UT students launch startup to streamline patient health data management

Hojun Choi

Radio-television-film senior Auston Anon was sitting on his couch watching a science fiction film when he joked to his friends that they should create a company that would change the way hospitals collect and use patient data.

“I don’t remember what movie it was, but basically this idea just popped into my head,” Anon said. “Why is it so hard for patients to interact with the current health information system?”

His joke snowballed from his couch into reality when he and his friends launched Vitality Systems Software, a health data startup, in January. The company’s platform lets patients keep an online database of their own medical records and information, such as immunization forms and prescription records. Users would be able to log on to their account, much like an Instagram or Facebook account.

“Part of the impetus in our business is to allow consumers to control and grow their own medical records,” said economics sophomore Mack Dowdall, the company’s chief financial officer.

At the time, Anon had recently recovered from an illness and said he was frustrated with having to provide multiple physicians the same information about his health each time he dealt with a different doctor.

“It was the remnants of an antiquated system,” Anon said.

In addition to streamlining the process with which patient information is handled, Dowdall said the platform could also help people manage their own health.

“Users can see what affects them in certain ways,” Dowdall said. “They can look at what trends they would like to decrease and look at what trends they would like to pick up.”

Other companies are also trying to find more efficient ways of handling patient data, but Dowdall said Vitality Systems is different because it puts the flow of patient information into the hands of the patient rather than a third party.

Management information systems junior Charles Meehan, the company’s chief information officer, said the platform would minimize security threats to patient data through separating user account information from their health records.

“We’re dealing with people’s personal data,” Meehan said. “The technology model that we’re looking at establishes our data storage so that people’s personal data and their personal identity are segregated.”

In order for a hospital or third party to access any information, Meehan said the patient would have to acknowledge and approve the flow of that data through the company’s platform.

“We believe giving the patient the ability to control the flow of their data also helps them protect it,” Meehan said.

Anon said that the University has been a great resource for him and his team, and others who are choosing a more entrepreneurial route to success instead of looking to climb the corporate ladder.

“I really value my college education, but if I have an opportunity to make my own way I’m going to take it,” Anon said.

Louise Epstein, managing director of the innovation center at the Cockrell School of Engineering, said the center is in the process of helping the team focus their idea to bring it to market.

“They are very impressive and ambitious, but our effort at the innovation center is to get them to focus on a reasonable business plan so that they can start making money sooner rather than later,” Epstein said.