Meet Benjamin Thelonious Fels, CEO and founder of macro-eyes, a machine learning company increasing access to care.
How did you come to build this business? What is your company's origin story?
The roots of macro-eyes developed in the years I spent at a private fund in Chicago and London where he led quantitative, technology and market teams. The founding mission of macro-eyes was to bring effective pattern recognition to where it is most critical, to bring machine learning into the real world. Our co-founder and Chief AI Officer Suvrit Sra, Ph.D. is a renowned expert in large-scale machine learning and optimization and professor at MIT. Suvrit's vision for translating theory into practice has been instrumental in building our core technology.
We spent several years refining and deploying macro-eyes AI at Stanford, Providence St. Joseph Health, community health centers across the United States, and at a leading academic medical center in New York City. Immersed in clinical questions and working with physicians, physician-scientists, and administrators, we were told repeatedly about inefficient scheduling and the financial, operational, clinical problems that result when a patient does not show for a scheduled appointment (patients do not show for scheduled appointments more than 185 million times each year, in the U.S. alone).
There is a growing crisis in access to care in our country. U.S. patients wait more than 25 days between when they call to schedule care and when they see a caregiver.
The access to care crisis is compounded by clinics operating at an estimated 70% capacity due to ineffective scheduling, scheduling that does not anticipate true demand. Geisinger CEO David Feinberg recently commented that if he could fix anything in healthcare he would fix the waiting room. $150,000,000,000 is lost each year to inefficient scheduling; inefficient scheduling that brings chaos to the day of every provider, packing waiting rooms with triple-booked patients, while other patients wait longer to see a physician. The waiting room has extended from the facility to the home. While patients wait, their conditions become more acute, more painful, and more costly.
We built Sibyl to address the crisis in access to care. Sibyl is software for intelligent patient scheduling. Sibyl identifies when each patient is most likely to show for a specific medical appointment and uses this insight to build a schedule that maximizes utilization and increases access to care.
What is the next business milestone that you are working towards? How will Health InnovatAR help with that?
We are working to implement Sibyl at several institutions across the U.S. Some of our first implementations will be in Arkansas. Our work in Arkansas is moving forward because of the unsurpassed on-the-ground support of Health InnovatAR.
You've now made your initial visit to Arkansas as part of the program! What are your initial impressions of Arkansas?
Arkansas is a beautiful land filled with generous, get-it-done people.
So far, what has been the best part of your participation in Health InnovatAR?
The remarkable focus and dedication of the partners: Arkansas Heart Hospital and UAMS genuinely want innovation, innovation that can transform care.
How does Health InnovatAR compare to other startup programs you have interacted with?
Health InnovatAR is the single best program for healthcare startups we've experienced.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from a mentor, Scott Armstrong: we never know, nor can we fully control, how people will receive what we aim to communicate; focus on how you make others feel, focus on the relationship with the other people in the room.
Great advice from Strauss Zelnick: raise less money, you will have more control and you know more about your business than any investor. Strauss is a legend and brings a rare perspective to building successful early-stage companies.
What two pieces of advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?
Be very comfortable with people saying no; be capable of bouncing back from failure and don't be overwhelmed by success. (Before macro-eyes, I traded derivatives; financial markets teach you not to be precious about beliefs, how to think about risk in the midst of total chaos and that however successful you may be today or however the depth of your failure, you'll need to start again tomorrow with a clear mind.)
Learn to meditate.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
macro-eyes was award Global Grand Challenge Explorations funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID in 2017 to design the first predictive supply chain for vaccines. This work launched in earnest toward the end of Q1 2018 and we're seeing strong results.
macro-eyes AI + routinely collected data = ability to anticipate shifts in demand and thus deliver the appropriate type and quantity of vaccines at the right time. Our aim is to maximize childhood vaccination coverage and minimize vaccine wastage.
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