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How Medical Training and 'Moneyball' Inspired My Entrepreneurial Mission

How Medical Training and 'Moneyball' Inspired My Entrepreneurial Mission Credit: Graham Gardner

I went into medicine because I wanted to make the world a better place.

A close family friend, our family pediatrician, was an early inspiration for me. I still remember him sewing up a laceration on my brother's leg one afternoon while our family was over for a BBQ. Months later, he came to our house to diagnose my brother's appendicitis, and then traveled with him in the ambulance to ensure that he received the care he needed.

I've always wanted to be like him; and at the age of eight, I declared that I was going to be a physician when I grew up.

At the same time, my father led pharmaceutical research and development at one of the largest companies in the world. I enjoyed touring the labs with him on Saturday mornings to see how his team was developing medicines that would treat entire populations. I've always been proud that my father's work helped improve the lives of patients suffering from HIV, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a host of other conditions. Around the age of 10, I began to suspect that while I remained committed to medical training, I wanted to eventually drive impact at the intersection of medicine, technology and business.

Over the next several years, I balanced clinical training with internships at various healthcare companies to explore different medical careers. It was a privilege and responsibility to care for patients, and I fell in love with cardiology, where I could truly touch someone's life. But at the same time, it was a cutting-edge field highlighted by major medical device advances that began to tug at my previously unbeknown entrepreneurial spirit.

And then it happened: my father retired from his 20-year career in pharma to join a revolutionary start-up company as its chief scientific officer. For the first time, I learned about venture capital and the support that exists for entrepreneurs looking to transform the world. I realized that I could take my technical training and help build things that didn't previously exist, creating an opportunity to drive impact at scale, aligning business and health to build lasting change.

I finished my cardiology fellowship and went straight to business school. After graduation, I joined Highland Capital Partners, a leading venture firm and platform for me to start companies. There, I began to see opportunities to leverage lessons from other industries into areas of medicine. Using that principle, I co-founded Generation Health and served as its chief medical officer through its acquisition by CVS Caremark a year later. The company borrowed its business model from the pharmacy benefit management industry, but instead applied the practice of tiering and volume-based discounting to the genetic testing industry.

The experience confirmed how much I enjoyed creating new products and companies. I also had the opportunity to recruit and work with Julie Yoo, an MIT-trained engineer who later became my business and thought-partner for the next decade.

After the sale and integration of Generation Health into CVS Caremark, Julie and I began to discuss what to do next. It was clear that healthcare was about to change because of Obamacare. Healthcare organizations were now going to be held even more accountable.

At the same time, healthcare data was becoming increasingly liquid. Advances in computing, also referred to as "Big Data," afforded entrepreneurs the ability to process this information and apply its learnings to optimize business.

Around that time, I saw the movie "Moneyball," based on the Michael Lewis book that detailed how the Oakland A's used statistics to assess relative competencies of baseball players and design a team that played to everyone's strengths. Their philosophy, that we are all different and beautiful in our own way, resonated with me. If baseball could embrace natural human differences by putting players up to bat when they were most likely to do well, why couldn't we use that approach to match physicians with the right kind of patients for their training and expertise?

The idea that "a better match means better care" became the slogan for Kyruus. It also became a guiding principle for how to solve inefficiency in the healthcare industry – the ability to provide patient access and referrals to the right providers within a hospital system. It turns out that, while patients are often asked to wait weeks or even months to see a provider, many health systems operate with 20 to 40 percent of their appointments going unfilled every day.

This issue is similar to the capacity utilization woes of the airline industry when airplanes were flying just 60 percent full. Innovative platforms like the Sabre system and Travelocity created dashboards that enabled travelers to sort through the inventory of flights and optimize their seat allocation across airlines. We saw an opportunity to bring that model into healthcare.

Kyruus works with over 300 hospitals around the country, using our "Moneyball" statistics to route patients to their right provider. Health systems see enormous operational and financial return as they better leverage their clinical assets and keep care coordinated within their network.

I find myself spending more time ensuring that we are adhering to our "Moneyball" heritage internally as well so we can continue to build the right Kyruus team to deliver on our mission. I like to think that I am still helping to make the world a better place – just in a different way.

About the author: Graham Gardner is the co-founder and CEO of Kyruus. Prior to Kyruus, Graham was a Venture Executive at Highland Capital Partners where he co-founded Generation Health, a genetic benefit management company that facilitates optimal utilization of genetic testing, and served as the company's Chief Medical Officer through its acquisition by CVS Caremark. Graham completed his clinical training in internal medicine and cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, where he also served as Chief Medical Resident.