Fenil Shah, and his wife, Vibha, of Barrington are the founders of a new startup software company, Saralsoft LLC, which is developing a series of online simulation medical trainings known as eMedSimulations.
The idea for the new business was developed from one of their son's interest in scuba diving, and a training course he had to take. Medical training, they discovered, is often expensive and inefficient, and has been slow to integrate online educational methods. They decided to create a interactive online learning platform for medical training.
Previously, the Shahs had successfully developed and then sold Isarla Inc., popularly known as iEmployee.com.
Providence Business News talked with Fenil Shah about the challenges of creating a new software startup in Rhode Island.
PBN: As a software entrepreneur – having developed and then sold a very successful company, iEmployee.com – what led you to develop eMedSimulations, focused on interactive simulation for medical education? What attracted you to this sector?
SHAH: Around 2008, I sold a partnership business offering Web-based HR and timesheet services and began my search for the next best idea to start another business.
My son Romil, who was in high school during those days, was looking for a project to showcase his interest in medicine. This coincided with the national debate on television about rising health care costs, which also caught our attention.
His interest in scuba diving led us to the pursuit of a training course in Florida. While doing additional inquiries, we realized that diving medicine is part of a broad clinical specialty called hyperbaric medicine. This training was not only expensive and inefficient but also lengthy and ineffective.
On further research we found that many medical and surgical trainings were either too expensive or ineffective. This made me believe that there is an opportunity to provide medical training that is not only comprehensive and effective but cheap, easilyavailable, and - at the same time - more engaging and easy to understand. This was the birth of eMedSimulations.
PBN: What do you see as the potential market? The target audience?
SHAH: I see tremendous prospects in health care training activities, including decision-based simulations, for two reasons. Traditionally, medical education has always been very expensive, which is being addressed with this model. And, there is much less penetration of automation and e-learning into medical training that has not [yet] been leveraged. The target markets for this business are medical colleges, hospitals, residents, doctors, paramedics and nurses.
PBN: Your initial simulation focuses on diagnosing and treating a pneumothorax, commonly known as a collapsed lung. Can you describe the process?
SHAH: Tension pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung, is a life-threatening condition that, if not treated correctly, will lead to death of the patient. It is defined as presence of air in the pleural cavity that compresses the lung, heart and great vessels present in pleural cavity.
The simulation offers many opportunities to users that extend far beyond the traditional lecture, classroom or mannequin-based training. It offers them the challenge to take on a new role, learn by doing, and to make clinical decisions in a safe virtual environment.
The simulation is designed to teach the users, the assessment and diagnosis of tension pneumothorax. The mainstay of the simulation is its ability to show the correct position and technique for emergency treatment of tension pneumothorax in an interactive and intuitive way.
PBN: What are the next steps for the company? Do you have timetable?
SHAH: We plan to first prove the concept for our initial set of Hyperbaric Suite of Products through approximately 100 users. We will follow this with a launch of Emergency Medicine Suite and then porting all product suites to other platforms such as iPhone, iPad, etc. At some point, we will raise outside money and start growing exponentially.
PBN: What are the advantages – and disadvantages – of launching a startup in Rhode Island? Do you see the new Knowledge District in Providence as an important asset?
SHAH: Being closer to good universities and Boston (without getting all negatives of big city) and access to medical as well as software professionals, at lower costs compared to national averages, is a big advantage. Moreover, our CTO, Jeff Dumas, who prefers to reside in Rhode Island, is also quite easily accessible. High taxes are a negative. Lack of access to some entrepreneur groups, compared to Boston, is negative.