EP5: Creating and Funding Innovations in Patient Care with Triventures’s Dr. Peter Fitzgerald

In this episode… 

Ohad speaks with Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Triventures, a global, early stage fund that invests in exceptional entrepreneurs. They discuss how Peter’s career has evolved from studying engineering to funding new medical device technology, the current state of innovation in healthcare, and where it’s going — and what needs to happen to get it there. They also discuss how data collection will transform patient care, how healthcare is becoming more consumer-focused, and how we need to answer the question “Who pays?”

Topics discussed:

  • How Peter “stumbled into” a career that took him from engineering to med school, and then to a focus on creating innovation in medical device technology and funding companies who do so as well.
  • The reasons why medical technology can take a long time to adopt, especially when it comes to moving the needle for big tech companies.
  • Where Peter sees the future of medical devices heading, and how data collected from connected devices will improve patient care.
  • How healthcare is becoming more consumer and patient driven, as well as how it will become much more integrated into someone’s everyday life.
  • The question around “Who pays?” in today’s healthcare systems, and how innovative companies need to integrate themselves into today’s health systems.
  • How medical imaging can allow a person to see inside of themselves, which can better engage them with treatment and care.
  • Why physicians don’t have to reinvent processes, but can rely on technology, devices, and professionals accessible in the cloud.

Triventures’s Dr. Peter Fitzgerald on Creating Integrating Innovation into Today’s Healthcare Systems

The need for both innovation and integration is a key belief of Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, which he expounded upon on a recent episode of our podcast. And he certainly knows about both the innovation and integration parts of healthcare. Holding both an MD and PhD in engineering, Peter is an interventional cardiologist, a professor, and has been a principal or founder in twenty-one medical devices companies. Today, Peter is the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Triventures, where he funds emerging entrepreneurs working in healthcare innovation. 

On a recent episode of our Medical Imaging for All podcast, Peter shared more about his career at the forefront of medical technology, where the industry is headed when it comes to that technology, and what needs to happen for it to truly realize its potential. 

Innovation and Integration — and Its Roadblocks

With a career focused on bringing new technologies to life in order to “contribute in this very complex arena of healthcare,” Peter understands that innovation and invention isn’t enough. While innovation is great, he says, it’s spontaneous, and can be taught. However, the most important part is integration, because, as he explains, “those technologies that you’re fascinated with are going to be no good unless they can truly integrate: they can be approved, they can be paid for, and truly broadcast into bending a curve in healthcare.”

However, the integration part is taking longer today due to a few different roadblocks. As Peter lays out, we generally know how to develop a new device or innovation, including prototyping, protecting IP, and testing. However, “the problem is on the other end,” he says. With the coalescence of medical devices companies today, it’s not just about getting approval, it’s about getting reimbursed and then “being able to build a business that then can move the dial for these big medical device companies.” While the back end is becoming the biggest challenge today, “I think you have to be enthusiastic about what can actually make an impact on patient care.”

Additionally, those building medical device companies need to focus on their business model — but “you can’t build a business model with a medical center.” Those developing new innovations need to be able to answer who’s going to pay for it, how it’s going to scale, and how it’s going to be “at the fingertips of people that need it.” 

Using Devices and Data for Improved Continuity of Care

One thing that healthcare innovations can address today is improving the continuity of care for patients. As Peter says, “we’re very good at episodes of care. … But what we don’t do is connect the dots for continuity of care.” What can connect those dots? Data, as collected by medical devices.

“I think we’re going to see a change in medical devices per se,” Peter explains. “There’s going to be a lot of medical devices that are going to be connected, that are going to basically gather information as to the post approval, long term acuity of truly providing care for that particular person — and learning from the data.” The example he provides looks at a patient with Parkinson’s disease, and how, through a combination of medication and neurostimulation, feedback gathered over time can help with “acuity attuning” of that patient.

Consumer-Driven Healthcare

Using medical devices to gather data on patients is just one of the ways that healthcare is moving towards becoming more consumer-centric. Companies like Amazon, CVS, Walmart, and others are great at “continuity of understanding you,” as Peter terms it, like knowing when you need groceries. Add to that analytics and NLP, and “we’re seeing the tech — the cavalry — come in that understand continuity of care and convenience. To get your care in the back of a store that you trust, to get diapers and potato chips in the back of the store, to get your medication and your advice? That’s what consumers want.”

In terms of medical imaging, that consumer focus will be at the neighborhood level, like “when people can go to some of the neighborhood care facilities and be able to have an ultrasound device that’s the size of a salt shaker and be able to see that image and be able to be guided with AI.” Having more widely available imaging can help increase patient care as well. Just by being able to see inside of yourself, “It’s much more tangible … in terms of compliance of medication and what to do with lifestyle and exercise,” Peter explains. “When you see your coronary arteries, when you see your mitral valve, it’s much different than just having a doc downstream tell you what you have,” which can increase patient engagement with their own healthcare.

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