Alumni startup speeds up hospital device, technology procurement

GreenLight Medical was 1 of 13 companies selected for Google Pitch Day in 2017. Austin Dirks (BE’08), right, is CEO; Stephen Saine (BS’04), left, is technical architect.

Three key experiences paved the way for Austin Dirks (BE’08) and Stephen Saine (BS’04) to launch a medical device and technology procurement platform together in July 2014.

Both attended Vanderbilt as undergraduates, both were in the School of Engineering, and both were members of Sigma Chi. Their “immediate affinity” accelerated the relationship and likely put GreenLight Medical on a faster track.

The company, now based in Nashville, is poised for a Series A round of $4-to-$5 million. Year-end revenue grew eight-fold from 2016 to 2017. And more than 100 hospitals are using GreenLight’s platform to vet new devices and technology, getting important tools into the hands of physicians and other hospital staff more quickly.

And that is GreenLight’s bottom line.

“Our mission statement is to get medical technology into a doctor’s hands so he or she can use it to affect patient care,” said Dirks, who is CEO.

At its most basic, GreenLight is a cloud-based value analysis program that brings vendors and hospitals, as well as physicians, together in a virtual space to speed up decision-making.

Such decisions slowed down to a frustrating and expensive crawl as old-school relationships between individual doctors and vendors gave way to hospital value analysis committees (VAC). Hospitals and healthcare systems formed VACs as concerns about healthcare costs mounted, and the panels review requests for new medical equipment, weighing the costs and benefits of each item. That process can take up to a year.

GreenLight has reduced the procurement cycle to 35-45 days by bringing people, documents, data and decisions together in a central dashboard.

The company has participated in several accelerator programs, including HealthboxTMC Innovation Institute and Jumpstart Foundry. The latter invested $150,000 in 2016 and precipitated Dirks’ relocation from San Francisco to Nashville, a healthcare epicenter with a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

GreenLight was one of 13 companies chosen to take part in Google Pitch Day 2017, and in September 2017 Insights Magazine named it among “the 10 most innovative procurement solution providers.” Upcoming events include the Health:Further conference in Nashville in August and the Association of Healthcare Value Analysis Professionals (AHVAP) conference in Clearwater, FL, in October.

The platform’s future includes product life-cycle tracking. “One of the things that has been missing is there’s been no connection between purchase and clinical use by a physician,” Dirks said.

Dirks approached Saine with the idea of a software company to make hospital procurement easier and quicker but knowing nothing about programming. Dirks majored in biomedical engineering here, earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and worked at St. Jude Medical in medical device sales and engineering.

Saine, who majored in engineering science and math at Vanderbilt, had been a senior software engineer at Yahoo and founded several startups himself.

They met when Dirks was new to Vanderbilt, Saine was still in Nashville, and a Sigma Chi brother introduced them. When Dirks wanted to start GreenLight, he sought out Saine.

“I think we are cut from the same cloth,” said Dirks, who also was a pole vaulter on the Vanderbilt track team. “We both have a work hard attitude, a take on a lot attitude.”

The university, he said, instilled early stage responsibility to “not think of yourself as just another worker but as a leader.”

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