Over the past year, COVID-19 has overburdened the healthcare system with skyrocketing hospital admittance and infection rates. In the United States alone, coronavirus cases and deaths number 31.8 million and half a million, respectively. Physicians across the country are working overtime to treat coronavirus patients, exacerbating their feelings of burnout that were already commonplace pre-pandemic. Now more than ever, the healthcare industry is in need of solutions that can effectively accelerate the delivery of higher quality care while unburdening clinicians.
Wellsheet is a health tech startup that uses machine learning to transform the physician experience within the electronic health record (EHR). They do this by showing a customized visualization of complete patient data and presenting it in a way that is easy for clinicians to understand. Wellsheet has revamped the EHR system that has been the status quo within the healthcare industry since the 1960s. They offer high-tech solutions that streamline data management across providers and facilities, reducing the amount of time that physicians spend in EHRs by 40%, which decreases physician burnout. The company is positioned to disrupt the healthcare industry at a time when physician burnout is at a peak. The pandemic has presented a unique opportunity for Wellsheet to expand its business model with new product and service offerings to meet the increasing demands of the healthcare marketplace.
Immediately out of college, Craig Limoli, Wellsheet co-founder and CEO, was exposed to the magnitude of problems plaguing the healthcare industry. He had a good view into many of these problems at IBM where he worked as a strategy consultant in Watson Health, the division that helps clients with digital transformations using advanced healthcare technologies.
“It was eye-opening to see how severe the technical challenges and degree of frustration were among healthcare professionals. However, at the time, the technology systems were shifting and opportunities for new, scalable business models were emerging with the advent of APIs. This inspired me to enter the healthcare tech space,” Limoli reflects.
Rising to the challenge to meet the demands of the healthcare industry, Limoli started with a comprehensive survey of the healthcare landscape. One of Wellsheet’s first major customers was Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health network hospital headquartered right in Wellsheet’s backyard. Before confirming the partnership, Limoli and his team spent many hours on-site every week, shadowing healthcare professionals and talking to potential users in order to rapidly incorporate feedback into the product.
Since COVID-19 shocked the healthcare industry, the number of elective procedures has plummeted, and hospitals have been hit very hard financially. As such, few healthcare providers have had available funds to spend on new technologies. Although during much of the pandemic, the Wellsheet team has been busy “firefighting”, the company was able to deploy a new end-to-end COVID-19 patient dashboard with Concord Hospital, allowing clinicians and hospital administration to locate patients, monitor their ventilatory support, and receive lab test results. More than a year after the start of the pandemic and with the vaccine rollout well underway, “health systems are opening up their doors to innovation,” states Limoli. He looks forward to establishing new partnerships and going back on-site to engage with physicians again.
As a Princeton graduate of the class of 2012, Limoli cites his formative college years as the stepping stones leading up to his journey in launching Wellsheet. In college, Limoli first dipped his toes into entrepreneurship as the manager of one of the Princeton Student Agencies, student-run organizations that offer valuable products and services to the university community. As an alum, the university continues to support his entrepreneurial journey, particularly with funding from PEC’s Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund, which contributed to Wellsheet’s first round of fundraising in 2016. Limoli goes so far as to claim that Wellsheet may not exist today, had AEF not backed the company from the early stages (The AEF is now fully funded and closed). In addition, Dr. Shahram Hejazi, Princeton Keller Center venture capital faculty, invested in Wellsheet as a Partner of the early-stage life science fund BioAdvance, and he is now a board observer of the startup.
To show his appreciation for the support that the Princeton community has provided him and Wellsheet, Limoli continues to engage with the robust entrepreneurship network on campus. As a Princeton Startup Immersion Program (PSIP) company, Wellsheet has hosted Princeton students as summer interns for four years and counting; four of the past interns are now full-time team members. “Each year, the talent keeps growing at Princeton,” says Limoli.
Despite industry-wide fundraising challenges, Wellsheet successfully raised its Series A funding round during the pandemic. Limoli recalls the trials and tribulations he experienced in his early days of fundraising for Wellsheet: “Fundraising is a numbers game and requires a lot of outreach. Also, successfully pitching based on promise is rare, so it’s important to prove traction and results in the early stages,” notes Limoli. Now, digital health funding is more active than ever, and Limoli is excited to tap into the surging interest from investors.
Moving forward, Limoli hopes to continue scaling up Wellsheet’s next generation of product offerings. Wellsheet’s next major project is a product that combines multiple sources of fragmented patient information across the healthcare system into a single view, leveraging proprietary machine learning techniques to automatically show the most relevant data to the user. Since his time at Princeton, Limoli has come a long way in his entrepreneurial journey, and is well on his way towards achieving his vision for Wellsheet and the broader health tech space.