The problem we solve: Surgical trainees are overworked and have little time to learn how to do surgical procedures. From the time they wake up (5am), to the time they leave work (6pm) every hour of their day is filled with a different clinical responsibility. By the time they make it home, they are exhausted, have to cook and clean, and need to prepare the next day's surgeries. These trainees use many different resources to prepare because the content they need is not centralized. Additionally, our customer discovery indicates that the majority of trainees spend anywhere between 1-2 hours prepping for their case the next day.
About our solution: HowTu provides surgical trainees with a quick and effective way to review the steps and anatomy of a surgical procedure. This content will be provided in the form of easy step-by-step instructions, dynamic illustrations, and high definition videos produced by leaders in the field.Progress to date:
We have also participated in a summer cohort of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation I-Corps program. During this program, we tested the commercial potential of our product, received mentorship and coaching, and were awarded $2,500 to go towards customer discovery. Throughout our customer discovery, we conducted over 30 interviews with various trainees at multiple programs and over 5 interviews with administrators at a world-renowned teaching hospital.
We are currently gathering a team of physicians to create and edit our first videos. We plan to have our first prototype in the next few months.
Creator: Andrew Brownlee
Bio: Andrew Brownlee is a senior cardiothoracic surgery fellow at the University of Chicago. His research is focussed on the integration of technology into surgery and surgical education. He recently developed a mobile-based application that allows fellows and attending surgeons to communicate about the fellow’s performance in a case. The mobile app breaks down every surgery into fundamental case elements and allows each element to be scored by both the fellow and the attending. Andrew is currently completing a manuscript on a multi-year study that assesses the utility of measuring muscle density on CT scans (morphomics) in preoperative esophagectomy patients both pre and post-chemoradiotherapy to determine if low muscle mass (sarcopenia) affects postoperative outcomes. He has written multiple textbook chapters and journal articles on topics in thoracic and general surgery and is a reviewer for the New England Journal of Medicine and the Annals of Thoracic Surgery. He is a board-certified general surgeon and a member of the American College of Surgeons and the Society for Thoracic Surgeons.
Hospital Affiliation: University of Chicago Medical Center
Advanced Degree(s): MD
Co-CEO, MD Candidate
Biography: Kendall is a second-year medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He has a BA from the University of Chicago in Public Policy Studies with a specialization in Health Policy. During his undergrad, Kendall helped lead various health-based organizations that sought to address health care disparities. In medical school, Kendall has helped run a free clinic, planned and executed a University-wide healthcare innovation challenge, and developed programming for underrepresented minority high school students interested in healthcare professions.
Advanced Degree(s): MD Candidate
Biography: Nathan earned a BA from the University of Chicago in History with a concentration in Finance. He has worked several years in the buy-side of the financial industry - at a hedge fund, mutual fund, and investment advisory firm. Nathan spent the last summer doing research for a finance professor at the Booth School of Business. He holds the Series 65 license and is a registered IAR. Nathan is also a U.S. Marine (Reserves) and published author.
Advanced Degree(s): BA
COO, MBA Candidate
Biography: Grant is a first-year MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He has a BA from the University of Chicago in Public Policy Studies with a specialization in Health Policy. During his undergrad, Grant helped co-found a healthy food company of which he is still involved. Grant has also worked in the life science consulting field, specifically working with pharmaceutical companies.
Advanced Degree(s): MBA Candidate
HowTu presents high definition videos of cutting edge surgeries to both trainees and experienced surgeons. When medical professionals want training material, the resources available are scattered, low quality, or difficult to access. We want to provide high-grade, step-by-step training materials, a “Khan Academy of surgery.” Surgical experts will showcase their specialties and thereby disseminate their knowledge in clear videos that are easy to comprehend. While these videos will be useful principally for surgeons in training, they can also add value for experienced surgeons seeking a ‘refresher’ before an operation they perform seldomly. In both cases, the outcome for the end patient is the same. We all want the best possible surgeons: ones who make few mistakes, who know exactly what they’re doing, and who have definitely ‘seen this case before.’ With high quality training and resources, it’s possible to develop such surgeons, and we believe videos are an excellent way to provide efficient, low-cost, and practical information. Better trained surgeons leads to better surgical outcomes, which may also result in less time in postoperative care, better long-term recuperation, less postsurgical pain, and a reduction in other miscellaneous possible negative side effects of a poorly performed operation.
HowTu provides surgical trainees with a quick and effective way to review the steps and anatomy of a surgical procedure in preparation for the day's surgeries. Therefore, a surgical trainee will be more rested and prepared for the following day's schedule. A more prepared and well-rested surgical trainee will be more effective in the operating room, allowing the chief surgeon to spend less time focused on the trainess and more time focused on the surgery at hand.
HowTu provides surgical trainees with a quick and effective way to review the steps and anatomy of a surgical procedure in preparation for the day's surgeries. Therefore, a surgical trainee will be more rested and prepared for the following day's schedule. A more prepared and well-rested surgical trainee will be more effective in the operating room, allowing the chief surgeon to spend less time focused on the trainess and more time focused on the surgery at hand. Since the surgical team will have less time spent needing to direct the trainees, as they will be better prepared, the surgical team can devote that time to completing the surgery. This should result in less time spent on the surgical table which has a number of benefits to hosptials including better patient outcomes and potential to increase volume of surgeries performed in a given time.
Dr. Andrew Brownlee is currently a Fellow in Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Chicago. Kendall Elue is a second-year medical student at the University of Chicago.
Key Milestones Achieved and Planned
Our company recently completed the summer ICORPs program through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. Participating in this program connected us with knowledgable coaches and mentors that we have been able to maintain strong relationships with. Our idea was also accepted to the Medical Education Research Innovation and Teaching Scholarship (MERITS) program at the University of Chicago. This program will provide us with additional mentorship from professional educators and in turn, help us create high-quality videos.
Our Competitive Advantages
While other platforms have collections of surgical procedures, these videos are often low quality, lack clearly defined steps, and are largely user-generated (meaning any surgeon can post a video). Additionally, the user interface is often clunky and hard to navigate. HowTu improves on these platforms by providing high-quality footage, clearly defined steps, and content generation from a team of world-class surgeons. We plan to invest heavily in the user interface to avoid the pitfalls we have observed in other platforms. This will include modifying the videos so that they can be easily clicked through and developing a more intuitive interface. We also plan to leverage our professional network to assemble our team of content generators. Having a designated team of content generators will allow for greater quality control. In our initial conversations, we have generated a great amount of interest and enthusiasm in the surgical community including commitment from thoracic surgeons to generate videos.
Barriers to Entry
HowTu does not have any classic – organic - barriers to entry for competitors. We do not have major capital costs and the technology is reproducible. Our only major organic advantage will be the proprietary videos of experts showcasing their surgical operations. We hope to create artificial barriers to entry the way a natural monopoly might maintain its hold on a market: by providing top-notch services and products at the lowest possible rate. We will continually reinvest our earnings to improve the end product, to tailor it to our customer’s every need, and to do so in the most efficient manner. If the end user of HowTu has all their visual training needs met with continuously improving step-by-step videos, and it’s offered at an extremely low cost, there will be no room for a competitor to replace HowTu in that field.
Funding, Partners and Alliances To Date
We have received 2,500 from the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to conduct customer discovery. We are currently raising $50,000 to create the first version of our product.
Given that we are currently developing the product, we are a pre-revenue company.
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