Omar Fuentes (CEO, accel-EQ)
Omar serves as the CEO for accel-EQ, based in Tampa out of Embarc Collective. He is responsible for the overall creation, planning, implementation, and strategic direction of the company. Omar served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps and has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry working for some of the largest healthcare companies. He holds several Agile designations and attended Syracuse University’s IVMF Program for Project Management.
Can you explain your job to a five-year-old?
I help doctors pay more attention to their patients by having a robot listen in on the conversation and take notes.
What excites you most about your job?
One of the things that excites me is that we're finally filling a need that has been missed. So, I think there's a lot of technology that's out there that tries to help in various different areas, but for whatever reason, we keep on overstepping or missing the mark on helping to truly reduce the physician burnout directly related to these administrative and bureaucratic tasks. So, that's one part.
The other part is I get to work with some really cool individuals on our team that I think are just as excited as I am about solving this issue.
There is a third one, though. I get to actually solve an issue that a lot of patients are unfortunately dealing with on a consistent basis. They want their doctors to pay more attention to them when they're having that interaction, and we get to help them do that.
From our perspective, we can get patients excited now about improving their outcomes because their provider spends years upon years going to school and then years practicing, and then they finally get to execute that care. It's extremely important for the patient to know that, hey, listen, now they can operate at the higher end of their education and of their training. And then now, we can really solve some significant problems. And, ultimately, while we promote that we help reduce physician burnout, there's the downstream impact. It's ultimately improving patient outcomes is where we want to be, but the only way to get there is to help the physician, to help medical providers.
Which trend will change the future of medicine?
I mean, obviously, I'm biased. We have not even scratched the surface of what AI or machine learning can actually do within healthcare, I think.
There's definitely some resistance from a patient perspective and a provider perspective.
You know, we kind of equate it to: if we don't have self-driving cars yet, you can get into an accident easily if you don't pay attention. So, I need to have my hands on the wheel. I think that needs to be embraced more: the fact is that, when it comes to medicine specifically, AI is not meant to be a replacement, it is meant to be an enhancement.
We deal with technology a lot today. Just across the spectrum, providers modify their workflows to meet the needs or the capabilities of technology when it should be vice versa. It should be the technology supporting the workflow or enhancing the workflow of a provider. Depending on what type of medical provider you are—a specialist or general practitioner or behavioral health, whatever it may be—there's a specific way that they do business in the way that they flow with their patients, the needs that their patients have.
So, I personally believe that AI will be able to—the more we use it— learn a significant amount. And we tell it when to stop—it's not that AI's just going to go crazy, and that's it. We need to have that control. We do need to have the hand on the wheels, but then we have the ability to multitask and not worry about crashing and burning, so to speak.
So, I think AI is going to make a significant contribution to a couple of things. One is that there's a significant concern about a reduction in medical providers in the workforce. Especially primary care practitioners. I think it'll slow that down and hopefully even make it better because people will start getting excited about medicine again. And I think, secondly, that we'll be able to get to a diagnosis and a treatment plan much quicker. As an example, we'll be able to get to stage one cancer versus stage three or four. To say: we caught it, we got it. You don't have to go through as aggressive treatment now, you know, and then we can keep an eye on it, because of improvements in the workflow creating greater efficiency.
And then the last thing is that patients will be far more engaged, and they'll be able to make better decisions prior to even going to the doctor. And I think that that's where we kind of fail today. We don't take personal responsibility for our own health. We already have so much information at our fingertips, we just need to be able to have it in a digestible format. I think that's what's going to end up happening.
Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated?
What immediately comes top of mind is electronic health records. The influence that they have is far greater than we, I don't want to say anticipated, but accounted for.
We already know, in general, they're extremely complex. They don't, you know, most providers don't really leverage EHRs to the extent that they should probably. One of the top issues that we researched on physician burnout is dealing with electronic health records. It's one of the largest ones. They're just overly complex. And if you're a hospital system, then you have the resources to dedicate a team to work within the EHR and then educate providers.
The other thing, though, is the fact that they do have some features and functionalities.
We have a customer now that said it took them a year to essentially ramp up to get to a place that, within their EHR, they could finally be efficient in documentation and taking notes. But they figured it out. And because they spent so much time and effort in doing so, now it's kind of like, “Well, we don't know if we want to introduce something else now.”
Honestly, in my mind, I guess I had originally thought like, “Hey, these guys and gals are tired of dealing with the EHRs, right?”
They're still complex and this and that, but then we didn't necessarily give enough weight to the idea that, well, once they figure it out, how can we make sure that we insert ourselves in without adding any more complexity to it? Because they just finished getting through that hurdle after a year or two years.
I think the issue is the mental blockers, but that's where we're working to better enhance our story. How do we convey our value proposition to you without you immediately thinking complexity, complexity, complexity? Versus, “Oh, I can see how you guys are making it better for us, I can see how taking a step to the right may actually help, you know, improve my workflow. So, that's what we're working on as a startup as well, we're always refining our message.
Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention?
One of the things that's always in the back of my mind is interoperability. We want to participate in it. We don't want to solve the whole problem. We don't believe that one company can solve all the problems. If we have the ability to all work together, it’s going to be more beneficial for patients and for the medical providers who are effectuating that care.
Where would you put a million dollars?
Honestly, my immediate reaction is I would probably start a fund to help other veteran entrepreneurs start businesses. So, me being a veteran and also Hispanic and things like that—the whole underrepresentation thing—I didn't realize how true of a statement it really was until I started my company. So, there was a little bit of ignorance on my side. I think it makes us stronger and better and we can create more sustainable, profitable companies. But I think that there needs to be a starting point, right? So, to me, that's probably where I would put it—either start a fund or work with another organization that has that infrastructure already put in place.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
That's easy. Don't quit.
That, to me, is like 90% or 80% of it. You know, being a veteran as well, going through boot camp and all these other schools and then being out in the field and stuff like that, it's always like, you know, find the grit and the discipline to become sustainable, right? To just be able to continue to move forward. So that's probably the biggest advice I would give.