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The Future of Healthcare With Paul R. Gudonis, CEO of Myomo

Individuals can take more responsibility for their health, and community groups teaming with local healthcare providers (hospitals, clinic, doctor’s offices) could offer health education programs (both in person and online) to provide the “preventative maintenance” training that people lack. Corporations can offer more wellness programs — find out what approaches have worked — and encourage […]

Individuals can take more responsibility for their health, and community groups teaming with local healthcare providers (hospitals, clinic, doctor’s offices) could offer health education programs (both in person and online) to provide the “preventative maintenance” training that people lack. Corporations can offer more wellness programs — find out what approaches have worked — and encourage employees to participate. Another option is for health insurance companies to follow the lead of auto insurance companies, which offer “good driver” discounts to policyholders. Offer a financial incentive in the form of lower premiums for individuals who are making progress in managing their health. For example, if someone has high cholesterol and complies with taking a statin and their LDL levels go down, which is a good thing, then the individual can provide this data to support a discount.

Ihad the pleasure to interview Paul R. Gudonis, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Myomo. Mr. Gudonis has been Myomo’s CEO since 2011 and has led the commercialization of the Company’s portable home devices. Mr. Gudonis brings 30 years of experience in launching new technology-based products and services to Myomo. His career spans the fields of software, telecommunications, Internet services, and robotics. Mr. Gudonis served as President at FIRST robotics and as CEO of Genuity and Centra Software. Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering (BS) and Harvard Business School (MBA).


Thank you so much for doing this with us Paul! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been someone who’s drawn to new technologies and proud to have introduced new technology-based products and services such as the country’s first cellphone service, internet services, web hosting and more throughout my career. Figuring out how to use tech to better society and solve major problems has always been a passion of mine. Years ago, I had the honor of being President of the First Robotics Competition where I met a brilliant team from MIT who had the type of big idea that really caught my eye. They had spun a company out of MIT to conquer arm paralysis with a wearable robotic and were looking for a CEO to commercialize this new medical technology — so I signed on to establish this new product category and bring it to market.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Myomo first went public about two years ago, which is always an exciting event for a company, but to make the celebration even more memorable, the New York Stock Exchange had invited us to ring the closing bell after our IPO. Instead of having myself or another executive ring the bell, we thought it would be more meaningful to have two of our MyoPro users, Jessica, a 32-year old stroke survivor and Jay Jay, a Vietnam veteran, do the honors.

Watching these two patients who had lost the ability to move their arms, use a MyoPro to ring the bell and bang the closing gavel was heart-touching and special. Not only was this moment monumental for Myomo, but I think it was also extremely moving to all the attendees, traders, and viewers watching on the NYSE live stream channels.

Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?

As the CEO of a company focused on improving healthcare outcomes, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many aspects of the healthcare system. I have learned from clinical professionals including physicians, surgeons, therapists and orthotists, and I meet regularly with patients and their families. These interactions have helped me gain insights into many parts of healthcare innovation, services, and payment.

I’ve also had to navigate the FDA and overseas regulatory agencies to ensure Myomo is complying with all guidelines and have also engaged with commercial payers, the VA healthcare system and Medicare system to determine how to position Myomo strategically in this global healthcare environment. So, while I’m not a physician or healthcare economist, I’ve had to deeply engage with the healthcare system and deal with a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Upper limb paralysis is still a largely unexplored space and Myomo is making some real headway to change patients’ lives. Many of these patients have limited options when it comes to upper limb paralysis, so we distinguish ourselves as the only company that offers individuals a solution that can actually enable them to regain function of their paralyzed arms.

After a stroke, spinal cord injury, or other neurological condition, many patients are told that if they have not recovered motion in the affected limbs after 6–12 months of rehab therapy, they likely will never regain function and should just accept that they will never use one or both arms or hands for the rest of their lives. Myomo shows that the conventional wisdom need not apply, and we can give patients hope for better quality of life.

One of my favorite aspects of Myomo is that our company name came from one of our original patients. This young woman was able to learn to use her arm again years after suffering a stroke and commented that the brace was like “My Own Motion”.

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?

In the United States alone, several hundred thousand new patients seek occupational therapy each year due to a stroke or other cause of upper extremity paralysis. In addition to those doing occupational therapy, there are over 3 million chronic cases that have just given up hope of recovery altogether.

There’s also a huge shortage of trained therapists, and rehab hospitals are often present in only the larger metro areas of the country, resulting in limited treatment options for so many people. It’s a very constrained, centralized model of care but with the MyoPro powered arm brace, individuals can use their devices wherever they want to — at home, at school, at work — so we are providing a disruptive, decentralized solution to those with paralysis.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Raising money for a MedTech startup is hard! I called on numerous venture capitalists, pitched angel investor groups, and met with individuals and family office managers over breakfast, lunch, dinner — whenever and wherever — to explain why our proprietary technology would address a major unmet medical need and ultimately create a very valuable company. Anyone raising money for a startup must get used to hearing “No” a lot, but fortunately I was able to raise $25M over five years — enough to develop and begin to commercialize our MyoPro product line and position the company for a subsequent IPO.

2. Clinical studies take much longer than expected. Having come from the tech industry, everything is about speed — rapid product development, speed to market, scaling up quickly, etc. In medicine, it takes time to find the right research professionals who have the capacity to take on a new clinical study, then go through extensive review processes to ensure patient safety and develop appropriate protocols, then recruit candidates for the study, analyze the results — and then maybe wait a year for peer review and publication in a leading journal. For the many patients who can benefit from our devices, I wish there were a faster way to complete these studies.

3. The medical profession is slow to adopt new technology. Refer to Number 2 above. In general, healthcare professionals are conservative, so it’s important to demonstrate that new products are Safe and Effective, which we can do. But everyone treating patients is so busy, it just takes time to introduce new technology to them and have them take the time to learn it so that they can do a better job for their patients.

4. Patients must take responsibility for their outcomes. When was the last time you received a call from your doctor’s office asking, “How did that new medication or treatment work out for you?” It’s really up to the individual to be proactive in caring for their health, and thanks to the Internet, it is much easier to study up on medical conditions and how to seek treatment.

5. Go directly to the consumers (e.g. patients) to market your product. At first, all our marketing consisted of educating clinical staff at rehab hospitals about how our products can improve patients’ lives. Since then, our marketing has evolved to directly engage the patient population with a B2C approach which includes online advertising, social media, paid search, etc — and that’s resulted in a record number of leads for us to introduce our products to.

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?

  1. The current US healthcare system is built around “episodes of care” to respond to health issues. This lack of preventative maintenance and taking care of people’s health prior to concerns popping up is detrimental to the system as a whole. If we shift our mindset as a society to be more aware of prevention methods and adopt new wellness ideologies, we can avoid many of the health problems that plague us. A personal example, when I was in my 20’s, I moved to a new city and had to find a new dentist since I had some bleeding of my gums. I had gone to the same dentist for years whenever I had a cavity or needed a checkup. This new dentist asked me if I ever flossed my teeth. I replied, no, neither my parents nor my dentist had ever told me to do so. Thanks to the new dentist’s preventative maintenance approach — and $3 of floss a month — I have been able to avoid the health issues and costs of gum disease for 40 years now. Preventive measures like flossing can be extremely simple and accessible, but it is contingent on us educating society and providing the knowledge and tools to take care of ourselves.
  2. We are not arming our patients with the right tools. In addition to preventative services, we also need to up the ante regarding teaching society how to maintain their own health. Many of the healthiest rated countries in the world earn that title because their population cares about their personal health and takes steps to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s our job as a healthcare system to place a greater emphasis on how and why taking care of our bodies proactively is vital. If we educate young people on the right ways to practice self-care and maintain a strong, able body, they can ultimately live a healthier life and reduce their healthcare costs throughout their lifetime.
  3. Diagnostic testing should be more of a priority. It’s commonly known that the earlier a disease is detected, the more effective treatments will be and patients have a higher chance of recovering, yet we’re still so conditioned to only address a health concern once it becomes a serious issue. A good friend of mine recently went in to a regular checkup appointment and proactively asked for a CT scan without being prompted by her doctor. She was not a smoker nor had she been exposed to second-hand smoke, so while there were no major concerns either physically or situationally, they discovered a tumor in her right lung. Thankfully, due to her advocating for her own diagnostic testing, they were able to remove the tumor before it metastasized, saving her a significant amount of healthcare expenses and potentially even saving her life.
  4. A high-cost, Centralized Delivery System: We should be encouraging decentralization of care provision: As new medical technologies were developed, large capital investments were required to deploy this equipment (MRI machines, etc.), so our health care delivery system became more centralized with big city hospitals and specialty clinical facilities. With today’s technology, including the internet, we can move certain medical services closer to families and patients and reduce costs while doing so.

For example, there’s a growing number of retail outlets providing basic care such as Minute Clinics at drugstores or other distributed locations. This decentralization increases access because it is much more convenient and offers the opportunity for cost savings. Other examples include Telehealth services, such as remote doctor visits or therapy services. I recently saw a graduate student startup developing an otoscope — a device to look for ear infections — that a parent can use at home and send photos and other data to a clinician. Using internet-connected technologies (the Internet of Things) would allow the parent to obtain a quicker diagnosis of an ear infection and treatment options compared to taking a half-day off from work (and an absence from school) to care for a child’s earache — faster, more convenient, and lower cost than a doctor’s office visit.

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?

Individuals can take more responsibility for their health, and community groups teaming with local healthcare providers (hospitals, clinic, doctor’s offices) could offer health education programs (both in person and online) to provide the “preventative maintenance” training that people lack. Corporations can offer more wellness programs — find out what approaches have worked — and encourage employees to participate. Another option is for health insurance companies to follow the lead of auto insurance companies, which offer “good driver” discounts to policyholders. Offer a financial incentive in the form of lower premiums for individuals who are making progress in managing their health. For example, if someone has high cholesterol and complies with taking a statin and their LDL levels go down, which is a good thing, then the individual can provide this data to support a discount.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

I learn and get ideas from three primary sources:

  1. Networking with other healthcare leaders such as members of our scientific advisory board and clinicians and business executives in our industry. For example, I had breakfast the other day with a former medical director of a health insurance company, and he gave me some good ideas about how other companies with new products have worked in partnership with payers.
  2. Books and articles about new approaches to healthcare or neuroscience have been valuable to me, such as Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care, and The Brain Electric by Malcolm Gay
  3. Attending the TedMed Conference to hear inspiring speakers on healthcare innovation and to listen to relevant Ted Talks.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

By following Myomo on Facebook, they’ll be able to see some of our amazing MyoPro users tell their personal stories of how they have overcome challenges due to paralysis. They really are a beacon of hope for many individuals who have had a sudden change in their life due to a brain injury or neuro disease, and I think readers would enjoy watching.Authority Magazine

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