Q&A with Amit Garg ’14, Co-founder of HiLabs
Amit Garg ’14 and Neel Butala ’14 MD/MBA co-founded HiLabs, a company that works to make healthcare data transformative using cutting-edge technology.
- Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and how you got the idea for HiLabs.
I began to develop my passion for healthcare when I designed the first web-based healthcare claims processing system for State Medicaid agencies and then for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. I started wondering if I could create my own company around AI-based solutions that could bring efficiencies in healthcare operations. However, first I thought I needed to further develop my business skills.
I pursued my MBA at Yale School of Management with a focus on healthcare, finance, and entrepreneurship. While there, I took advantage of the many entrepreneurial classes the school offers in my area of expertise, healthcare. That led me to the Healthcare Ventures class. Neel and I first met in that class. Neel was an MD/MBA, who was deeply interested in data science and its potential to predict illness. I was passionate about this as well but lacked clinical expertise. Neel had the perfect combination of both clinical knowledge and data science fluency. Together, we created a business plan as part of a class competition. We placed in the top 5 and got some initial guidance from YEI (Now Tsai City). This led to the birth of HiLabs.
However, we quickly learned that our initial vision of illness prediction wasn't possible due to the poor quality of healthcare data. So, we pivoted and decided to apply data science capability to the huge data quality problem we discovered. Pivoting is always a bit scary as an entrepreneur, but the pivot paid off, and now we partner with three of the ten largest health plans in the US and several regional plans, covering over 65 million lives.
2. What problem are you trying to solve? How are you solving it?
Healthcare data sources are expanding exponentially, and data exchange between healthcare entities is rapidly accelerating. However, each interaction risks creating new or propagating existing data errors. Inaccurate provider directories, claims data, and clinical data lead to a host of problems in healthcare, including surprise billing, impaired access to care for health plan members, and lower care quality ratings for health plans. These data errors cost the healthcare industry over $300 billion annually. But beyond that, these data errors inhibit innovation.
We help health plans refine dirty data to discover hidden insights which have the potential to transform healthcare. Our data quality engine, MCheckTM uses AI and advanced NLP to discover data patterns and conduct root-cause analysis to fix data errors upstream. To date, it has analyzed over 35 billion records and has helped health plans automatically detect and correct 3M+ erroneous records.
- What entrepreneurial resources did you utilize during your time at Yale? How have you utilized the Yale community since graduating?
The healthcare ventures class and YEI gave us the initial foundation we needed. But beyond that, the Yale and SOM community has supported us the entire way. For example, Dr. Howie Forman and Dr. Richard Foster provided and continue to provide mentorship for us.
The alumni network has also been instrumental. Jake Dreier, SOM ’16, joined our team to lead our sales and marketing. Jake was working on healthcare projects at a venture studio when we first connected. At SOM, he interned with Goldman Sachs focusing on healthcare and was part of the startup founders’ practicum. The fact that his expertise in healthcare, ventures, and startups also started at Yale is a huge testament to the lasting impact of Yale’s entrepreneurial support.
The Yale SOM community has made all of these connections and interactions possible. But as Neel and I reflect on them, it’s been the shared values and commitment to business and society which has allowed them to have such a profound impact.
- What is your favorite part of being a founder?
I’m an engineer at heart and love using mathematics, data, and technology to solve complex problems. As a physician, Neel sees the real-life implications of our work every day. For both of us, bringing solutions to life that solve real problems is incredibly rewarding.
There is also the excitement that comes with recruiting and building a diverse, world-class team. Being surrounded by such brilliant and hard-working people is humbling and inspiring. We share successes and failures. We search for growth opportunities, constantly learn and iterate to create solutions to extraordinarily complex problems, all while having fun as a team.
- What important milestones has your company hit, and what are you most looking forward to in the future?
It is an exciting time for us. I mentioned earlier that we are working with three of the ten largest health plans in the US and several regional plans covering over 65 million lives.
We tripled our revenue last year and expect to triple our revenue again this year. Our team is now over 120 people, with our office headquarters in the US and two thriving R&D office centers in India. You can feel the momentum around the problem we are solving, and it energizes us all for what’s coming next.