decision,” says Dr. Fengler.
And he never found it. In Dr. Fengler’s case, he was able to rely on extensive clinical knowledge and experience to guide him to the right treatment option, but what about other providers? “The experience made me realize there was a gap in decision support for healthcare providers,” he says.
Thus, EvidenceCare was born. We talked to Dr. Fengler, who serves as the company’s founder, CEO and chief medical officer to find out more about his decision support tool for providers, which closed $1.1 million in funding earlier this year, and what it’s like to go from ER doctor to startup founder.
Q How does EvidenceCare work and who’s it for?
A: EvidenceCare is, first and foremost, a decision support tool for providers; we give them the information they need when they need it most—at the point of care. For example, if a doctor suspects a patient has sepsis, he will click into the sepsis pathway, answer a few quick questions about that patient and then land on a personalized risk-profile that highlights the suggested treatment recommendations for that patient.
Our target audience is providers of all types, including physicians, mid-levels and nurses. Because it is free to providers, is available anywhere there is Internet connection and doesn’t require tech support to get rolling, there are no barriers to access.
Q: EvidenceCare has been in business since the beginning of 2014; tell us about the last two years.
A: At first, I was trying to do it all on my own, but I realized I needed to surround myself with the best team possible. So I spent a tremendous amount of time investing in the future of EvidenceCare by bringing together the best and brightest to execute the three cores of our business: content, technology and marketing. We now have a team of nine and are looking to add even more.
Right now is a very exciting time for us. We just launched the beta version of our product last week with great reception. It has been very fulfilling to finally see our product in the hands of other providers. We are taking in all the feedback, making enhancements to the platform and adding content, and preparing for a nationwide launch this summer. We have also just opened a Series A round of funding and are looking to raise $2 million. We have a lot ahead!
Q: Going from practicing physician to startup founder—is that hard?
A: Leaving behind clinical medicine was an extremely difficult decision for me. I truly enjoy the art of practicing medicine and being the person who is able to make an impact when a patient or their family needs it most. However, what we are doing is going to revolutionize the way healthcare providers access information and restore a little of what’s been lost over the past few years with the provider-patient relationship. It’s that realization, that this is going to impact thousands of patients every day, that keeps me passionate about what we are doing at EvidenceCare.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges to you in making that transition? And what would be your best tips to fellow founders who are making similar jumps?
A: Some of the biggest challenges initially were balancing the demands of practicing medicine full-time with the demands of a fast-paced healthcare IT start-up. When you factor in a young family, it has been challenging.
My biggest tip to fellow founders would be to realize that it’s not easy and it’s going to take a lot of work. It requires 80-hour weeks, working nights and weekends. Passion will drive your willingness to invest the time. In addition, I encourage you to keep your eye on the ball. Your path may change along the way, but the end-game should always remain in sight. Lastly, I encourage you to do what you can to get the right folks on your team. You simply cannot do it yourself. Be creative with incentives. People will work hard for you when they believe in the mission, share your passion and have skin in the game.
Q: Nashville is a great place to be a healthcare IT startup. What’s here in terms of resources or expertise that can help a startup idea come to fruition?
A: It is really great to be in Nashville, as we are at the epicenter of healthcare and have a tremendous wealth of entrepreneurial insight at our disposal. Certainly, the Entrepreneur Center is a great resource. But don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call one of the trailblazers of the industry. I guarantee there are at least two in any Nashville coffee shop at any given time. Learn from these seasoned leaders. I have found our community to be extremely generous with their time and advice.
We were fortunate to have connected with Dr. Don Lazas of NueCura Partners, a Nashville-based angel investment group. Their model for attracting companies that are going to be the next generation of healthcare innovators, the process they’ve established for vetting them through their membership of successful business operators, and their ability and willingness to deliver value at every step of the process has been extremely enlightening to us. We could not have asked for a better partner and are looking forward to what’s ahead.