A medtech startup that has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) supply intelligence platform to reduce medical waste has raised $2.5 million CAD in “early-stage” funding.
Even as it prepares to use the fresh funds for product development and expansion to new hospitals, AssistIQ also announced a partnership with the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) Research Centre in Montréal.
“By actually having data on what is actually used time and time again…we can have better insights into how to actually prep that surgery.”
-Lisa Israelovitch, AssistIQ
The CHUM is one of the largest hospitals in Canada and was recognized as Canada’s most innovative hospital in a ranking by Newsweek of the world’s top 250 Best Smart Hospitals for 2021.
Lisa Israelovitch, AssistIQ’s CEO and one of its founders, called medical waste in hospitals a huge issue. “Medical disposable devices and supplies is the largest variable cost a hospital has to deal with after wages,” she noted. AssistIQ notes the market for medical devices and disposable supplies in North America is a more than $188 billion USD market opportunity that is expected to rise to $330 billion USD by 2029.
“It’s a huge line item for hospitals,” Israelovitch said. In hospitals, AssistIQ is focused on the operating room and common procedures, so areas such as endoscopy and catheterization labs. AssistIQ’s software works in the operating rooms, for example, to help doctors and nurses understand what is being used in order to reduce waste at different levels.
“In some cases, it’s clinicians making more efficient decisions, and in some cases it could be procurement that’s actually altering their quantities,” according to Israelovitch.
The startup’s AI platform claims that it tracks the usage of disposable medical devices and supplies across surgeries and common procedures while saving time for nurses. This new data set provides visibility and insights for many hospital stakeholders that result in savings, according to AssistIQ.
One example is in operating rooms where disposable supplies and devices will often be opened without being used. Without knowing and having enough history of what is actually used, there is not enough data for nurses to determine what should actually be opened prior to the surgeon asking for items.
“By actually having data on what is actually used time and time again for various procedures by the physician, we can have better insights into how to actually prep that surgery,” Israelovitch noted.
Reordering and procurement present another challenge for hospitals. Israelovitch pointed out that it’s not exactly like ordering for a grocery store: “It’s kind of serious if you run out of something. But if we actually knew what was being used by surgery, we could have a lot more predictive insights into how to adjust ordering volumes because today products are expiring on the shelf.”
AssistIQ closed the raise, its first, in November. StandUp Ventures led the round with participation from N49P, The Kale Fund, along with several individual investors, including Kerry Liu, founder of Rubikloud and an investor at Horizon Ventures. When asked about the classification of its round, AssistIQ told BetaKit the company views it as between a pre-seed and seed stage, referring to it only as “early-stage.”
“The founding team has worked together for over a decade building, operating and scaling both enterprise and SaaS platforms,” noted Michelle McBane, managing partner at StandUp Ventures. “They developed a compelling product in a short amount of time with exciting market traction. The problem they are solving is especially important at a time when hospitals everywhere are looking for ways to improve efficiency.”
“We’re still looking at tens of millions of dollars per hospital in terms of savings.”
Israelovitch said all the investors recognized that AssistIQ brings a well balanced team both on the technical and business side. The vision for the company originated with a prototype and study led by Dr. Moishe Liberman, a Harvard-trained thoracic surgeon and the director of the Technology Innovation and Development Lab at the CHUM.
Liberman and his team wanted to evaluate whether a real-time surgical cost awareness program would reduce disposable supply costs. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, resulted in average supply savings of 23 percent, demonstrating the value of real-time cost awareness of supplies to medical teams without any impact to patient quality.
According to Israelovitch, 23 percent savings is significant given that the study was only really looking at a partial source of savings. It was only looking at what happened when real time insights were provided to the clinical team, surgeons, and nurses. It didn’t account for savings that could be achieved through procurement or other sources.
“What we’ve heard from hospitals is if you can even help us with 10 percent, it’s still a very meaningful number,” she said. “We’re still looking at tens of millions of dollars per hospital in terms of savings.”
Having seen some of the early success of the prototype in the study that Liberman led, the CHUM was keen to expand it to other departments. However, the technology wasn’t up to scale yet, and they recognized the opportunity to get more of an experienced team to partner with him. At that point, in September 2021, the other three founders joined Liberman and formed AssistIQ.
Along with Israelovitch and chief medical officer Liberman, the other two founders are CPO Mundeep Minhas and CTO Thierry Wong.
They spent a number of months researching and digging into feedback into other hospitals, and then expanded the study and introduced more scalable technology.
“We’re fortunate to have the CHUM as our living lab, which provides us with a super power to quickly iterate on our products”, said Israelovitch. “Since our initial deployments, we’ve expanded to multiple departments and procedures.”
Now the team has 10 full-time employees, and another six advisors and consultants. The technology is currently in four hospitals in Canada and the United States.
The founders have previously worked together for a number of years in other enterprises. Minhas and Wong met early in their careers at the Toronto Stock Exchange, leading development teams at the time the trading engine was brought in-house.
Years later, Israelovitch and Wong co-founded Umapped in 2012, a SaaS travel software solution where Minhas led the development of the mobile platform. “Following the acquisition by Flight Centre, we scaled the company and team across the enterprise and then took some time off to think about what we wanted to do next,” Israelovitch recalled. “We worked well together and wanted to leverage our experience in both startups and enterprises to build something meaningful for a very large market.”
When Liberman told them about his work, they were intrigued. “We believed that helping hospitals become more efficient was an important problem,” Israelovitch said.
Others agree. At a recent Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons Innovation Event in Los Angeles, AssistIQ was chosen out of seven startups as the audience favourite in a room filled with chief of surgeons and other healthcare leaders. “So we’re definitely getting a lot of love in the market,” Israelovitch noted.