As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Ardy Arianpour, CEO & Founder of Seqster. Ardy is a visionary health tech pioneer and recipient of 2019 Top 40 Healthcare Transformer and SDBJ 40 under 40. Prior to starting Seqster, Ardy launched several clinical and consumer-based genetic tests as CCO of Pathway Genomics, and SVP of Ambry Genetics that sold to Konica for $1B in 2017. As a key player in the 2013 landmark SCOTUS decision scrapping gene patents, Ardy played an instrumental role in expanding genetic testing access with the launch of the first next-generation sequencing BRCA tests, benefiting patients and family members across the country.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m on a lifelong mission to bring cutting edge technologies to people for better healthcare. Seqster is a direct result of my own family’s health journey. Both my mom and dad are cancer survivors and both of my grandmothers passed away due to complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m the poster child for family health issues.
Combining my own experience with my love for genetics, I have spent the last 15 years working with healthcare leaders bringing next-gen DNA sequencing to the clinic, particularly in women’s health and breast cancer risk testing. It is during this time that I have come to realize the biggest impact I can make on healthcare is to build a platform to enable people to bring all of their health data into one place. When patients have all of their data they can make informed health decisions with their care providers. I believe Health data is medicine.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In 2016, we set out to accomplish Seqster’s mission to improve health by empowering individuals to collect, own, and share their data. I walked into Dr. Eric Topol’s office at the Scripps Research Institute to share Seqster’s mission and was politely escorted out of his office after presenting because he didn’t think we would succeed. In mid-2018, I was invited back to demonstrate the Seqster platform to Dr. Topol and his team. Midway through my 2nd presentation he stopped me and said it was the best thing he had ever seen, but he still thought it was too good to be true. So I told him “try it”. The next day my phone blows up with Twitter notifications. Dr. Topol Tweeted his experience being able to for the first time connect and aggregate all his health data from 4 health systems from 1985 to present, plus his DNA, plus his wearables, and nutrition fitness apps all within less than 24 hours! He even included a screenshot as proof. We couldn’t believe it! The top thought leader of digital health publicly praised Seqster by saying that “Seqster is a step in the right direction… Best multi-modal aggregate so far.” The tweet went viral and the rest is history.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Just recently, our patient advocate Nick “#pinksocks” Adkins (@nickisnpdx) tweeted that we saved his friend Dan’s life. Dan, who had Stage IV lung cancer, was able to quickly bring together all his medical data from 6 different health systems all in one place. This is a great example of how health data is medicine with Seqster.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
Seqster is the first person-centric interoperability platform that disrupts traditional health data silos, and brings together episodic clinical EHR data, baseline genetic DNA results, and continuous fitness/wearable device data all in one place. We created the mint.com of health data interface with the salesforce.com of healthcare business model. What I mean by this is that we created Seqster with the consumer in mind but license it to the enterprises that are best positioned to bring it to the masses.
We are continually surprised by the potential of our technology to solve so many different pain points related to the siloing of data. The lack of interoperability of clinical data accounts for over $30B+ annually in wasteful healthcare spending. At the recent HLTH conference it was the central theme of all key presenters and panelists from Big Tech to Insurers to HHS and even CMS. AI, analytics and precision medicine are completely ineffective without the seamless aggregation of longitudinal high fidelity and quality data.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
What we have done is really hard and we never want to do it again. Here are some things I’ve learned on our journey.
- Health data is really messy.
We were experts in looking at DNA Data and when we started Seqster nobody told us how hard standardizing EHR data was and how many various different versions were out there. It’s not just as simple as ATCG with DNA. For example, there are over 40 ways that healthcare providers label vitamin D.
- Bureaucracy and red tape in healthcare blocks innovation
Getting leaders and staff across healthcare organizations to think like innovators is almost impossible. Everyone in healthcare is trying to protect their turf and that is often not in the interest of patient care.
- Nobody cares about their health until they’re sick.
When your building anything for healthcare you have to start with sick people first, not the healthy population.
- Don’t prioritize your business model
We spent some time thinking about how we were going to monetize the use of Seqster and if we had to start all over again I wish someone would have told us to just build the best thing for patients first. We nailed the SaaS business model when big enterprises were coming to us and telling us that we are the Salesforce of healthcare.
- Timing is Everything.
We couldn’t have anticipated that the Affordable Care Act was going to enable patients to access their health data. We didn’t know that CMS Administrator, Seema Verma, was going to push for patients to own their health data. While building and deploying Seqster the entire healthcare system has been shifting. We’re just lucky that we are in the right place at the right time with the technology already built.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3-5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
The astronomical healthcare costs are rising, but the health outcomes and the patient experience are not.
Access to key health data has been challenging, and interoperability has been seen as an elusive dream.
Value-based care, aligning incentives and reimbursements with outcomes and patient experience, is spreading, but we are still stuck in the fee-for-service paradigm.
Insurers want better patient outcomes, a lower medical loss ratio, while boosting star ratings, especially for their Medicare Advantage membership.
You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
Healthcare is complex with multiple stakeholders and vested interests, but the bottomline is that the entire system needs to be organized around patient needs.
There needs to be care in healthcare.
Information technology needs to enable patient-centered care. We have patients and their caregivers calling us in tears about having to carry binders of their health data to their doctor visits. People, this is 2019!
There must be improved coordination between the private and public sectors- resources must be meaningfully shared to devise impactful solutions. This collaboration has been largely stunted due to conflicting priorities and interests.
Better consumer/patient experience. Our healthcare experience should be as convenient and seamless as purchasing something on Amazon or banking online.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
All such organizations play a critical role in bringing about impactful change. We at Seqster believe that patient centricity is key to unlocking many of US healthcare’s challenges, including interoperability. Did you know that the “P” in HIPAA is for portability? We haven’t had it until now because the person has not been empowered to be at the center of their health.
Empowering individuals to own and consent to the sharing of their data leads to an improved healthcare journey. Advocating this right to our health data should be a key objective of corporations, communities, and leaders to improve the quality of individuals’ and their loved ones’ lives.
Our platform and technology is already built. With Seqster we have created a grassroots movement that is encouraging everyone to talk about the importance of patient centricity and seeking health data.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
Meeting Bill Gates was a huge inspiration and having him sign my favorite book “Business at the Speed of Thought” is a big highlight in my journey as a health tech entrepreneur.
Blink “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell. The main subject of his book is “thin-slicing” – the ability to make a decision very quickly by using limited information. This is the best way to operate in a complex environment like healthcare.
“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith on how successful people become even more successful.
For podcasts that really inspire me are Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman and Digital Health Today by Dan Kendall. Seqster is all about scaling to enable the individualized health record globally.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow us @Seqster for Twitter and via the LinkedIn company pages, and visit our website at Seqster.com
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!