THINKMD is a social impact company with a mission to empower anyone anywhere with clinical intelligence technology to make better healthcare decisions. With Hula now home to the Vermont startup, I caught up with co-founder, Barry Finette, to hear about their growing team and how COVID-19 has allowed them to expand their talent across geographical borders.
CP: What is THINKMD?
BF: THINKMD is a social impact benefit corporation founded in Vermont in 2014. We were looking to answer the question: how can we put physician-quality logic into the hands of those who are not physicians, so that they can use it to conduct quality clinical assessments? We developed technology that integrates the novel and unique way that physicians “think” and perform clinical assessments into a simple, user-friendly platform that can be used by anyone, anywhere. Validation studies have demonstrated that clinical assessments conducted via THINKMD’s technology by unskilled or minimally skilled community health workers correlated between 85 to over 95% with local physicians seeing the same patients. The platform also generates patient specific treatment, triage, and care plan recommendations.
CP: Why is clinical intelligence important in 2021?
BF: Ninety-nine percent of all preventable deaths for children under 5 years of age (~3M children/ year) occur in low and middle income countries. The highest rate of preventable deaths in women of childbearing years also occurs in low resource countries and communities. While working as a pediatrician in a variety of roles in low-middle income countries leading disaster relief missions, I realized that a growing issue universally, including in the USA, is an increasing shortage of professional healthcare providers. In some countries there is only one doctor or nurse to every 50,000 people. For those who do have access to healthcare providers, many are not utilizing them because they simply cannot afford to.
When people do not have access to trained professionals who can conduct an integrated clinical examination and make appropriate recommendations, they cannot make appropriate and timely decisions around their healthcare. This directly results in unnecessary suffering and avoidable deaths.
COVID-19 has compounded this issue; over the last 12 months, we have seen the devastating health impacts when there is a shortage of healthcare or when people cannot afford it. The uncertainty of not knowing if someone has a serious illness requiring medical intervention creates extreme challenges during a pandemic, where access is more restricted than normal. The fact that THINKMD's COVID-19 Screening and Education Tool
has been used in over 80 countries, more than 17,000 times to date demonstrates how empowering it is to place technology into the hands of individuals to help them answer that first critical question, “Am I sick?”.
Individuals are then able to make appropriate healthcare seeking decisions, including finding a doctor or a nurse if needed or spending their money on healthcare. This has a ripple effect from an individual level to local, regional and global levels. Not only does our “medical intelligence” support the gathering of health data, which can be used to strengthen population health, but with individuals accessing timely and appropriate care, armed with quality health knowledge, inefficient healthcare spending is reduced on all levels. In the USA for example, $760 billion is wasted each year on healthcare spending, with one of the reasons being inefficient and uncoordinated care.
Clinical intelligence democratizes a doctor’s knowledge and skill set, opening up universal access to better decisions, better data and better health.
CP: How does THINKMD source talent?
BF: We are a team driven to find solutions that address global health challenges. We make mistakes, we try new things and we are continuously innovating and adapting. Because of this, we value diversity in our team and work to include individuals with different skills and experiences in order to accelerate our innovation and impact. We source talent by considering individuals who are mission-driven and dedicated to work that has a global impact. Problem-solving, relentless passion, drive and creativity are all qualities that resonate with us.
CP: What are the challenges and opportunities in the current global pandemic?
BF: Critical to our culture is providing a supportive environment for our team to learn and grow. Over the past year, this has been very challenging as we have worked remotely in accordance with COVID-19 regulations; something true for all groups in our situation. Some of our team members have been working from home while juggling family responsibilities, while others have been working from home while living alone, experiencing a sense of isolation. We have worked very hard to maintain a connection throughout lockdown, with regular team check-ins. Something as simple as keeping your camera on during a Zoom meeting can make a big difference in feeling seen and heard by somebody on the other side of a computer screen.
More promising has been the move to Hula Lakeside, which has allowed us to “start” to have a shared THINKMD home. Currently team members are utilizing this space when they feel comfortable, giving them the option of a socially distanced, safe, working environment where they can collaborate with others.
THINKMD has also always explored acquiring talent outside of Vermont. Since March 2020, we have acquired four new team members who are not based locally, from Rutland to Rwanda. This has expanded our talent pool, while driving deeper our commitment to team diversity.
CP: Who are you looking to hire currently?
BF: We are currently expanding our team and are looking for an Data Engineering, a Front End Web Application Developer/Engineer and a Senior Full Stack Engineer. All jobs can be accessed here
CP: What can we look forward to from THINKMD in the future?
BF: Armed with new talent, we will be moving forward with an extremely exciting technology redesign and development in 2021. This will dramatically increase both the public and private market distribution potential of our technology globally. We are privileged to be moving forward with this supported by key partnerships, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Innovation and Technology Solution team and developers of Google’s new cloud-based healthcare platform. With THINKMD’s clinical intelligence technology being implemented across the globe through a variety of use cases, the universal potential of this type of technology will be realized. We are looking forward to demonstrating the impact of this on global health.