How conversations with frontline hospital staff keep Xealth from becoming another ‘tone-deaf’ startup: 4 Qs with COO Aaron Sheedy

Becker’s Hospital Review recently interviewed Aaron Sheedy, chief operating officer at Xealth, about the company’s mission to streamline the entire care delivery process, end to end, by giving providers tools that will improve outcomes and reduce their workloads.

Xealth spun out of Renton, Washington-based Providence St. Joseph Health in 2017. It closed its $14 million Series A financing round in June of this year, with investors including Providence Ventures, Atrium Health, Cleveland Clinic, MemorialCare Innovation Fund, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin network.

Starting as a part of Providence St. Joseph Health gave Xealth some great insights into the health industry. “At the beginning, what was great was that we were able to sit with the clinicians, IT and IS folks, folks in the C-suite, folks in the population health department and, equally as important, clinicians, clinician leaders, frontline staff, the [chief nursing informatics officer] and [chief nursing officer], and they helped us understand the challenges around digital health as an entire category,” Sheedy said.

The types of discussions they had were the beginnings of uncovering the actual technological barriers to patients being engaged digitally with their health and physicians being able to engage digitally with assets that would help people with their health.

“What we learned is that those problems all were in and of themselves blockers to digital health getting deployed,” Sheedy said, “We realized it wasn’t just one thing that, when solved, would unlock all these other issues. It was actually multiple separate things we had to attack simultaneously with technology and with an understanding of how people actually work in the hospital.”

Frontline staff are the secret champions inside health systems, Sheedy said. “If you don’t understand the workflow of the people that you’re trying to design it for, then you’re just as tone-deaf as anyone else in the space.”

One of the biggest technical challenges hospitals face in providing digital health solutions is that EHR systems were not designed to communicate with patients and integrate digital tools. It’s a tremendously complicated software system, but it’s hard to make it interface with the outside world. But the growing government demand for data interoperability is going to end up making it necessary to do so.

Xealth is “a very tiny part of that value exchange,” Sheedy said, but if they can get small wins like helping busy people by combining existing time-consuming processes and offer them one click instead of two minutes’ worth of work, it might be possible to make a difference.

“It’s not just about the digital health ecosystem,” Sheedy concluded. “At the end of that ecosystem is a patient who’s actually getting better and a clinical staff member whose job just got easier.”

Read the full interview here.