Surgery can be a stressful time for some patients – but two Duke faculty entrepreneurs are working to alleviate that.

Ziad Gellad, a gastroenterologist, and Nandan Lad, a neurosurgeon, are both clinicians and associate professors at Duke. The two were introduced through Duke connections after grants they submitted separately through the Duke Institute for Health Innovation (DIHI) revealed they both had an interest in patient engagement.

Lad brought Gellad on board the startup he and another cofounder had created, Higgs Boson LLC. The company is focused on creating innovative products for doctors, patients, and hospitals.

Although Higgs Boson LLC has been fully operational for less than a year, it has already rolled out its first product: an app called Manage My Surgery.

Manage My Surgery helps patients plan for their procedures with features such as a detailed question and answer bank, a task list, and push notification reminders. Lad said that this information is usually given to patients at appointments or by mail, but the app makes the process more efficient and aims to turn patients into better consumers of healthcare.

“We thought there was an opportunity to help make patients more engaged and help make the surgery process more smooth,” Lad said. “We found that technology was a very scalable way to do that – not just at Duke, but across the U.S. and internationally.”

Not only does the app help patients, but it also helps health systems. Once patients are better educated about their procedures, there is less likely to be lost revenue from missed follow-up appointments or negative patient satisfaction scores.

Gellad said that every clinician or nurse they talk to sees the value in Manage My Surgery. The app is currently in use at Duke, and the team is working on implementing it elsewhere.

The fact that the app was created by clinicians also adds to its value, Gellad said.

“This is really driven by problems we see every day,” he said.

Gellad, who is also the associate vice chair for clinical innovation in the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, said that entrepreneurship in the healthcare space is important because “it’s going to allow us to tackle important problems much faster than if we rely on existing structures.”

Entrepreneurship also offers a creative outlet for faculty members, he said.

Lad added that innovation and entrepreneurship is a way for clinicians to maximize their impact.

“Many of us are driven by making a difference and impacting the highest number of patients,” he said. “You can do that by being a busy clinician and doing hundreds of surgeries per year, but if you can help change standard of care, you can impact many more patients.”
Although Lad and Gellad have started with what they know – neurosurgery and GI procedures – they plan to add team members with different specialty areas as the app grows.

Working on Manage My Surgery has also afforded them the opportunity to hire undergraduate interns, giving the two professors a chance to interact with students they wouldn’t normally see.

Lad also co-taught the Biodesign course offered by the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, along with Joe Knight, CEO of InnAVasc.

Lad said both he and Gellad are glad to be part of the burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Triangle and grateful to be working at Duke, a place that encourages innovation.

“Innovation builds on the value clinicians can provide,” Lad said. “By being innovative, they can focus on not only caring for patients, but actually making the healthcare system better.”

To learn more about Manage My Surgery, watch this video.

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