Hello and welcome! Before we dive into our new interview, we’d love to invite you to join our community by subscribing to our channel. Don’t forget to share this video with our wonderful digital health community. It’s a joy to introduce today’s special guest, Ryan Vega. Let’s get started!
A Journey of Growth and Unexpected Paths
Ryan Vega’s career path is a story of unexpected turns and dedicated growth. Initially drawn to physical medicine and rehabilitation due to his personal experiences as a patient, Vega was encouraged to pursue internal medicine. His training at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond marked a significant period of professional development, where he discovered his true calling in healthcare.
His tenure as a chief medical resident, particularly in quality and safety at the Department of Veterans Affairs, was a key moment. This role at the VA, where he spent nearly a decade, propelled his career forward. Throughout his journey, Vega faced personal losses and challenges, including failures of his own making. These experiences didn’t deter him; rather, they motivated him to improve the healthcare system.
He transitioned from healthcare quality and safety to technology and innovation, eventually finding his niche in a software company. Reflecting on his path, Vega acknowledges the seemingly disjointed nature of his career when looking forward, but in retrospect, he sees how each step interconnects.
It’s been one of both professional growth and exploration and one of really just being committed to that mission that I want to improve the system and leave things better than I found them.
VA’s Unique Approach to Healthcare
Ryan Vega, during our interview, shared insightful perspectives on the role of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in healthcare innovation. He emphasized two primary reasons for this. Firstly, he highlighted the VA’s mission, which is not just about providing healthcare but is deeply rooted in the commitment to care for those who have served in battle. Secondly, Vega pointed out the structural advantages of the VA system. Unlike the commercial sector, which often faces challenges and pressures related to immediate Return on Investment (ROI), the VA benefits from an integrated system with a different payment structure. This allows the VA to focus on longer-term value realization, giving innovations time to mature and demonstrate their worth over extended periods.
One of Vega’s most significant and heartfelt observations was about the people working within the VA. He expressed profound admiration and respect for their dedication.
Wherever you go across the country... these are people that are waking up every single day committed to the mission of serving the American Veteran.
VA’s Employee-Driven Transformation
Ryan highlighted the department’s unique approach to fostering innovation, emphasizing the pivotal role of employees in this process. The VA has developed an innovation ecosystem comprising various components, including an office specifically dedicated to innovation and programs like the Innovators’ Network and the Diffusion of Excellence. These initiatives focus on different stages of the innovation lifecycle but share a common goal: to empower and invest in individual employees, particularly those on the front lines.
Vega cited numerous examples of successful innovations that originated from simple ideas but have now become integral to the agency. These innovations range from enhancing appointment scheduling processes to developing text messaging platforms for improved care experiences and even include clinical changes such as new checklists.
It’s the sort of belief that those individuals are so uniquely and well-positioned to solve some of the challenges that they face every day that when we give them the resources; when you allow them to make a difference, they do.
Innovation in the Startup World
Ryan expressed admiration for Vantic, the company he joined, emphasizing its mission-driven approach. Vega highlighted Vantic’s foundational goal to “make the world operate better through technology,” a vision that resonates deeply with him. This approach is not just about finding immediate solutions but about fundamentally rethinking problem-solving strategies.
One of Vega’s key insights, which he considers vital to share with aspiring founders, is spending a significant portion of time understanding a problem before attempting to solve it. This philosophy was instilled in him by a mentor and is something he passionately passes on.
Spend 55 minutes focusing on the problem and 5 minutes focusing on the solution.
His decision to join Vantic was not only influenced by the company’s mission but also by the unprecedented nature of its software, which he saw as having global applicability in improving healthcare.
Vantic’s Cutting-Edge Technology
Emphasizing the company’s motto “When seconds matter, Vantic is there for you,” Vega highlighted Vantic’s commitment to reliability and innovation.
We’re excited about our partnership with Optic X right now, and we’re focused on both the commercial and the military space with real-time emergency management response.
Vega delved into the challenges and triumphs of developing complex systems integrating IoT, sensors, AI, and edge computing. He proudly noted that, unlike many systems with high failure rates, Vantic has successfully navigated these complexities, leading to efficient real-time systems.
A key focus for Vega is healthcare applications, especially in emergency response. He envisioned scenarios like remote patient care, where medics could instantly connect with specialists and utilize AI for critical decision-making. Vega highlighted the concept of a “smart ambulance,” providing real-time monitoring and decision-making capabilities for patients in transit.
Vega explored the potential of Vantic’s technology in military applications, enhancing medics’ capabilities on the battlefield. He also touched on the integration of technology in hospitals. He spoke about creating wire-free, real-time patient monitoring environments, reducing the administrative burden on healthcare staff. He emphasized precision in patient care, where technology tailors monitoring to individual patient needs.
Vega concluded by discussing the potential of wearables in health monitoring, particularly in high-stress environments like the military. He stressed the importance of using data effectively, avoiding unnecessary cloud storage costs by processing data where it’s generated.
Cost-Effectiveness in the Long Run
Primarily, hospital systems are the key payers, attracted by the efficiency gains, both operationally and clinically, that these innovative solutions offer. These systems see the technology as a long-term investment, providing them with the agility to grow and adapt over time.
One of the most significant value propositions of these solutions, according to Vega, is their cost-effectiveness in the long run. They offer a form of insurance against the rapid evolution of technology, ensuring that healthcare providers remain ahead of the curve.
Vega highlighted the biggest challenge in this space: the ability to effectively tell a compelling story.
You have to lead with the “why”; you have to understand that people do not buy technology, they buy solutions. In healthcare, they buy end-to-end complete solutions.
This storytelling aspect is crucial, particularly in the crowded and noisy digital health market, where regulatory and financial pressures are constant. Vega stressed that breaking through these barriers and offering solutions that meet specific needs is key to success in this industry.
AI and Sensor Intelligence
Ryan expressed his amazement at the advancements made by Vantiq in integrating generative AI with sensor intelligence, a development announced on October 17th, 2023. Vega marveled at the ingenuity behind this technology, which seamlessly combines real-time data with a vector database and a large language model. This fusion, he explained, allows for a more intuitive and interactive experience with various systems.
One of the most striking examples Vega offered was in the field of appliance repair. He imagined a scenario where a refrigerator, equipped with sensors, could communicate its malfunctions. By integrating the refrigerator’s manual into a vector database and overlaying a large language model, the refrigerator could proactively alert to issues like a failing compressor, providing detailed instructions for repair. This approach, he noted, shifts the dynamic from reactive to proactive, enabling appliances to guide technicians in real time.
Imagine that type of interaction, where we’re fundamentally changing the way that we interact and relate with systems.
He emphasized that this technology is not just about generating responses, but about creating a rich, contextually aware, and interactive experience. This, according to Vega, represents a significant leap in application development, altering the paradigm where humans are no longer just seeking answers or waiting for events, but are part of an instantaneous and integrated workflow.
Vega touched upon the groundbreaking aspect of their technology, which minimizes inaccuracies, often referred to as “hallucinations,” in model responses. This enhancement ensures more reliable and accurate interactions between humans and AI systems.
Insights for Entrepreneurs in Digital Health
Ryan highlighted that the path to success is a journey filled with challenges and learning opportunities, where failures should be embraced as stepping stones. Vega stressed the crucial role of assembling a diverse and knowledgeable support team, which not only enhances the company’s capabilities but also helps in navigating through difficult times with optimism and commitment.
Healthcare is a privilege. It’s a privilege to do what we do.
This perspective underscores the responsibility of developers and healthcare professionals to uphold high standards in compliance, privacy, and service quality. Vega advised entrepreneurs to be diligent and conscientious, especially in areas like protecting patient information and adhering to regulatory requirements.
Vega advised being a diligent student of the problem your company aims to solve. Understanding the “why” behind your product or service can significantly improve market positioning and help differentiate it from competitors. He noted that companies might need to evolve as problems and regulatory landscapes change, emphasizing continuous learning and adaptation.
Our previous episode was with Neil Carpenter: Three Wishes for Genie to Improve US Healthcare System
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