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The Uptime Health Story: An Interview with Uptime Health CEO and Co-Founder Jinesh Patel


Uptime Health co-founder and CEO Jinesh Patel discusses the critical role of equipment management for health care providers and the many challenges providers face when it comes to ensuring everything will be in working order when it's needed. With his colleagues at Uptime Health, Patel is creating solutions to help dental and medical practices automate and streamline their equipment maintenance and management.

Video Transcript:

Noah Levine (NL):
Hello, I'm Noah Levine, editorial director with Dental Products Report. Today I'm joined by Jinesh Patel, who's the founder of Uptime Health. Jinesh, thanks so much for joining us.

Jinesh Patel (JP): Thank you for having me.

NL: So, I'd love to hear kind of your story and Uptime Health story. Can you tell us a little bit about how your career turned to a point where you started founding Uptime Health?

JP: Yeah, absolutely. So my background is, I'm a biomedical engineer, I got my training at Texas A&M, you can see my little football helmet behind me, I love college football. But I did device design and invention early on, I got my MBA, and then I went into what they call clinical engineering management. And for those that aren't familiar with that, in large health systems, that's the department that takes care of all the equipment, all the repair and maintenance, the vendor management, and then making sure you're working with department leads to understand what they need resource wise to keep their operations running.

So I was the master of equipment, essentially. And because we're in the healthcare setting, we had, you know, a joint commission role, where we had to have a good environment of care. And I was also in charge of that for the equipment side for our buildings. Now, in about 2010, to 2015, we all saw a boom, like where urgent care in surgical centers and outpatient facilities started just proliferating. And just like any other health system, ours around like the 2013, started acquiring a lot of urgent care centers. And, you know, as part of our responsibilities, we got an audit them to make sure that they are doing the right things, taking care of their equipment, and also abiding by the rules of the Joint Commission and that compliance umbrella.

Well, they're small buildings, as you know. And when we went out there, we realized, well, they don't have a great grasp of how to manage their equipment, and it's no fault to them. They're just a lot of doctors and front office people and administrators and people who know how to take care of patients really, really well. But that doesn't mean they know how to take care of the equipment very, very well.

I create the analogy of you know how to drive a car, but that doesn't mean you know how to maintain and repair a car. And that was kind of the mindset of a lot of those individuals. And I thought about it, and I couldn't have myself out there, because I'm too expensive for somebody who only has, you know, half a million million dollars of equipment that doesn't break down very often to be on site. To teach them and train them and educate them on the importance of it also didn't make sense for me to have technician on site. So I looked for a software tool that would automate what I did provide to them, I would say, Okay, if I helped manage equipment and roster it somewhere, is there a tool that does that? If I help them, make sure they're doing the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly maintenance items and complaints items on there, is there a tool that kind of connects those pieces? If there's a maintenance or plan maintenance or repair that has to be done, is there a tool that can help them dispatch that vendor. So I started kind of writing down all the things I helped coordinate in the big systems, and I would look for a tool, and none existed. And that was kind of my first moment of this world is only going to get bigger. And there are no products right now that help these people manage their equipment.

Being a biomedical engineer, I came with a very biased lens of patient care is a combination of a patient, a provider, and an instrument. There's almost no patient care today that's being conducted without any instrument of some kind. You have a thermometer for your temperature, you have a scale for your weight. So even the most basic data points, you still need something to tell you and now we can give them the CBCTs and x-rays, and sterilizers and everything that effect. So I thought about that as like one of those three variables doesn't exist, you're not really providing patient care or quality patient care. And why are they not treating that third variable of equipment with the same importance they're treating the patient and the provider with?

So we go into this world and if I'm a consumer of healthcare, and the urgent care world and all these local, you know, community kind of style hospitals, I want to make sure the equipment's up and running. And when I'm looking at these people, it's doesn't mean it's always going to be quality. So that got me out of my chair to say, somebody needs to solve this problem. And if it's not somebody else, it might as well be me, because I care enough. And that was the first idea of Uptime Health.

Now fast forward to actually building it. I didn't build this alone, I have a co founder, his name is Bill Olson. Bill used to be the CTO of a company called Accruent. And Accruent was a largest player in the health system space for tools that we use, you know, the big clunky tools that we couldn't give the small locations because they're not trying to live and breathe in the product like we are. They're only trying to be in there for a few minutes and kind of peace out and go to their patient care again. And our tools were purpose built where this is where we live in breed like a PMS system. It manages our day to day, we're always clocking in taking notes and doing everything to that nature.

So he said at Accruent they were also looking at tools for downstream markets, not the big health system, but all the urgent cares and surgical centers and like dental offices that were popping up that also needed a product. He couldn't find one either. So we're talking about a billion dollar company, the biggest in the space couldn't find it, me as this random guy couldn't find it. But we both know it needed to exist. And so we came together to build Uptime Health. And we started in the urgent care world that was close to, you know, our knowledge and understanding. COVID hit around 2020, and we only launched a product in November 2019. And so although we were growing, when COVID hit, we kind of flatlined because no one's buying software, even if we can manage and repair and save ventilators. No one was trying to deploy software in a firefight moment, which, understandable.

So through the peaks and valleys, we pivoted to dentistry, because we realized it's not just medical that needs this. It's anyone who provides care to patients that uses medical instrumentation that's small enough where they don't have somebody like me in their office. And you start writing that list down, it's dentistry, optometry, even veterinary if you think of, you know, animals as patients, med spa, dermatology, the list started actually getting pretty long. And then dentistry is kind of where we landed, because there's just so many locations that we said, let's try this market to see if they have a need. And turns out they did. And that's how we got here.

NL: So as someone who really has seen the landscape of healthcare equipment and the needs that people have both on an on site basis, and sort of from a central hub monitoring perspective, what are some of the challenges that you think the healthcare industry is facing when it comes to equipment management? And, how is Uptime positioning itself to address those challenges?

JP: That's a good question. I think it's a, there is a macroeconomic problem here. And it's one that nobody really talks about. But because we live and breathe it, we care a lot about it. It's actually the number of technicians that are out there to take care of equipment, they have not grown at the same rate, that equipment has grown. So if you think about the number of devices we use, and healthcare has just done this, and the number of people who take care of those equipment has done this, there's a bifurcation. And that means not everyone can get to every problem anymore; the people who are trained and certified to take care of the equipment. Now we compound that with the fact that health care is moving to an outpatient model, which, again, I'm a subscriber of, I love, I'm here for it. But what that also means is you take those 10,000 devices, call it, that used to be in the health system system setting that I used to run, and I would maybe send like a couple of technicians in there that take care of all their stuff, because they used to go floor to floor, room to room, it's pretty highly dense, you know, with that equipment.

Well, now, though, if we're providing the same care in the outpatient setting, those 10,000 devices now exist over 100 locations. So a technician can no longer go floor to floor, door to door to take care of all the problems that exist in that number of devices, they have to go door, drive, door, drive, door. And so we've had a logistical nightmare. And the fact that things break down more frequently in those environments than they do in the health system setting, because people know less about how to take care of them. It's a double whammy. And so not only is there not enough people to take care of equipment, there's just more problems than ever before. And no one's training and educating these people on how to make sure there aren't all these failure events that are treated as critical in calling your technicians and come out here tomorrow, I need you. But they're 20 miles away to another client who had the same problem, which could have all been avoided, had they just had proper maintenance and management against it.

So what does Uptime Health do to solve that problem? We have a tool that tells people how to take care of their stuff. And I guarantee you because we have a lot of clients and a lot of places people aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. And it's no fault to them. They don't have time, they don't have the knowledge. So our product kind of helps automate as much as it can. It says, you have this sterilizer, you have this chair, here's what you should be doing to those devices daily, weekly, monthly, whether it's for maintenance, to keep it up and running, or whether it's for compliance, to be in line with the rules and regulations of, you know, OSHA, HIPAA, or even just any kind of standards. Because they're finally doing that and having a way to track it, you do see less failure events. So it puts less strain on an already strained labor market.

The other thing we've done is we've created the first marketplace for technicians that exist in the ecosystem. So now what we can also do is if you don't know who can solve your problem tomorrow, you can engage with uptime Health's marketplace to go find a surge resource to get that thing up and running tomorrow.

As I mentioned, you might have your preferred tech, but he's in a town over and he's there all day with an emergency repair, but you have an emergency repair. And that one's keeping your entire office down for a whole day. So now you have to wait for them to get out of their existing problem to come to you and that might be a whole 24 hours. Well, the marketplace like ours. You can say you know what? I'm willing to find somebody who's trained and certified local to me, and maybe they can come take care of my problem tomorrow. And so now we're exposing a secondary labor resource that they never knew about. And because there's a lot of retired people in the technician field, some of them don't mind working part time, they're nights and weekends and you know, getting themselves back in the market. So we're taking retired community, and we're saying, Do you want some work because you're trained and skilled, and there's enough people out there that need you to, but there was just never a mechanism for them to get work for them to be found, without doing although, you know, without building their own business, which is no one's trying to do in a retired fashion. So we're trying our hardest to limit the amount of time there's emergency needs, because they're just doing better maintenance on that labor force. We're trying to supply that labor force now by bringing people from retirement. And lastly, we're working with another organization to build a school, to train dental technicians on how to become technicians and work with the manufacturers to create the first program for certified dental technicians that exists in the market. It doesn't exist right now. But we're working to build that so we can train and qualify new entrants to solve the labor problem. So that's kind of what we're doing.

NL: Wow, that is quite a lot. Now, obviously, you guys have been busy and you yourself, were named as one of the Forbes next 1000 entrepreneurs, which is a significant achievement. Congratulations on that, by the way. But when you get an achievement like that recognition like that, how does it impact the work you're doing the goals you have for Uptime Health, and kind of your day to day,

JP: Honestly, just validates it sometimes. Because I will tell you, it feels like we're screaming at a wall. And when we think when we say that I'm not saying people aren't listening, but I'm saying there's so many problems in healthcare, which we're all aware of. And when I talk about; guys, there's an equipment management problem, it's almost not laughed at, but it's almost like wow, okay, but we also have revenue cycle billing management problems, we have this problem, we have high insurance problems, we have access to health care problems, like the number one core underlying problem there, like, so clinic management, you know, kind of never hits the mainstream media. And the fact that, you know, Forbes recognized what the work we're doing is something as important to the world that kind of gave us that sense of validation of we are on to something and people are listening, even if they're not saying it out loud.

And as we start getting this platform to talk about the importance of equipment management, like I just told you, it's a variable to help providing health care. So it shouldn't be seen as important. The technician problem should be seen as important because it's a direct correlation of these things being up and running. And just making sure people know how to take care of the equipment. So me and you are getting quality health care with quality devices that are always calibrated. There's a lot of things that just get sometimes get ignored. And so I think it helps put passion and power and more importance behind what we're doing. It allows our own team members and new employees to kind of get on that bandwagon and saying, This is a problem I want to solve to. So I think it just gives us some pressure, but it's good pressure. And I like it.

NL: Now you've made the career shift from being an engineer working, you know, in the trenches, so to speak. Now you're a CEO running a company you helped create, how do you take your experience while you're running a company help kind of foster the culture of innovation and collaboration that can bring more success to Uptime Health.

JP: I'm of the mindset right now that for us to win, others have to win around us too. And that means people have to just adopt a new technology world where they're trying software's or deploying automation. Sometimes there's a hesitancy to do that. So to have other companies like ours that just exist and say, "Hey, we're doing cool AI on this, we're doing better RCM management through automation and AI." I love to see other people when and see what I can do to support them, whether it's giving them my lessons learned of how to break into dentistry, giving them my lessons learned about the early struggles and where do you go for what information and who do you talk to making the introductions I can. I really try my best to either advise uplift or just be a supporting cast member in their journeys as much as I can, because like I said, if if we break into the mindset of adopting technology, it's just a good thing to do for the future, where technology needs to get adopted to so that barrier to entry kind of gets less than that helps us but it helps them and I'm here for that right now.

NL: One of the things that's happening in the dental space is some consolidation, especially on the practice management side, we've seen the rise of group practices and DSOs. I would imagine that that is something that would work in the favor of what you're trying to do at Uptime Health. How has Uptime Health been engaging with the dental industry and the group practices that seem to be on their way to being the norm in the US dental industry?

JP: Yeah, I would say that that's our primary client base right now. And it's because it's an easier way to adopt a product like ours. So we've been riding that wave and we're happy to be riding that wave. And it's really creating a better product because we get the feedback for what works for many practices, it will always work for the individual practice. But I will say the reason we started there, group dental, or multilocation dental organizations because some like to be called GPOs, some don't. But they kind of operate in some sense the same way. If you own multiple locations or manage them, you can't be everywhere all at once.

As a single dentist office owner, you might see all of your equipment, you might see what's broken, you might see what's going on and feel like you're kind of on top of it. Because you see it every day. When you manage multiple sites you can't do that anymore. And you can't feel confident that you know exactly what's going on across all locations. And if you start standardizing you know, what is called, you know, risk mitigation or compliance across every one of your locations, we're going to always do our spore samples, once a week, we're going to flush water lines every day using this product, we're going to check our compressor filters, or vacuum filters, once a month, whatever it is, you try and create a standard. It's hard to enforce that without a tool like ours. So we're a sense of standardization for DSOs, or group multilocation owners.

We also then help them understand what they own, because a lot of times when they acquire practices, they have a sheet that says here's an asset evaluation of what we just did. But then it gets filed away, because it's a hardcopy piece of paper, it's an email, and they're never going to look at it again, you put it into our tool, now it can tell you how many CBCT do you have, how many sterilizers, what make what model, what category, what brand. And then they can start really standardizing. I didn't realize we had a lot of, you know, Model A sterilizers, and based on the product of Uptime Health, it looks like that fails the least compared to the rest of them. So the next time we need to buy them, let's buy Model A. And so like we allow some data management that they never had before, and allows them to say yes, faster.

The other thing is, because people are using our tool to dispatch service and track management maintenance of it. We have analysis for failure rates, how old the machines are, how much they cost to repair and replace, how much they depreciate on your books. And we analyze all of that we give you capex forecasting. So imagine your multiple locations, you can you can with a click of a button, see how many chairs, sterilizers CBCTs am I gonna buy in the next quarter, based on data. Not based on people yelling. Not based on what looks old. It's really based on data. And then they can go really take that, call it to the purchase order to their distributors and try and get a better price for it.

So now they're really leveraging their buying power, which is what they talk about when they buy in these organizations. So our product is really a tool in those guys tool belt, but a single office, we're still today a nice to have because there's still an education hurdle where we have to get over the fact that somebody who sees everything in their dentist office every day actually doesn't. But you can't convince them of that, you know, you have to be an early adopter of technologies. You're really when we use our product over there.

NL: Now looking forward, what are your long term goals with Uptime Health? And how do you think that Uptime Health can have an impact on transforming the future of healthcare?

JP: Yeah, Uptime Health is here to make sure that we're a good steward in the whole healthcare ecosystem. We're looking to be a good middleware product for a lot of people to benefit. So right now, as I mentioned, we have a product that really speaks to the DSOs in any kind of actually, medical practice, we have urgent care clients, we have veterinary clients, to optometry clients. Again, as long as they own medical equipment, the problem is the same. And if the long they don't have somebody like me on staff, they need our product. And what I see is having a tool that lets people know what they own, how to take care of it, creating a good enough ecosystem of technicians to be able to repair things almost immediately when they can, allowing tools that have IoT capabilities, which we're already doing today actually integrate to our products.

So if the device itself says, Hey, no, I have error code 123. Well, we've worked the manufacturer to say, you know, that can be solved with the reboot exercise, you don't have to waste your time, money and energy calling a technician out there just to click on and off again, to solve the problem. I will create a task in our product and just assign it to you and you do it, it's solved, you're back up and running, you're not wasting money or time. Or if it's error code, ABC and it says component malfunction. We can dispatch a technician with the right part in hand, the component with the part number, saying bring this with you the first time you're out there. So it's a first time fix versus them going there seeing the problem saying let me go back to my shed and grab that part. And I'll be back tomorrow. Well, that just added to truck rolls and 24 hours of downtime. So it's a waste of time for you and a technician sort of creating an integrated world where we can actually facilitate and automate maintenance management as well as how things are doing and proactively get ahead of problems.

So we see something trending through data analytics of that tool in the wrong direction. Let's get that thing out of here. Let's replace it before it becomes a catastrophe. You know, so like these are all the things that we can do with that automation. You know, the data side of things if we can predict whenever you need your next device because we're doing repair replacement scores, we're gonna help facilitate that. We want to make sure that we're working with your distributors, your preferred vendors of choice to say, Uptime Health is saying I need a new sterilizer. Well, great, here's your vendors, here are the sterilizer options that are kind of good replacements for what you got. One click Buy, get it in your office, we're up and running again. So we want to basically own and automate through product and middle awareness, the purchase service and disposition event of medical equipment, but not just in dentistry, you know, urgent care, surgical, optometry, veterinary we, we just want to be seen as that standard tool of choice for the third party knowledge of how to take care of your equipment.

NL: Now I know one of the newer innovations that Uptime Health is bringing out is called the Universal Device Hub. And I'd love if you could tell me a little bit about what is the Universal Device Hub. and what is it designed to solve.

JP: So it's really integrating to the equipment I just talked about a second ago, it really what we're trying to do is be a universal hub. What that means is is agnostic to any manufacturer, or distributor, or whatever you have. So we want to be able to work with all the chair manufacturers, all the sterilizer manufacturers, all the CBCT, you know, you name it, we want to work with all the manufacturers that have connected equipment, and put it into our product. And we call that the Hub. And the reason it's universal is it's we're not exclusive. We want anyone who has this kind of technology to come into our tool, because one of the things that we've learned is smart equipment exists, it's not new. But the reason people don't engage with it enough is each manufacturer comes out with their own app. And nobody really standardizes their entire practice on one manufacturer. So if I have manufacturer A, B, and C and D in my location, I need app A, B, C, and D, to figure out what's going on how to maintain these things. And people are already burdened with enough software, they're not going to engage with this one either. Because again, talking about is is top of mind for people. Not really, unless you're a DSO right? Now, we're kind of a multilocation organization. So they're seeing a lot of pushback on people just engaging with these apps and the the advantages that can really provide to an actual office.

So we've been telling people is, let's be the Google Home of the dental office, let's make sure that if there is connectivity, we do it in a single pane of glass that they're already using for compliance and maintenance and dispatching so we're not asking you to log into something else. And because our product can dispatch and create tasks, we can automate action, at the same time, no ago, click the on off button, or actually no request service with this part number, you know, like it will automate all of that. So that's the Universal Device Hub is it's a place any manufacturer can connect to, to really provide benefit to the clients that are using uptime health,

NL: What are some of the challenges you've faced in bringing this type of universal connective solution to the market?

JP: I think there's always early hesitation. You know, when people think about building the IoT package, those apps and everything else that they're doing at the manufacturer side, they've invested a lot of time technology and resources into making that world happen. And if they see a product like ours come along and say, well, we want to tap into your feed there, they're gonna say, Well, why don't we just spend all these resources for or no, we built it perfect for our stuff. We're fine. And I think it's this initial moment of letting them know we're not here to change all of that. We're here to work with what you've already built to make it even more useful to your users. Because going back to the fact that no one's engaging with your apps, or not engaging with them enough, where you feel like you're getting the value back about an investment, we might be able to help you turn that tide, because now they're engaging with it. They're getting the data, they're automating it. So there's just initial trust burden. I think once they've worked with us enough, they've talked to us enough, they've got over the fact that we're not trying to compete with them, actually, we're trying to bolster their brand in the eyes of their clients. Because imagine, you know, you own a, Product A or product B, you know, this or that. And I'm trying not to name names just to make sure I'm being you know, very agnostic here. And then you say, Well, you know what, they already integrate uptime health, too. I might go with product AMB, because it's already in the single pane of glass I want to live in. And I can make sure that that product A or B is always up and running and always doing its best job because I'm managing it through this tool as well.

So we're making sure that their products are never breaking down in his office is always having a good reputation as much as we can. So it's really once they realize we're here to meet good actors as much as we can be. Then we're starting to get all the wins. And that's why we really have products today and vendors lined up to start integrating with us.

So we're, we're excited. There's a lot of early just, you know, maybe fear or just non trustworthiness, which is completely understandable. But I will say the dental industry is this phenomenon, the fact that when they see something that they believe will actually support and benefit a dentist owner, especially the manufacturer, they're going to do it and that's why they're signing up with us today.

NL: Well, wonderful. Well, Jinesh Patel Is there anything I haven't asked you about that you think people should know about Uptime Health and what you're bringing to the healthcare industry?

JP: Oh, no, I think I just leave people with the message of new products and tools and technologies. We're here to help support and automate your life as much as we can, and if we're not doing that we're not doing our job. We build products with our clients, so every feature or function you see in our tool was actually born out of the idea of a client of ours, because we want to build with our users. We're not trying to build something and say, this is what you need to use. We're trying to say you've told us this is the problem, here's a solution we've created to hopefully solve that problem. So I think when you engage with us or other vendors that are kind of new technology, treat him like that, because we're actively listening and I think we're all gonna make the world a better place, truly. I know that sounds altruistic, but I honestly believe the vendors I've seen in the dental space are really looking for what's going to benefit the dental office.

NL: Wonderful, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your and Uptime Health's story.

JP: Appreciate it. Thanks.

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