With a theme of “The Next Generation of Healthcare,” the 2018 Medical Capital Innovation Competition seemed tailor-made for Valhalla Healthcare. The competition focused on the role of disruptive technologies in engaging patients and clinicians to take healthcare to new levels, which was music to the ears of Alexeis Baqui, M.D., Valhalla’s CEO and co-founder.
“We really believe, with proper application of technology, we can become more human, not less,” says Baqui from Valhalla Healthcare’s headquarters in Houston, Texas. “By automating the clinical workflow system, doctors can have 80 to 90 percent of a patient’s information before they even see them.”
Machine Learning Tech That Benefits Patients and Physicians
Valhalla Healthcare was founded by Baqui and computer science student John Chen, who met at Rice University in 2017. Chen and his team created Allevia, a machine learning model that creates a system that actually thinks like a doctor by using patient-driven documentation information as a metric. This disruptive technology results in a 30 percent reduction in EHR time per physician, who typically spend 50 percent of their clinic hours on computer work. It also creates a less stressful experience for patients during their face-to-face time in a doctor’s office. “Patients don’t want to be interrogated,” says Baqui.
The benefit to physicians is also significant: “The clinical documentation burden related to physician burnout is well documented,” adds Baqui, who delayed his own residency to focus on tech solutions for healthcare. “I decided to step away from practicing medicine to fix this issue once and for all.”
MCIC Created “Nexus” of Experience
Baqui and Chen first learned of MCIC from a Texas Medical Center newsletter. A trip to Cleveland coincided with the firm’s first pilot study that followed months of research and development. “We had never had any connection with the Cleveland healthcare ecosystem and we wanted to create a network, a nexus that would give us more experience,” says Baqui. “The competition was very helpful for us.”
As is the case with many healthcare startups, Valhalla Healthcare was looking for an opportunity to engage with like-minded tech trailblazers and investors. But for Baqui, validation of his firm’s concept was a high priority. “I got exactly what I wanted out of the experience,” he says. “Having the advisors and investors help curate our pitch was very important. Getting advice and feedback is always welcome. The number of individuals we were able to meet with was extremely helpful.”
Throwing out a cold pitch to advisors was beneficial for Valhalla, not only for the positive responses but for the questions raised about the presentation itself. “The constructive criticism was very helpful,” says Baqui. “We were able to see where our flaws were. If you’re looking to build a story for your company, you can’t do it without advisors and mentors. You have to put yourself in a place where you can strengthen your weaknesses.”
Not Winning Doesn’t Equal Failure
Valhalla Healthcare has competed in 15 pitch competitions, but Baqui feels the MCIC event is in a league of its own. “MCIC went several steps further than most,” he says. “By engaging with competitors prior to the event, they provided companies value in the form of mentorship, advising and introductions to local health systems. Everyone got to take home some value.”
Baqui’s advice for MCIC competitors is simple. “Don’t go in thinking winning is success and not winning is failure,” he says. “Go in with the formula that advice, networking and contacts are the win. Those will always be worth more than the money.”