Accelerate Pediatric Virtual Care: Omkar Kulkarni, Managing Director for KidsX

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Source: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1288727/5437612-accelerate-pediatric-virtual-care-omkar-kulkarni-managing-director-for-kidx 

 

Kerry Amato : 

Awesome Hello changemakers and welcome to this episode of The hims accelerate health podcast. This is Carrie Amato, the Executive Director for innovation at hinze. Today I'm joined by unkar Kulkarni. He is the Chief Innovation Officer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the managing director of kids x, which is what we're going to focus our conversation on today. Kids x is a global ecosystem of pediatric innovators anchored by a consortium of 26. And I think growing. That number is children's hospitals. And I'm excited today to chat a little bit with Omkar today and hear about how this new endeavor is hoping to build, test and deploy software solutions to improve pediatric care. So welcome, Omkar. Glad to have you with us today.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

Thanks, Kerry. Thanks for having me.

Kerry Amato : 

So I thought we'd just start at the beginning here. Tell me about KidsX, what is it? Why did you develop it? Why now?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

So at its core, KidsX is an accelerator. So kidsx is solving this problem thatpediatric healthcare has lots and lots of opportunities to innovate, it bring digital solutions to solve really important problems. And one of the best ways of doing that, at least in my opinion, is to connect the entrepreneurial community, the investor community, and the customers or the provider community, in our case together and an ecosystem to do that. And kids x is that system and brings together all those different key players. And in order to specifically solve problems focused on that are important to pediatric health care, and that are, you know, anchored around specific solutions that can be delivered through digital means of digital health solutions. what's what's interesting about this program is that this ecosystem doesn't really exist for pediatrics. There's not really a place where innovators and entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, and then of course, providers, and payers get together to focus on problems focused on pediatric digital health. And so the first part of pediatric both kidsx is building that ecosystem. And then sitting on top of that ecosystem, is this accelerator program.

Kerry Amato : 

Why do you think that's interesting? Why do you think there hasn't been this ecosystem in the past, or there hasn't been this coming together of all the players in the space around pediatrics?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

You know, I think, I think the concept of building healthy ecosystems, and you know, this, and you're in the business of this, it's still fairly new. I mean, last decade, we've seen so much more of it, and and it's largely been in the adult healthcare space and the senior year space. And I think, you know, there's been, there's been a lot of efforts to build different programs in the pediatric landscape that I think have done great work in terms of pediatric innovation broadly, but nothing with the hyper focus on on digital health. And And specifically, the, what we wanted to do different about differently about kidsX was having a specific target in mind and in my eyes was measurable, so that the target of kidsx that I think is unique is the fact that we're trying to see how many of these solutions actually results in X, some sort of outcome outcome at a pediatric hospital, how many of these technologies are actually being deployed at in pediatrics, right? It's one thing to have any ecosystem that comes together, you know, they meet every quarter, they talk, they share ideas, they learn from each other. That's amazing, that's helpful. And there are great programs like that, that exists in pediatrics and in in overall health care. But what I think we're trying to differentiate with kidsx is, let's bring together this ecosystem of hospitals and investors and thought leaders and entrepreneurs, and let's actually try to figure out how to get these solutions into the hands of doctors and patients and families. And that's the goal that we're measuring against is how can we do that? And ultimately, if we can do that, I think that's a great model to replicate beyond pediatrics, you know, for some for other folks, maybe even you think about in other parts of health care, you know, the need that kind of ecosystem? Yeah, I think it's in that your comments are interesting to me and talking about innovation in a real niche fashion, you know, for pediatrics, for example, and how that can be applied this model to other things. It could be dermatology, it could be whatever other areas, you know, what I mean of healthcare and are is there opportunities to build out a bigger ecosystem?

Kerry Amato : 

I love it. So talk to me a little bit about then the actual model itself. So you pulled together I think I was reading is it 26 hospitals or is that number growing in already six, but I think it's a growing list.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

We have over 30 we have about 32 hospitals now spanning all over North America, you know, United Kingdom, Australia. You know, I think it's what I think it from it from an entrepreneurial lens, I think what we figured out is there's a problem here that existed that we've tapped into, there's a need that was tapped in to I think pediatric hospitals have been saying, it seems as though we built this program. And, and, and it's caught a bit of a spark, and people are paying attention, which I think is always a good thing. But at its core, I think your question is kind of how it works and what the nuts and bolts are. So it's a membership model. Hospitals are our members and, and we've built an ecosystem kind of around them, that includes entrepreneurs, and you know, investors, and we're trying to get some some pears as well. And and then technologists and kind of others in the startup community, including folks at hims. And the goal is to really support these hospitals, and the startups that they're working with, to bridge that gap that kind of exists right now, between that those two communities, that's having another part of this program that I think is unique in a sense that, you know, there's of course, this this focus on supporting startups and helping and guiding and coaching them towards, you know, finding product market fit within the pediatric health care delivery market. But another key part of this is really supporting the hospitals and their innovation ecosystems that they have within each hospital. So they're ready to take on and work with these startups. So one of the problems and I think we've talked about this and together about health and other kind of programs that bring together these ecosystems is you can work with the startups all you want, and you can coach them, guide them, get them all the way there. But if the other side, the customer, in this case, the hospital is not ready for them to take them on, if they don't have their systems sorted out, if they don't know how to work with a startup, then even the most prepared startup, the most accelerated startup is still going to run into the same trouble and challenges as they kind of navigate the onboarding cycle at a hospital. So our hope is that between through through both learning, coaching, guiding, and even creating some opportunities to kind of share best practice, we'll build a hospital ecosystem that is ready, and engaged and skilled even to work with startups. And that's also another goal of this program, as we kind of go year after year is that we'll have an ecosystem of provider systems that are agile and able to take on, you know, the partnerships with these innovative startups.

Kerry Amato : 

Yeah, and I would imagine, as well, as you get this group together, I imagine some of the children's hospitals, you're working with probably at all different stages of innovation, right? So there's got to be some shared learnings across you know, children's there in LA is very advanced, where other hospitals and your network may not be some learnings on how to do that how to prepare yourself to work with startups bring on new innovation, that kind of thing as well?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

Oh, absolutely. I mean, we've been, we've already been, we've been having conversations with every every single hospital to kind of map out their their innovation roadmap internally. And I myself have learned a ton. There's so many really impressive things a lot of these hospitals are doing. And I think as they learn from each other, they'll pull best practices and perhaps some templates and things like that. And I think over time, we're going to see a really mature ecosystem in terms of provider systems that are part of kids x. And that'll be another benefit that we can have towards the overall kind of health care ecosystem. There's another derivative project for you.

Kerry Amato : 

There's lots take those learnings. I mean, those learnings are powerful, you know, across the board. And I'd imagine though, as you think about the startups you're taking on, there's got to be some economies of scale, though, too. So I'm thinking particularly, and I want to talk about a little bit about the wish list how you got these hospitals to come together, which I'm still amazed by and actually identify a shortlist of common needs. And fascinated by that. So I want to hear about that. But you know, once those are identified, and you bring on tech through this inaugural class, you've got some economies of scale, both in terms of, you know, buying power, investing power and whatnot across all these hospitals. Is that another probably goal here?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

Absolutely. So let's talk about both. So the first you're talking about our wish list, which I think is an important differentiator, and I think, opportunity that exists within this program, and by no means are we the only ones who have kind of used this reverse pitch model. But I'm a fan of the model. And I think it's a good model and some other accelerators out there use this model. But I think it's really important, right? I think that one of the core issues around just the way in which kind of entrepreneurs and hospitals, or provider systems work right now separately from kids x or anything else, is you've got a bunch of entrepreneurs that are building solutions. They then knock on every hospital door, trying to find a partner without really understanding what that hospital needs, right? And so we said, let's, let's flip it, let's instead of, you know, let's instead of doing that, start by asking our hospitals, what exactly their needs are, what would they actually pay for? So what would they actually invest resources into solving using digital technologies? That's what we did in mid August. We had a meeting. As you said, we had 95 people from 26 different hospitals, who are our members. And we, we basically had a four hour brainstorming session, we asked the question, you know, what are your pain points? What are the things you need to solve? And then we, you know, challenged them further and said, What are these problems? They identify, like 320 problems, right, just in that brainstorming session, and we said, okay, look, let's take this, and let's start prioritizing this, what are the ones you really put resources towards that your CFO, your hospital leadership would really put resources towards because they're really aligned with strategy. And we whittled it down, narrowed it down, found some common grounds amongst these different hospitals. And at the end of the day, we came up with eight there on our website, they're called the kids x wishlist. And that's basically, you know, our list of eight items that are basically our focus areas for the next cohort. And I think the way our application process works is that we are asking companies that believe that they can solve problems in these eight areas to apply to the program, things like remote monitoring, paediatric, you know, behavioral health and mental health, virtual rehab, there's there's a whole bunch, but, you know, we're trying to be specific enough so that we can really find companies that have solutions that are going to, you know, meet the needs of all of these hospitals, we think that'll be a way to, to really better enable that product market fit, which is one of the big goals of the program, right? If you already know what the market needs, and the products are much, and you select products based on that, you're enabling a much higher rate of success for achieving that product market fit.

Kerry Amato : 

Were you surprised by the commonality and some of the priorities of the organizations across? You know, because you said you've got you've got hospitals participating across the globe? So this isn't just North America, right? You've got organizations in Australia and other places. I mean, again, I just find it interesting to find that they're all battling the same issues.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

So couple things. One is, to be entirely honest, I was worried about that the night before, this thing, I was worried that we were going to have this whole session, there wouldn't be commonality between, you know, the the UK hospitals that are on in the NHS, they've got a different payer system. And then all of the American hospitals even really have urban hospitals, we've got a lot of rural children's hospitals in the network, different coasts, different geographies, different, you know, demographics that were taken care of. And it was it was pretty neat to see the the commonalities across the board that did exist. I did, I was a little worried, but because you just don't know. But you're right, I think it was definitely telling that there's so much similarity between these different hospitals around what their core issues are, especially because I'll tell you that miss important for, you know, people thinking about pediatrics thing about, you know, county by county, and definitely state by state, the way pediatric reimbursement models are structured varies quite a bit. So you know, what, even in LA County, which is where we are, and counties that surround us, in in California, that the pair models the the way Medicaid is reimbursed, and things like that just differ slightly or significantly. And that definitely exists across state lines. And that's, that's largely the case in the adult healthcare space. But because of Medicare, that's a little bit more unifying, it's a little bit less, all over the place. But in pediatrics, these, these incentive models are very different, which then when you think about what do you need from a digital health or innovation perspective, that changes a lot, right? So all in all, there was a lot of alignment, and I think it was, it was a good thing for us to be able to find that alignment.

Kerry Amato : 

I love it. So I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up COVID. Right, an interview, any interview we do this day and age is I'm just curious, you know, I'm looking at the wish list. And the two that jumped out at me, particularly, you know, here in the in post COVID world, as we like to call it, you know, remote monitoring is one of your top ones, you know, on your wish list as well as virtual rehab. I mean, that speaks to this ability to continuation of care past, you know, traditional outside hospital settings. Right. Did those move up or down the list based upon COVID? Or has the list changed at all since COVID?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

You know, thats a good point, I would imagine that those two would have probably been on a list beforehand. But I think they probably moved up in priority. As a result, I think, you know, as you think about pediatric health care, many pediatric markets, for example, we have, you know, children's in Arkansas, we've got, you know, children's Wisconsin and I and many others as well, that basically they cover very large parts of their state in terms of what their reach is. And so there are people who live many hours away from some of these children's hospitals, that may be one of one of very few, maybe the only one in their state. And so the need to do to take care of patients virtually is incredibly important. It has been even before COVID and I think it'll continue to be so as you look at our member base, I remember these conversations during our you know, for our brainstorming sessions. Remote, the the need to do things virtually to leverage digital tools always existed because a lot of these children's hospitals, their their service area is the entire state or half the state in the states huge. So you can't have kids always coming in and out of the, you know, the main city if they live out in the rural or suburban part. So it's always been a thing. But I think and I think that's, that's another reason why, you know, digital health and pediatrics is so interesting and attractive, because there's a need for it. But with COVID, it's been even more,more more needed in terms of the, the importance of virtual and remote because of, you know, COVID and the impact of the pandemic.

Kerry Amato : 

Absolutely. So talk to me, then you guys, I think you've got your call open. Right? You're looking for that inaugural class of startups. I think you opened it. What on that the first year, September 1, if I'm correct, weeks ago, yeah. What what kind of companies are you looking for all stages, certain stages. I mean, obviously, they got to fit into your eight wishlist items. But what what else, this is an eight wishlist items are important.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

So a couple things to keep in mind. So you know, we are an ecosystem that, you know, is focused on startups and on hospitals, we're not taking any equity in any of our startups. So that's something to keep in mind. For, for companies of any stage, some of the things were really important, that are important are the wish list, we want to make sure they meet one of those eight items on the wish list in terms of what their product is, their pitch will be required to be focused on that, you know, we're typically looking at early stage. And that can mean different things. So it could be you know, a company that is, you know, just getting off the ground, we do need to at least have a product in place that they've got at least one or two full time founders. But there's some companies we've been talking to that, you know, are a little bit later stage, but they've you know, they found product market fit and success commercially in the adult healthcare space, they just haven't, you know, really explored the pediatric space. And so this is a great opportunity for them to do so. And then their product happens to fit on our wish list. So we're seeing companies that kind of range across the board in terms of that, I think that the core of it is they need to be, they need to have some desire and passion to focus on the pediatric market, that their product that they would, you know, want to work with us on would need to be customized to the needs of the pediatric market. And if a startup can kind of meet any of those requirements, ultimately, that's, that's kind of what we're looking for, we're looking for strong, passionate founders, diverse founders, people that have different backgrounds, different perspectives on different elements of healthcare, delivery, and experience as well. You know, we're open to founders who live anywhere, and, you know, have varying backgrounds. So, you know, geographies, obviously, the global network. So geography is not a limiting factor, which is great with with hams in your audience, too. But yeah, that's kind of the core of what we're looking for. And applications are open through October 7. So they're there on our website, kids x dot health, and, you know, people can, can point point to those browsers and submit your application, we deliberately also just, for people out there, it's a five minute application, it shouldn't take you very long. And that's a reason to, to get get yourself in there.

Kerry Amato : 

Love that love that make it easy on people, and then they'll play more. Um, so. So in terms of then what the class that comes through, you're looking to select 10, I believe, is that correct? Or Yes, a number 10. Okay, so the 10 you select how much is mentorship involved in the program, then, you know, I think oftentimes with pediatric innovation, you know, we hear a lot about user centered design and talking to the end user, etc. But I mean, the physician, in a lot of ways is also the end user on on quite a bit of this as much as the parents and the kids are.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

No, absolutely. So our program is unique. So there's there's three kind of big components of it. So one is mentorship, as you mentioned, and we're lucky enough to have a pretty wide mentorship pool. So each of the kids x member hospitals is contributing individuals to provide mentorship to our companies, and it will be specifically focused on the products that are most interesting to them. So, you know, if if a kid's ex hospital member hospitals interested in one or two of the startups in the program, they're going to be mentoring and coaching those companies pretty closely with with ideally a desire to see if they can pilot those solutions to their hospital. But there's also a broader range of networks, including people from the broader ecosystem. I think, Kerry, you mentioned that you know, you are folks from from HIMSS may be interested in mentoring. I think there's a desire to get to get different perspectives in the payer community, the investor community, the technology community and other successful health tech startups just to give, you know, the startups, alot of support and guidance as they kind of go through this journey. The other component to the program, we do have some curriculum that we think will really help prepare, you know, honest entrepreneurs for the pediatric market. Ultimately, our, you know, our our companies are mostly going to fit into a spot where they've either they're looking to validate their product in pediatrics for efficacy, or they're looking to validate their business model in pediatrics. So our curriculum and our mentorships really focused on one of those two elements of either, you know, product validation or business model validation.

Kerry Amato : 

Well, I'm super excited to follow over the next year, I got to ask you on a personal note, is there one of those categories on the wish list you're particularly excited about? I mean, working in pediatrics and innovation here for a while? Is there an area here that you're excited to see some startups come in on and, you know, see some movement on what I'm what I'm excited about is that they're all interesting.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

The one that I'm curious, the most about is this one at called, what about care transition from pediatric to adult health care. And the reason I say that is, because for many of the other ones on the list, there's solutions out there that exists within kind of the adult health care landscape that can be modified and kind of focused on the proper pediatric market. This is one of the one that I just mentioned, this TRICARE transition from pediatric to adult health care. And just in a nutshell, basically, we are lucky enough that in this country we are around the world, pediatric healthcare has become so effective that many kids are now you know, surviving their childhood illnesses that were, you know, or chronic illnesses, or, you know, things that they were in the hospital for, or being taken care of, for many years. And so now that, you know, they may have been diagnosed at 12. Now, they're 1618. Now, they're 19 and 20. And they're starting to have to transition into adult health care, you know, in their pediatric experience, they were closely managed by a team, you know, with the parents involved, etc. Now, all of a sudden, they're, you know, they're leaving the house, they may leave the state, they're now trying to get it, they're trying to figure out how to navigate the adult healthcare landscape, it's a very different problem. And and it leads to an issue of a lot of kids in their 20s, a lot of young adults in their 20s, all of a sudden have, you know, adverse health outcomes, because they're now you know, falling through the cracks, because they're not in that same tight knit pediatric care system that they had before. I'm excited about it, because I think the solutions that are gonna come out of this are going to be really novel, because I don't think there's anything that's out there that's really solving this problem. And it's something that exists in every pediatric market, probably in the world, but definitely in the kids x hospitals we've talked about. So I'm excited to see what comes up there.

Kerry Amato : 

I love that. And I would agree it's particularly unique to the pediatric market, because you don't, you don't see that anywhere else. And it probably is an area to be honest. So I read it on the eight, I wouldn't have thought of the other ones deer point you think of in all types of health care, remote monitoring, care, coordination, etc. But you're right, it's very unique to pediatrics. All right, well, I want to I want to dig in a little bit on how you find the time to do all that you do. Because you are a busy guy. I always love to share a little bit with our listeners on just some general you know, leadership skills and whatnot. So, you know, your your day job for a while has been the Chief Innovation Officer over at Children's Hospital LA and then in the meantime, you found time to really get this kid's axe off the ground. I'd love to hear from you just how you balance it both. You know how you find time?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

Yeah, I mean, I still am and very much the Chief Innovation Officer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. And you know, to be I'm also a dad who's got kids in the room next door that are learning and it's a lot, right. So, and especially right now, it's a lot. I think that the thing for me is a few things. One is being really specific. I'm a I'm a checklist kind of person, I like I like knowing what I need to do. So every Sunday night, I've done this for a long time, I just read a list. And I did this last, you know, I did this yesterday, I wrote up a list of all the things I need to get done this week. And I deliberately write it in a way that it's always helpful on a sheet of paper, I like for it to fit on the page. So I know that whatever it is, and then I just keep adding to it to the week and I cross it off. And it just, there's something about just knowing what you need to do and coming up with the things that are important. They're there. And then I look at my list. And as I'm creating my list, I always ask the question, is there somebody else who could be doing this and if there's anything on my list on Sunday that I'm adding that somebody else could be doing on my team or on another team, always think about how I can best you know, leverage other people's time and expertise that ideally the list that I come up with that I need to get done is truly things that are only I can do because of my role or you know, some other thing and that really makes sure that I'm I'm kind of operating at a place where you know my time is well spent that I can leverage the skills of my team and the people around me. And it allows for me to be able to get a lot of things done that otherwise wouldn't. I'm also an inbox separate than that. I'm an inbox zero kind of person. I think they just have weird personality trait of mine, but I do I do have Appreciate that there's a sense of satisfaction I get when I've gone through every single one my email, so whether there's hundreds of emails or, or whatever I, I've, I've long been a person for many years to work until I get to inbox zero, which is something that I aim to do, at least and many days.

Kerry Amato : 

I can relate very much to the Inbox Zero counts up something about Friday afternoon, and that inbox is at zero feels good. That's when I go to Friday, Fridays my goal.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

Yeah, it may not be every day. But if I can get to inbox zero on Friday, on many Fridays, it's a nice weekend.

Kerry Amato : 

So on the weekend, then when you've hit Inbox Zero, where do you find your room to breathe on car? What does that look like for you? Where do you find space to, you know, get that room to think about things and to just live a little.

Omkar Kulkarni : 

For me, it's it's runs, I like to run and it clears my head. And it always has just the it's not just Intel, it's specifically going for runs or being outdoors where I can just think and it's funny, almost every time I come back from my run, I always run to a piece of paper to write something down. Because I've thought of something that I either want to do something that I want to get done, because it's something about the experience of running outdoors. really gets my creative juices flowing, I guess.

Kerry Amato : 

I love it, I can appreciate it. Well, is there anything else you want to share with our listeners today?

Omkar Kulkarni : 

You know, Kerry, I thank you and the hims team for giving us this opportunity, you're giving me this opportunity to talk about kidsx and the great work that we're doing. And I think you know, I'm very excited for what kidsx in the consortium will bring to pediatric healthcare specifically to digital health and innovation within pediatrics. You know, I encourage, I encourage your audience to take a look at our website, kids.health, and apply if they're startup that's interested in you know, working in one of our wishlist areas, submit an application, if you're in you know, part of the ecosystem that wants to contribute in some way, and wants to get involved in some way. There's a way you know, at our website to send us an email so that we can figure out how to best plug you into the ecosystem. As you you know very well this whole space of digital health and innovation. It's it takes a village right, we all need to figure out how we can work together whether we're working in pediatrics or any other element. And so if you're interested in any way, just find a way to connect with us and we'll find a way to plug you into the kidsx IQ ecosystem.

Kerry Amato : 

Awesome. Well, it is always a pleasure. I'm Kerry Amato, I want to thank you for being with us today. And I wish you all the success of the accelerator and look forward to in a year from today. Getting an update from you, hopefully will will rebook you on and I'd love to hear you know, the learnings you've had the companies you've found along the way etc. So we'll, we're looking forward to that. And as a reminder to the listeners today, we do drop new episodes of our accelerate health podcast weekly. So we hope you will join us and subscribe. In addition, we do have a five part digital series that's coming up that really digs into virtual care in the future of virtual care and you can find out more about that on hims.org backslash events. Omkar I want to thank you for today and wishing everyone the best to be well

Omkar Kulkarni : 

Thank you, Kerry.