A conversation with Dr. Kalyan Kalwa
Stevens: You founded Health Innovators (HI) in 2012. What was your motivation? What unfilled needs do you see it satisfying, and where do you see the organization headed?
Kalwa: I am an Indian physician and a pharmacist by training and education. When I first came to America, I wanted a job quickly and the job I got was in information technology. I worked in information technology for 10+ years and after I got my green card, I wanted to pursue things on my own. The only hard skills I had were Medicine and information technology, I wanted to use these skills to solve healthcare problems.
Since I didn’t work in the healthcare system here in the United States, I wanted to bring healthcare and information technology folks together to solve healthcare problems collaboratively using information technology. Boston is full of talent and I wanted to utilize the power of the crowd to solve healthcare problems using crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.
Stevens: One of your main partners at HI is Canopy. Please tell us about them and why you chose that organization with which to collaborate.
Kalwa: We started out to build a community and as our community reached 5000+ members, a lot of service providers, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals started reaching out to us for help. We wanted to provide our members a place to incubate their ideas and we started looking around town for partners who had existing innovation ecosystems.
We instantly liked Canopy’s mission as it is very similar to our mission. Canopy is a unique community focused co-working space and social impact accelerator based in Somerville, MA, adjacent to Boston, and is dedicated to supporting innovators, startups and nonprofits. HI now runs the Healthcare Innovators’ “Meetups” and other outreach activities at Canopy.
Stevens: Sometime after founding Health Innovators you founded HiDocs. What is its mission and how is it working out?
Kalwa: My main goal initially was to attract doctors to HI, but we have realized that it is very hard to engage them in the innovation process.
So HiDocs now not only provides visibility and revenue generation options for doctors, but we are hoping this will also engage doctors in the innovation process as they play a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem.
Stevens: For other innovators in health IT who would like to do what you do, what is your advice?
Kalwa: Finding areas and opportunities in healthcare IT to fix is easy. Building healthcare IT is relatively easy if you have the funds, but convincing someone to use it is especially hard in healthcare. Apart from regulatory and reimbursements issues, changing people’s behavior in established health systems is hard and a long process. Staying power is the most important key for success for a health IT entrepreneur. Not only they should have a good product which is solving an immediate need, but HIT entrepreneurs should also have connections which will help them get a pilot or a sale. Networking is extremely important and that’s exactly what we do at HI.