In the sixth episode of The Healthtech VC, Dr. Fiona Pathiraja is joined by Prof. Dr. Wieland Sommer, a radiologist and professor of oncologic imaging, and CEO and founder of Smart Reporting – a German startup using AI to create smart reports for radiologists and pathologists.
As a resident at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich (LMU), Prof. Sommer first became interested in entrepreneurship when he overhauled the monthly reporting system in his department. This led him to start Smart Reporting in 2014. Smart Reporting products are now being used by over 10,000
physicians in more than 90 countries.
Big data and smart reports
During his time at LMU, Wieland realised that everyone was talking about ‘big data’ in clinical services and academic research, but capturing medical text data was well behind this curve in radiology and pathology.
When collecting large volumes of data, it is critical to use standardised methods and terminologies, so that the information produced is valuable, easy to sort and search. Radiologists across the world are dictating their patient reports through speech-to-text tools but are doing so in a multitude of
ways, which often varies from individual to individual. Because of this, comparing reports became more challenging and time-consuming than need be. This set Wieland on a mission to standardise reporting in radiology. He quickly came across another obstacle: many radiologists see it as not just
as science – but an art.
Radiologists commonly relish the autonomy that comes with writing reports. This creates a tension with the referring physicians, who typically prefer a more simply structured report. As a radiologist, Wieland understood that this had to be managed when developing software. This led to his first product, ‘smartradiology.com’, which was a fully web-based solution that assisted radiologists with reporting. Today, Smart Reporting allows the best of both worlds, providing a standardised system that enables radiologists to be flexible in the way they analyse images, while accelerating the workflow, and allowing data-mining of the captured text data.
Building a business and raising funding
Even though he began his career as a medical academic, Wieland always maintained a keen interest in business. This led him to a Masters in Public Health at Harvard Business School.
During the first few years of Smart Reporting, Wieland maintained his clinical role while growing the business. When he went full-time in the business, Smart Reporting had 14 employees. Today, they employ over 60 people. Two of Wieland’s key learnings include the need for a strong CFO and an emphasis on managing HR, and growing the ‘right team’ for your business. Smart Reporting has successfully raised funding, and we are delighted to have participated in a €15m funding round in the Spring of 2020. Wieland points out that the early seed investors were more interested in his team and the market, rather than a rigid business plan. And although fundraising was difficult to begin with, momentum builds with every successful round.
Healthtech, whilst tricky, is an attractive market for entrepreneurs and investors alike. It may be slower to access at the start, but Wieland believes that this creates a lower level of competition in the market, which eventually pays off, as leading companies are able to expand.
The impact of Covid-19
When thinking of the move to digitisation we cannot ignore the current pandemic, and how this may change the way healthcare is delivered in the future. Interestingly, Wieland sees it as a mixed bag.
Smart Reporting has already accommodated Covid-19 into its products with ‘SmartCAD | COVID-19’ which offers radiologists and pathologists a free reporting template. This template incorporates the latest criteria and guidelines when diagnosing COVID in a chest CT scan.
But the pandemic has led to the cancellation of the usual circuit of radiology trade shows and conferences. And of course, it is far harder to visit hospital clients, and this is very likely to continue into 2021. However, Wieland can already see the opportunities in the aftermath of the pandemic. In his native Germany there is a €3 billion grant available to help digitise hospital infrastructure, demonstrating the attitude shift that has already taken place.
Find out more about Smart Reporting here.