We talked to Yair Saperstein of avoMD on how its effective tools has transformed the healthcare institutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yair Saperstein: Thank God, we are doing well. I served as Chief Resident for Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn through the COVID-19 crisis. I found strength in the many physicians and nurses who came to aid us, the help and spirit offered by the community for food and PPE donations and otherwise, and my family for their love and support. Now, as CEO of avoMD, a software that serves clinicians and hospitals, I find fulfillment in helping in another way.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded avoMD.
Yair Saperstein: I have long dreamt of contributing to the practice of medicine through technology. As a child of two physicians, if I wasn’t playing “doctor,” or playing games on the computer, I was thinking about how the two might intertwine.
Throughout high school and college, I focused on the sciences. I majored in Chemistry and competed in numerous science fairs and competitions. I credit the fostering environment of my family and school life to promote my blossoming interest in the practical application of the sciences. (Accidentally blowing up science experiments at home just made it more exciting…).
In medical school, I focused on teaching and empowering others, as I learned. I founded and helped grow two education-focused clubs into internationally operating non-profit organizations. I also did extensive global health work, working in 14 countries during my time in medical school. In Internal Medicine Residency at SUNY Downstate, I continued to look for opportunities to make a positive change. My advisor, Dr. Isabel McFarlane, suggested that I look into the field of Clinical Informatics, a subspecialty in medicine that combines IT and medicine.
I took an elective at Columbia University’s Department of Biomedical Informatics and met the faculty, including one fellow, PJ, who later became my cofounder in avoMD. He told me over dinner how he was building a tool to help doctors make better decisions — the merger of computers and medicine that I had been dreaming about. I worked on learning how to build a decision pathway and successfully built one for Diabetic Ketoacidosis, a diabetes crisis. avoMD was born.
As we continued working together, many of our physician colleagues were asking if they could use the software, too, and if they could contribute. We created a “no-code” builder to allow any clinician to contributing content and drew up a business plan with the help of our third cofounder, Laurence.
My career independently put me in a medical administration role as a Chief Resident and an informatics liaison. I helped Kings County Hospital transition to a new Electronic Health Record system, Epic. Through this process, I realized the need from not just the clinician side but also the hospital side for better guidelines and pathways.
How does avoMD innovate?
Yair Saperstein: We foster an environment where suggestions, comments, and questions are warmly welcomed and encouraged. This allows us to continue to gain insights from each other and to innovate constantly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Yair Saperstein: We help solve many of the issues brought to light in medicine by COVID-19. For example, the changing policies were (and continue to be) difficult) for hospitals to effectively communicate with their clinicians. This difficulty in distributing clinical and workflow guidelines is true across medical specialties and conditions — meaning patients are often not getting the standard of care! By highlighting these issues, COVID-19 actually puts a spotlight on the necessity of our solution and has generated much interest.
On the contrary side, though, many hospitals are losing money through this crisis, leading to less willingness to invest in new technology, even with such a potential for improved outcomes and cost savings.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Yair Saperstein: The move from in-person to virtual makes it much more difficult to form the relationships that accelerate sales. We have been learning to navigate Zoom meetings and have turned down opportunities that involved in-person events. The lesson learned? Resiliency is key.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and avoMD in the future?
Yair Saperstein: In stressful situations, I rely on my cofounders and team, friends, and family. The company serves a real need, and as our customer discovery, and now 6 live pilots demonstrate, we are set up for success.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Yair Saperstein: Clinical Pathways: Often distributed by email, hard to know which are the most updated, often impractical to use at the bedside. avoMD translates pathways into practical workflow-oriented protocols.
Order Sets: Built into the electronic health record and often very helpful, but they are rigid and may not leave space for clinical judgment. They penalize physicians with alarms when they stray from the computer-recommended pathway. avoMD presents a suggested workflow, and also includes the “why” behind it, so that physicians can have the information necessary to make their own clinical judgment.
UpToDate: Has standardized guidelines, but cannot support hospital-specific customized pathways. avoMD is customizable and supports institution-specific pathways.
Your final thoughts?
Yair Saperstein: For hospitals trying to improve care by increasing usage of their pathways — avoMD can serve as your solution. Reach out for more info!