Modern Health-tech and Building a Startup During a Pandemic, with Arya co-founder Dr. Sam Gharbi
Healthcare is always evolving and the leading professionals bring innovation to the industry which drives it forward for the better. Dr. Sam Gharbi is a practicing physician that is obsessed with leading the healthcare industry forward. Dr. Gharbi and two of his fellow doctors and friends developed a startup which has disrupted and changed the game within healthcare; Arya Health. The legacy EHR’s out there are overloaded, hard to navigate, and not intuitive at all leaving most physicians feeling frustrated, and causing time and resources to be wasted. Arya Health addresses this headache by providing a simple to use, innovative, and cost-effective electronic health record alternative.
What is your professional background and how did you come to co-found Arya Health?
I am a physician specializing in internal medicine. Throughout the course of my medical training I was frustrated with inefficiencies within the healthcare system that led to suboptimal and substandard patient care. The entire system is swiss cheese and there’s just too much room for human error when in fact much of the day to day can be automated. That’s what drove me to get a masters degree in clinical informatics. I wanted to learn more about improving healthcare through technology, and then once I began working as a staff physician I contacted my good friends and colleagues Rich Sztramko and Rich Vandegriend and together we founded Arya Health.
What makes you so passionate about improving digital healthcare systems?
It keeps me up at night and I think about how to make things better every day. It bothers me to see how painfully inefficient and unnecessarily difficult it can often be to provide high quality care within our current healthcare ecosystem. Most of the technology that we are using is grossly outdated, and poorly designed. It actually has made us less efficient in healthcare, and I've seen my colleagues actually resist change as a result. But I know we can do better.
Arya has two other co-founders, what is your role amongst the three?
The three of us work intimately together when it comes to making major decisions about the company and product. We have amazing chemistry when it comes to decision making and problem resolution. It really is an amazing experience to be able to have such a relationship with two of my closest friends who happen to also be my co-founders. That being said, as Arya has grown we have each delegated managing different parts of the company. I oversee Product Design and Development with our team of developers, managers, designers and interns who are an amazingly talented group of people. I help the team triage through ideas from users and transition from ideas to actually building them out and incorporating them in growing our existing product and functionality.
Do you feel the fact that Arya is run by physicians makes a difference in the healthcare space?
It makes all the difference. In my opinion if you’re designing a race car, you would ideally want someone who knows how to drive one to be involved in the project instead of somebody who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. There are intricacies there that only that person will understand and know to look for in design. The main problem I see with healthcare technology and why it’s so poorly designed is because it’s been built by business people and developers, who aren’t the actual end users who interact with the product. That’s why the tools we have had historically are just so poorly designed to meet our needs.
Being a co-founder of a healthcare startup during the pandemic must have brought some unique challenges. What were some specific challenges for you and what did you have to overcome?
The pandemic has definitely been challenging, especially for folks in healthcare. When it broke out, it all happened so rapidly and it exposed the shortcomings in our healthcare system when it comes to technology and delivery of care. Many people weren’t able to access their records as they were on paper charts, or on electronic charts that weren’t cloud based. Since so many clinics and offices shut down, healthcare practitioners didn’t have access to their computers at work with their EHRs, or even their fax machines that they’re so dependent on. Thankfully to their credit, the BC government, and Canadian government at large, did an incredible job of enabling physicians to provide the necessary care through different means. From novel and innovative ones like telehealth to ones that have been around forever like the telephone (and yes, we weren’t readily allowed to use either of these to provide care for our patients in most places in the country until the pandemic). So in some ways the pandemic has been a blessing to help accelerate change and improvements in healthcare in this country, while also creating new challenges.
Using your experience in bringing innovative healthcare products to the market, where do you believe the digital healthcare space is moving towards in the coming years?
Well, to be honest if you had asked me this question 10 or 15 years ago, I would have thought we would be much more advanced than we currently are. We are still using fax machines and pagers. The bulk of the EHRs out there were built 20 years ago and they haven’t been updated. Most of our hospitals in this country are still on paper charts. Innovation and progress has been moving at a snail's pace in healthcare over the course of my career so far, as medicine is a very conversative field. It’s somewhat confusing because, dealing with people’s health & lives, you would think we would be much more open to new technologies that help improve infrastructure and logistics for providing better care. So, all that being said, although I’m an optimist in that we are moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction, I’m also a realist in that I don’t see as much transformational change as I think is possible within the next 10 years. But I’m hopeful that Arya can be part of that positive change for our patients, and our colleagues
Interested in learning more?
Dr. Gharbi was recently featured in the Vancouver Tech Journal:
You can also follow Dr. Gharbi here on LinkedIn:
Arya EHR is an electronic health record system built by physicians for physicians and it helps manage your patient records simply, intuitively, and efficiently. The technology used in providing healthcare is antiquated, slow, overly complex, and overpriced. Arya’s philosophy is to build technology for physicians that is beautiful, intuitive, easy to use, saves you headaches and saves you money. Interested in a demo, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our contact form at www.aryaehr.com/contact