Eat your own dog food – the best ideas and solutions come from personal problems that you understand better than anyone else.
Gerald Diaz is a board certified Internal Medicine physician and former software engineer. He is the cofounder of GrepMed, an image based medical reference search engine that helps clinicians more efficiently find clinically relevant information at the bedside.
Gerald graduated with a degree in computer science from Stanford University and worked as a software developer for four years before health issues within his family inspired him to pursue a career in medicine. He earned his MD from Saint Louis University and completed his internal medicine residency at UC Davis where he was voted resident of the year by his peers. He started GrepMed as a way to blend his interests in healthcare, technology and medical education in a way that can help alleviate physician burnout. GrepMed is being used by clinicians across the globe, now with over 250 thousand image impressions per day.
Where did the idea for GrepMed come from?
GrepMed was born out of personal frustration with traditional medical reference resources. We’ve all heard medical education described as trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. The frustration of information overload is further compounded in clinical practice where there is so little time in between patients. Current reference resources present information in unwieldy walls of text that are overwhelming during a busy shift. I found myself and other clinicians constantly turning to google image search as an attempt to shortcut the information retrieval process. Algorithms, checklists, decision aids, guidelines and much more can be more efficiently reviewed using images. Our image library provides significant cognitive offloading for busy clinicians, helping them to make better decisions at the bedside.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
During a normal work day I’m awake by 6am. I make coffee and take the dogs for a walk which is a meditative process that allows me to collect my thoughts. I get to work at 7am, collect sign-out from the overnight doc and then spend the next hour or two doing chart reviews on overnight events and putting out fires for any acutely ill patients. The rest of the day until 6pm is a sprint seeing patients, talking with families, and coordinating with consultants and other members of the healthcare team. There’s an unfortunate amount of time spent in front of the computer working on documentation. I’m usually home again by 7pm, and try to go to the gym for half an hour before dinner.
As a full-time physician, there isn’t a lot of extra time left over to work on side projects. You learn to utilize any downtime you have to respond to emails and get other work done on your phone, even if it’s between patients while walking across the hospital. It helps when the patients I see every day help inspire the subject material we post onto our website for other clinicians to use.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Talk to as many smart people as you can in order to get feedback on your ideas and find potential collaborators to work with. This is especially important if you’re bootstrapping a project. Once you’ve validated your idea as something people actually want, the best way to bring your idea to life is simply to get started. You can read dozens of business books and listen to hours of podcasts but you’ll never understand what it’s truly like to be an entrepreneur until you jump into the water.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In medicine it is the utilization of technology and artificial intelligence to augment decision support. There is so much hype around the potential for AI to surpass or replace the decision making capacity of physicians. But there’s not enough focus on how we can leverage technology to help clinicians in ways that don’t also interrupt workflow, increase alert-fatigue and worsen burnout. Elon Musk speaks of how we are all basically cyborgs, bandwidth limited by the physical connection between us and our phones. At GrepMed we’re trying to improve the signal-to-noise ratio to make clinicians more efficient at retrieving medical information online.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am constantly listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I find this to be such a productive way to fill my bay area commute or any downtime at the gym or at work. I listen to medical podcasts that help keep my medical knowledge up to date but also provide content ideas for our website. Startup, business and marketing podcasts provide inspiration to help us build and market GrepMed.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I got to Stanford as an undergraduate I very much felt like a big fish coming out of a small pond. I would tell my younger self not to be so intimidatd and that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Your peers that appear so brilliant and successful are secretly very working hard and hustling behind the scenes. Surround yourself with others that will push you to be better.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Medicine is a rewarding career but it’s important to realize that it is a job as much as it can be a calling. Ultimately your happiness will be found outside of the hospital and you need to remember to focus on self-care and achieving work-life balance. I see so many young doctors continue to stack additional years of fellowship training and debt, postponing life, family and relationships in order to unearth “passion” at work which often only leads to further burnout.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Constantly talk to your users to get feedback and iterate. This is the only way to discover your blind spots and biases. Talking to users will help you better understand what the needs of your users and give you ideas on when and where to pivot if necessary. Listening to pharmacists talk about some of the questions they field from other clinicians helped us realize areas we could focus on that have driven a significant amount of traffic growth.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We have found a lot of success leveraging existing social media channels to drive users and brand awareness to bootstrap our own online community of medical professionals. Our infographics lend very well to growing large followings in both Twitter and Instagram. This has allowed us to connect with amazing artists and medical educators around the world. Getting featured on our channels has become an incentive for these educators to share content onto our platform. Instagram has been a particularly explosive growth channel for reaching other members of the healthcare team- nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists and more.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As a medical student I was the lead developer for a startup trying to automate the process of taking a patient history. Unfortunately things got so busy in medical school with board exams and clinical rotations that I let the project slip away. I think if I had found a way to stick with the idea it would have been a very lucrative SaaS business today, as there are now many players in that space, many years later. GrepMed is my way of getting back into the healthcare technology space where I can help out clinicians and their patients at scale. This time instead of trying to do everything on my own, I found a brilliant cofounder, Keyan Kousha, who has been able to take our technical development to another level.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In medicine we spend so much of our time on documentation and coding diagnoses for billing purposes. We spend an inordinate amount of time messaging back and forth with billing experts who manually pore over our notes to suggest additional diagnoses so that we can bill insurance companies for a higher level of care. So much of this could be automated using artificial intelligence that could significantly decrease the administrative costs that drive up healthcare costs.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a Ninja Coffee Bar to replace my morning routine of making coffee with an AeroPress. This provides “good enough” fresh ground coffee, in less time, while avoiding the horrible environmental footprint of pod-based coffee units.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I have a trello board for almost every aspect of my life. I use it to plan projects, vacations, and even log gym workouts. I’ve used it to create boards for two separate physician groups now. We’ve been able to replace internal websites that were difficult to maintain with boards that makes it easier to share important hospital and group policies.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
War of Art by Steven Pressfield – This book is such a concise and powerful read that reminds us how easy it is to fall victim to the “Resistance” that keeps us from following and pursuing our dreams. Too often we expect inspiration and genius to fall from the sky. The secret to greatness is having the discipline to pursue your dreams like a job and work every day to master your craft.
What is your favorite quote?
“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Votaire. I always stress to medical trainees that it doesn’t matter how smart you are as a doctor if your patients don’t like you on a personal level. I also think physicians need to realize our limitations and not be so hard on ourselves when there are bad outcomes that are out of our control. I don’t think people realize how devastating this emotional toll can be on physicians and how important it is to have self-compassion in this field where there has been an epidemic of physician suicides.
- Eat your own dog food – the best ideas and solutions come from personal problems that you understand better than anyone else.
- Trying to do everything on your own is a recipe for burnout. Find others who complement your strengths and weaknesses.
- Listen to podcasts and read The War of Art