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MD Idea Lab: Bringing Physician-Led Innovation Into the Clinic


MD Idea Lab companies participate in a local hackathon. Photo via MD Idea Lab.

John Hayes describes himself as a “technology guy from way back.” A veteran of Thinking Machines, one of the world’s first supercomputing companies, Hayes got the start-up bug early; he also helped to found Geek Offices, one of the country’s first “co-working” facilities.

When he arrived in the Boston area with his family in 2010, Hayes knew that he wanted to make a difference – more than just making back office processes more efficient, and more than helping to decrease health insurance premiums. “I came to the realization that I should be devoting my efforts and energies in ways that would create overall goodness for the world,” he says.

Part of that goodness is the work he’s doing with MD Idea Lab, where he’s co-founder and CEO. The MD Idea Lab helps physicians and nurse innovators to put their solutions into the hands of the clinical teams who can use them to improve the practice of medicine.

Today, Hayes and his MD Idea Lab co-founder, Dr. Steven Fitzmeyer, vet pitches from doctors and other clinicians and then help those innovators through the path of getting their businesses off the ground – and they do that from the organization’s office at UMass Boston’s Venture Development Center. To contrast his organization’s focus with Mass Challenge and some of the other organizations that ignite innovation in the Greater Boston area, Hayes says MD Idea Lab’s “sweet spot” is helping clinicians develop their products and get in front of venture capital firms.

“Being doctor-founded and having a doctor on the staff as a principal is key,” says Hayes. “Doctors are notoriously hard people to communicate with. A doctor is very highly trained. They go through life in seven-minute interviews [with patients], which are stacked up from morning to dusk. They’re used to being in a hurry. They’re used to getting a lot done in a little amount of time. And if you sit a typical business analyst in front of a doctor and ask them what they want to build, it just doesn’t work.”

With Fitzmeyer (who started his career as a software developer and then pursued his medical degree later in life) on staff, MD Idea Lab has the benefit of being led by a physician who’s also able to perform business analyst functions. And because he’s a physician, Fitzmeyer has “the chops to go toe to toe” with doctors in medical speak, too, according to Hayes. In addition to consulting services, MD Idea Lab also provides workspace, HIPAA web hosting, web design and development, mentoring and prototype development.

Two of MD Idea Lab’s early successes are Momedx, which provides a platform for communicating care plans with patients, and Treatment Scores, which uses an algorithm to determine the best possible treatment plans for patients based on medical research. Momedx’s solution is now in a clinical trial phase at a large multinational clinic that’s looking to roll it out to its entire practice, says Hayes. He’s working with the founder of Treatment Scores to secure funding through various sources, such as hackathons and an Indiegogo campaign that’s focused on creating a list of treatments for the Ebola virus infections in Africa.

“Boston is where stuff gets done,” says Hayes of the experience of working in healthcare innovation in the area. “Because we’ve got Mass General and because we’ve got Brigham & Women’s and more, we’ve got the doctor environment around here intersecting with the computer environment at MIT and elsewhere. This is where a lot of the big science comes in and meets healthcare.”

Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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