We spoke with David Mittelman, Founder of Ceres Logistics, about innovation and technology as applied to real-time tracking of medical testing.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey guys, welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. We have a very interesting segment for you today. Affordable Care Act and all the changes going on in the medical industry has cost some innovation. We, you know, innovation is always, usually the result of some kind of change, some kind of changing force within an industry. And when you have, you know, the economy or the the industry forcing you to squeeze cost out of services. It causes you to figure out creative ways of being able to perform the same task for less money, more efficiently. So you can still survive and make money. So we’re going to talk about that. This segment, I’m your host Matt Register. Here, as always, with Jay Curry. Jay talk to me.
Jay Curry: Well, exactly what you were talking about Matt. And how, how can, for example, a smaller hospital compete with a bigger hospital that has huge budgets, that can do things themselves. The technology we’re going to talk about here is going to be a big play on that.
Matt Register: No doubt.
Jay Curry: Helping the smaller hospitals.
Matt Register: No doubt. Go ahead and get your calls in guys 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call in line. In the meantime, Dr. David Mittelman is a serial entrepreneur. Really, really smart guy. Is the founder of Ceres, Ceres logistics, Ceres here in Texas. David welcome to the show.
David Mittelman: Thank you.
Matt Register: So tell me a little bit about Ceres. What is it you do? Who do you do it to?
David Mittelman: So, as you said, you know, there’s become a growing kind of crunch on costs. It’s, it’s a, it’s a very complex landscape to perform medical testing to get reimbursed and to build a sustainable business. And so I’ve been in and out of several laboratories in which we’ve had to do testing either for insurance or even just testing in general. And there’s this is a huge hurdle post testing once you’ve returned the report to the patient. To make sure that you follow the process necessary to get paid and an even handling the reports off to doctors and patients. Keeping them abreast of where the sample is at any given time and in providing the service and the customer interaction that they need in order to keep using you as a laboratory. And it’s a very competitive space. There’s a lot of labs, a lot of places that can doctors go. So you’re looking for a way to give them a unique value, while not, you know, blowing up your own budget. And so what, what Ceres, what Ceres is, is a piece of software. It’s a platform that allows you to track, you know, medical testing samples that you, that a doctor will order for a patient. You can track the samples from the provider all the way through testing in the lab, assembling the proper paperwork that you need, the HIPPA compliance you’d expect, an accountability. And kind of breadcrumb trails to know who touched the sample, what was done, who’s viewed a record. And then assemble the data you need then to send that off to an insurance company to get paid or to a billing entity that will do that, you know, reimbursement on your behalf. And so, our goal is, is to basically provide that infrastructure, a great user experience and do it at a fraction of the cost that it would take to build an entire team to do it. And then of course, you know, being software, putting in the controls in place to make it a very high quality and reproducible process.
Matt Register: Well, you got several things going on here. Right? One of them is, you need to speed that information back to the doc. Right? The doctor looks at a patient, he orders a test, you then, you need to get that sample to the lab, get it back, get the information to the doc in a speedy manner. Right? You need to also ensure that it is HIPPA compliant and all the regulatory side that comes along with that. Right? The data has got to be secure. And then, we want to get paid. Right? At some point for it, somebody is going to have to pay for it. That’s probably one of the bigger things you offer is the gathering of all that data and information. So the insurance process becomes a whole lot more efficient. Correct?
David Mittelman: Yeah. It doesn’t take a lot of screw ups to make a business quickly unsustainable. There’s…
Jay Curry: Especially in that industry.
David Mittelman: Yeah. And you know, if you’re, if you’re working with a network contract there’s usually a time frame in which you’re, you know, expected to assemble this information for repayment. But, but to your earlier point. Our top priority is making sure that the reports and the information make it back to the doctors and the patients. And so we have a nice tracking feature where, without the Doctor having to call one of those giant labs or 800 numbers and, and wait on the line and hope that they get some visibility into this black box operation. We give laboratories and small hospitals a way to, 24 hours a day and in real time, track where their sample is. It’s in the process of being accessions and data entry. It’s in the process of being in the lab. We’ve identified a problem, needs to be resolved. And so you can track that process. We even offer for some customers, if they ask, patient engagement. So perhaps, text the patient. Would be great to know when you went to the doctor’s office that you get a text message just saying “thanks for visiting the doctor your samples on the way to the lab”. “Hey, thanks for sending us a sample, we received it in the lab. And by the way the report is now ready, please contact your physician to learn more”. So we want to give the best experience to the patient. We want to give the best experience to the doctor. Provide them with a dashboard, so that they know what’s going on. If there’s paperwork and proprieties. If there’s anything missing that they’re going to need down the road for compliance or to get paid. That we identify it early on. So they can they can clean it up and fix it. And then, and then, that basically gives us a, you know, the perfect environment, the perfect experience for the patient and the doctor. But then, as you said, the back end pieces and assembling that information, maintaining a tight control over who has access to it. All the, all the checks you would need to make sure that, the, you know, the sample can be run. Right? There’s some cases where you wouldn’t want to run a sample. Not all laboratories are licensed to receive or process samples for all states. So having, you know, for example, software that can tell you “hang on a second ,this sample, this sample might not be one that…
Matt Register: Yeah. There, there’s a problem. Right?
David Mittelman: Yeah. So, so again and that goes back to payment as well. Right? Because if you’re handling samples that for whatever reason are not supposed to be handled from a compliance perspective. Maybe they’re missing a physician’s signature. You know, you know, you can debate whether you need the physician to sign it or if the letter is good enough. But you know insurance company may come back and say “There’s no signature. How do I know the doctor really wanted that test performed?” So all of those things, the net results of using the software is you’ve got the controls that you put in yourself to ensure that you’re set up to properly process a sample and be compliant and then also get paid.
Matt Register: Well, there’s a lot to like about this and not, not the least of which is the alternative to using something like this is to hire a team of people. Right? With which to administer this stuff. And, you know, something I just thought about when you brought it up. How much doctor time is wasted or organizational energy is wasted waiting on the phone with some of these big labs trying to determine, you know, where a sample is in the process. Where you can pop up a Web site very quickly and see it, you know, with real time updates on where exactly it’s sitting. A lot to like about this. Right?
David Mittelman: Yeah. Our goal is to let the doctors spend all his energy on the patient and to let the laboratories spend all their time in processing the sample. All the money that’s available should be used to fund good quality testing, good quality reporting and information that’s valuable to the patients. And they, you know, we don’t want people to waste a bunch of money doing the administrative bookkeeping, accounting and everything else. That’s, that’s what the platforms for. That’s, that’s the part that is not important for the patient but is required for the sustainability of the lab. So we do want to drain resources away from patient care and Doctor Service.
Matt Register: No doubt. Quickly, give us your background because… very impressive background in a number of industries surrounding this, you know, biotech, biomedical space. Give us a little, little flavor of where you come from.
David Mittelman: So. Yeah. I started out in the, during the first human genome project. University of Texas South-Western. Basically work to automate and streamline the original genome sequencing efforts. And that was everything from soft automation and checks that, that, you know, kind of inspired some of the work that I do now. But also just robots. Robots that would take a sample from one place, move them somewhere else. So I had a very early exposure to what it’s like to run lots of samples. If you have five samples, you can hire a team, manually check them all. If you have five hundred thousand samples flowing through…
Matt Register: Not so much.
Jay Curry: You got to figure out a better way.
David Mittelman: Yeah. The genome project was all about scale. And so I had a lot of exposure that. I later trained at Baylor College of Medicine. I’m a geneticist by trade. And I was in academia for a while, ran a NIH funded research group. And then, and then got the entrepreneurial bug. Built a company, sold it, built another company, sold some other companies.
Matt Register: God Bless America.
Jay Curry: Only in America. That’s why.
David Mittelman: But I’ve been, I’ve been in and out of a lot of laboratories. Built some, helped others build some. And, and I’ve just been constantly challenged to, to offer a good quality test for a good price. Knowing that reimbursements never go up, they usually go down.
Matt Register: That’s right.
David Mittelman: And so, how do you keep the quality of care there and not end up hiring, you know, more employees to manage the paperwork than you do to actually run the tests. And so, out of personal need for some work that I was doing with some laboratories. I conceived of jumping into this venture and now I want to make it available for others. And so…
Matt Register: No doubt. I’ll tell you what, that’s the, the story of America right there. Identified a need, realized you can do it better and went and made it happen. God Bless America. That’s exactly what it’s about. Dr. David Mittelman, the CEO and founder of Ceres. What’s the easiest way for somebody to learn more information?
David Mittelman: So, we have a Web site. We’re, we’re not, we’re taking right now demos and kind of, we have a little private beta. But, but you can visit us at CeresHQ.com, CeresHQ.com.
Matt Register: CeresHQ.com. Guys, it’ll be link right there from Texasbusinessradio.com. If you are driving, can’t take notes. Dr. David Mittelman, thank you very much for joining us. We got to pay a couple of bills. We’ll be back right after this. Don’t go anywhere.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.