July 14, 2014

If you decided to make a list of the most impressive visionaries in the world of medicine and health, chances are, very few students would make the cut. After all, how many students can keep up with schoolwork while fundamentally changing the landscape of how medicine is practiced? Probably not many, but Shiv Gaglanican. In fact, he’s been doing it for almost 15 years, and he’s only just getting started.

Gaglani graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and health policy in 2010, also serving as the founding president of the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association. Currently a medical student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Gaglani divides his time between his numerous classes, companies, and publications with the intuitive ease of a true disruptive innovator. He’s a cofounder and CEO at medical education and tech company Osmosis, as well as the founder and curator of Smartphone Physical LLC, which aims to reimagine the physical exam through unique mobile health applications.

MedTech Boston recently had the opportunity to catch up with Shiv and discuss the inspiration behind his mobile health app, the biggest barriers facing the world of digital health, and his advice for other entrepreneurs.

How did you get started in medicine and technology?

In high school, I made my first significant foray into medical technology by participating in science research competitions. The project that got me hooked on med tech and inspired me to major in biomedical engineering during college was during my sophomore year in 2004. I was working on a new method of tissue engineering that quite literally involved printing cells in 3D structures – basically precursors of a blood vessel. Since then, I’ve completed 10 other med tech research projects, which confirmed my interest in entering health care and specifically developing scalable tech-based solutions. As a side note, I am a strong proponent of early science research experiences for this among other reasons, and co-authored a book on the benefits of research ( The major draw of med tech to me is the scalability aspect – that a new tool can be developed which saves or improves millions of lives.

What inspired you to start Smartphone Physical? Where do you see its potential in the broader sense of mobile health?

The Smartphone Physical was developed during my time balancing two roles: serving as an editor of Medgadget and [as] a medical student at Johns Hopkins. I realized that the physical exam maneuvers I was learning in the clinic – taking blood pressure, listening to heart sounds, etc. – were being replicated by mobile-based devices and apps. That led to a simple question: What if we could do a complete physical exam with a smartphone? I pitched this idea to TEDMED and they loved it, so in partnership with Steelcase Health we debuted the first Smartphone Physical experience at TEDMED 2013.

I’m a firm believer in the potential of mobile health technologies to improve health care due to at least four disruptive elements: lower cost, broader access, big data, and free data. By making traditionally bulky and expensive devices more affordable and portable we can bring them to more patients, which may help specifically in global health and remote patient monitoring. Furthermore as a medical student I sense a great opportunity for these technologies to improve the way we educate our future clinicians – a topic that Dr. Eric Topol and I wrote about recently in Academic Medicine.

What was your experience like at TEDMED 2013? Any advice for physician-entrepreneur readers?

TEDMED is an incredible conference because it brings together so many passionate and innovative stakeholders in health care, from practicing clinicians to venture capitalists to government officials. It was invaluable to receive feedback from all of the above as we developed the concept of the Smartphone Physical. Since TEDMED, we’ve been invited to dozens more conferences, including AARP, AMA, and the World Innovation Summit on Health, and we’ve performed the Smartphone Physical on a number of VIPs including the recent Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, George Takei, and Sheikha Mozah of Qatar.

In terms of advice for clinical entrepreneurs, I’d say this experience taught us the importance of sharing your idea early on, asking for critical feedback, and iterating to improve your idea. The Smartphone Physical continues to evolve based on feedback at conferences and other venues.

What do you think are some key limitations or barriers in digital health and med tech that have to be addressed before we can see truly creative solutions to problems in medicine and healthcare implemented?

There is no shortage of creativity in health care at this point, but we still have a long way to go in terms of figuring out which solutions are truly effective at improving outcomes and lowering costs, and then encouraging the adoption of these solutions. We’ve developed the CARE Framework to help clinicians and entrepreneurs alike assess the adoptability of solutions. CARE stands for Compliance, Accessibility, Reimbursement, and Evidence, and together these represent the most important criteria we’ve heard from decision makers.

What are your thoughts on large companies like Apple and Google entering the realm of mobile and digital health?

I think this is a great trend that is not only good for the tech industry but also for society as a whole if they succeed. It’ll be important for people to understand that there can be a lot of hype about new technologies such as wearables, but I’m optimistic and remind myself of a quote, which I paraphrase here: “The effects of transformative technologies are overestimated in the short term, but underestimated in the long term.” It will be exciting to see what the combination of marketing, data expertise, social media engagement, and behavior change that companies like Apple, Google, WebMD, and others bring to the field of digital health will produce.

You’ve kept yourself incredibly busy by being at the forefront of innovation in med tech while simultaneously completing medical school. What’s one of your most memorable experiences?

Thank you for your kind words. There have certainly been highlights and milestones with both my startups, Smartphone Physical (now known as Quantified Care) and Osmosis, which develops medical education software used by more than 12,000 medical students. For example, presenting at events such as our tech incubator (DreamIt Health), demo day and TEDMED, hosting launch parties, and interacting with people who are excited about what we’re doing. By far the most fulfilling and memorable experiences are running into users of Osmosis (as well as Smartphone Physical-related devices) who talk about how much they enjoy our app, and how it’s helped them.

What are your current plans for your future career?

I want to continue developing tech-based solutions in medicine and education, informed by my future perspective as a practicing clinician and formal educator. Entrepreneurship and journalism are long-standing passions of mine so will likely continue playing significant roles in my career.

Connect with Shiv Gaglani and other brilliant doctorpreneurs, the new social network for physicians and medical students!


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