2 second-year medical students in third place at Hofstra University’s annual digital remedy venture challenge

2 second-year medical students in third place at Hofstra University’s annual digital remedy venture challenge
SurgID co-founders, and third-place competitors, Adrien Chen and Nandan Vithlani (Photo Credit: Hofstra University)

On Friday, April 12, it was announced that two students from the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Adrian Chen and Nandan Vithlani, won third place in the annual Hofstra-Digital Remedy Venture Challenge, for their business idea SurgID, a post-surgery healthcare application.

The Hofstra-Digital Remedy Venture Challenge is an annual entrepreneurship competition for Hofstra students administered by the Hofstra University Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with prizes valued at over $75,000, made possible through the donation of Mike Seiman, a Hofstra Board Trustee and the CEO of Digital Remedy.

Chen and Vithlani outlasted 11 other participants, delivering an investor pitch for their business initiative in front of a panel of judges that included Seiman. The healthcare entrepreneurs took home $4,000 in prize money and $5,000 worth of in-kind services to help launch their new healthcare venture.

“Nandan and I could not be more thrilled about the welcomed reception of our soon-to-be service. Preparation for the Digital Remedy Challenge was an accumulation of a year’s worth of work and pushed Nandan and me, as medical students, to understand the financial and software logistics behind such a project in the making,” explained Chen, who hails from Forest Hills. “It was incredibly validating knowing that others can see the potential behind this patient service, and we are determined to carry this forward as Zucker School of Medicine students.”

Vithlani echoed his co-founder’s sentiments, expressing pride in their idea. “We are very proud to have placed third among some strong competitors. We have been working on this project for more than a year, and it has been a challenging but extremely rewarding process learning how to turn our initial idea into a business,” said Vithlani, who currently resides in Hicksville. “To get some validation on our model and our growth prospects from the business leaders judging this competition was a huge source of confidence.”

Chen and Vithlani’s business idea, SurgID, is a patient- and provider-facing mobile application that provides remote triaging after surgery to prevent 30-day hospital readmissions.

By reducing readmissions, SurgID enhances the connectivity between the provider team and the patients in the often difficult and isolating post-operative experience and simultaneously provides cost savings for the hospital. Earlier this year, SurgID received a National Science Foundation Innovation grant, which allowed Chen and Vithlani to conduct customer discovery and market research, validate their idea and model the app based on feedback to shape it into the product it is today.

It was this invaluable product development stage that helped assure SurgID was provider-focused and validated by Northwell Health surgeons, nurses, and executive officers, stretching from the departments of neurosurgery to trauma to orthopedic surgery.

“Frequently, a patient experiences difficulty in contacting an appropriate evaluator in a reasonable period of time post-surgery and is directed to the emergency room for triage.  Diluting this scarce resource for assessments that do not necessitate advanced care or require admission to the hospital is problematic,” explained Dr Brian E. Pinard, assistant professor of Science Education.

Pinard brought forth all of his prior experience as a leader in surgical quality assurance at North Shore University Hospital to help advise SurgID. “This product will increase patient satisfaction and save significant dollars by preventing postoperative hospital visits and readmissions – and preventing the concomitant government reductions in reimbursement for postoperative surgical readmissions.”

The Digital Remedy Venture Challenge is in its twelfth year at Hofstra University. The contest seeks to foster creativity, innovation, and invention among the Hofstra community, calling for business ideas that demonstrate scalability, the identification of a unique problem, and a qualified team ready to execute the idea.

The challenge offers a great experience for any career path and sparks an opportunity for improvement and satisfaction of needs in almost any industry. Previous winners have introduced business ideas in industries such as social media, cooking, biotechnology, medicine, and architecture.

Prizes are awarded to the top three recipients — receiving prize money and in-kind services from Seiman’s company, Digital Remedy, a digital media solutions company leading the tech-enabled marketing space and a leader within the digital advertising landscape.

When asked about the motivation behind creating SurgID, Chen and Vithlani shared that it simply comes from their desire to help patients.

“We’re very passionate about leveraging our insights in medicine to solve large-scale problems through innovative projects such as this one. We hope that throughout our careers we’ll be able to supplement the daily impact that we make on the individual patient level with population-level impact whether through entrepreneurship, service work, or leadership positions,” shared Vithlani, who transitioned to a medical career after originally working in investment banking. “We have always said from day one that if our app can save even just a singular patient, we have succeeded,” added Chen, a graduate of the 4+4 BS/MD program at Hofstra University.

Both of the second-year students offer a special thanks to all of the providers and executives who have helped to develop SurgID to this point, including Drs. Pinard, Griffin R. Baum and David Langer, co-founder of PlayBack Health and Northwell Health neurosurgeon, who have repeatedly provided their insight and unique experience in balancing clinical expertise and as a startup founder to motivate both of the medical student founders at SurgID.

“We have not heard the last from these two students and entrepreneurs.  They have only dipped their toes in the water,” shared Pinard, expressing his confidence in the students as they prepare to take their next steps after the competition. “The sky is the limit for these students as they continue to develop novel means to improve the delivery of healthcare.”

The student entrepreneurs are now determined to launch a viable mobile application in controlled patient settings at Northwell Health in an effort to further improve service quality and the patient experience. The students also expressed their eagerness to share their experiences as a technological startup with the Zucker School of Medicine to promote healthcare innovation early on. Congratulations to Adrian Chen and Nandan Vithlani on this stellar accomplishment!

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