MD/MBAs and Health Care Entrepreneurs

(L-R) Phi Ho, Erica Barrios and Iman Rabizadeh
(L-R) Phi Ho, Erica Barrios and Iman Rabizadeh
(L-R) Phi Ho, Erica Barrios and Iman Rabizadeh
(L-R) Phi Ho, Erica Barrios and Iman Rabizadeh
Working to solve a problem to enhance millions of people’s lives drove students in the School’s MD/MBA program – Erica Barrios (MD/MBA ‘16), Phi Ho (MD/MBA ‘16) and Iman Rabizadeh (MD/MBA ‘16) – to brainstorm MediTick, the graduate grand-prize winner in the School’s 2015 Business Plan Competition. “We were drawn to each other in our mutual passion to start our own health care business in addition to becoming physicians,” Ho says. They were additionally inspired by the MD/MBA teams that have won the past two business plan competitions.

The team turned to personal experiences to uncover a serious health problem in need of an entrepreneurial solution. It stemmed from noticing the prevalence of urinary tract infections associated with the use of catheters, known as CAUTIs. “Our research found that the No. 1 cause of CAUTIs was prolonged use of catheters,” Rabizadeh reports. The students learned that CAUTIs are highly preventable if catheters are changed more frequently, generally after five days. “We then thought that we could intervene with a device that reminds nurses and doctors, as well as the patients themselves and their visitors, that the catheter’s effectiveness has expired,” Rabizadeh says.

That led to the notion for MediTick, a time-elapsing medical apparatus that is placed on the collection bags or containers of urinary catheters to remind health care workers to change catheters after a specific amount of time. The low-tech device is a round disk that starts changing color after three days, becoming most dramatic on the fifth day – when it reads “change” in bright red.

The trio was also aware that in 2008 the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began a policy of refusing to pay hospitals for additional costs related to CAUTIs, which represent more than one third of all hospital-acquired infections and cost millions of dollars for treatment. Typically, treatment can include longer hospital stays and use of antibiotics. It’s estimated that the average cost to treat a single CAUTI is nearly $900, for which hospitals are not reimbursed. “When we saw the finances attached to these preventable infections, that gave us the green light for this idea,” Barrios says. A single MediTick costs less than $2. “This saves money by reducing CAUTIs,” adds Rabizadeh.
Not surprisingly, medical device companies are developing new catheter technologies to address CAUTIs. But they’re more expensive than MediTick, Ho claims, and meanwhile, the use of antibiotics to treat the infections can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and further treatment costs.

This convergence of medicine and business is the essence of the School’s MD/MBA program, which is a pathway to entrepreneurship for the MediTick team. “We can want to save the world by doing X, Y and Z, and maybe medically it’s feasible, but sometimes finances get in the way,” Barrios says. “That’s what we learn in our MBA coursework.” Ho adds, “A business person has a different perspective than a medical person, and we’re learning to integrate the two.”

The team also found that they needed to integrate an engineering perspective into their business plan. Meetings with The Launch Pad, the University’s business research center, convinced them that they needed help designing the device. They enlisted a colleague who has a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has done extensive research on nanotechnology and low-cost biomedical devices. He helped design MediTick.
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