A world-class entrepreneur in healthcare, software and AI, having benefited from years of experience and gifted with a knack for invention, Dr. Yan Katsnelson is at the forefront of next-gen medical intervention.
A highly skilled surgeon, having been part trained at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Katsnelson also served as faculty attending cardiac surgeon at the University of Chicago Hospitals prior to becoming a business owner.
Now, as founder and CEO of USA Clinics Group, a network of one of the largest outpatient healthcare clinics in the United States (which he owns and operates with his wife of 25 years Dr. Flora Katsnelson), and founder of healthcare software platform PracticeCompass, Dr. Katsnelson has parleyed years of accumulated knowledge and a clear passion for streamlined and effective healthcare operations into a patient-first focus with significant cost-saving implications.
Here, in his own words, Dr. Katsnelson talks about how inspiration and innovation will lead to less intrusive and more cost-effective patient care in the future…
Practicing medicine comes with extraordinary responsibility, trust and privilege.
STARTING ON THE ROAD TO MEDICAL INNOVATION
I remember, at the age of 12, seeing my mother, who was a chief of radiology, at work. I was amazed how physicians could save a patient’s life with knowledge, decision-making, courage and the miracle of intervention. That’s what drove me towards medicine.
After finishing medical school in Russia at the age of 22, I went to Israel and started a career in heart surgery. To me, it was a miracle to be able to take a broken heart and fix it. Practicing medicine comes with extraordinary responsibility, trust and privilege.
I had practiced heart surgery for more than 20 years before I expanded to other fields of medicine and, over that time, I saw how innovation brought about revolutionary change transforming many previously uncertain surgeries into very safe, predictable, effective, routine procedures.
My fellowship was at the Brigham Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston, an extraordinary institution led by the amazing late Dr. Lawrence Cohn, who was one of the pioneers in the field of minimally invasive heart valve repair surgery. My time there was very encouraging because I saw how small-incision surgeries made it easier on the patient. After that, I moved to the University of Chicago, where I was on the faculty for two years before starting a private heart surgery practice.
This progress of surgery towards minimally invasive surgery first and then towards percutaneous procedures offers incredible opportunity to accessible and affordable care. So, with my wife, Dr Flora Katsnelson, we opened USA Clinics in Chicago where I live and later expanded to New York, Boston, Los Angeles and many other metropolitan areas.
At the moment, we have about 170 locations across almost 30 states and 65% of the entire US population is within driving distance of any of our locations. We focus on very common conditions such as vascular diseases, fibroids, and others. I think the secret of our success is that we positioned ourselves to help more patients by focussing on a cure, instead of spending money and wasting time on providing unnecessary care. The goal is to stop wasting resources and enable people to live the best version of their lives.
A VISION OF HEALTHCARE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD
The global adoption of the stratagems and practices that we have developed is our next goal. If we continue with the same healthcare practices then everywhere in the world (and especially in the US), will see a dramatic increase in the cost of patient care. Soon, no country will be able to afford 30-40% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare and no employer will be able to afford 30-40% of payroll on health insurance, so things need to change fast.
Our USA Longevity Centers, for example, are based on the belief that not only improving but prolonging lives is an engineering problem, not a science problem. Just as mechanical parts need regular maintenance to ensure they don’t suffer from fatigue; the human body similarly deteriorates if certain things are missed. That’s when we usually start complaining to the doctors, but often when this happens, it’s too late.
In developed countries today, 70-75% of deaths are preventable if you catch them early enough. Out of this number half of the deaths are from heart disease and half is from cancers. Most people die from heart disease mostly because they just don’t know about their condition. If they catch it early enough, there are so many amazing treatments available. The same goes for cancer, by definition, stage one is curable. It’s so localised, that if it’s removed early, patients can live normal lives again like they never had cancer in the first place.
So that leads us to the idea that if we diagnose things much earlier and apply well-known and acceptable treatments, you can dramatically increase life expectancies. The science already exists, it’s just a case of being able to identify these healthcare issues in their early stages for as many patients as possible and giving them access to the appropriate care.
We don’t need to wait until the rules of the games change, we just need to drive the change ourselves.
PROVIDING BETTER HEALTHCARE THROUGH DATA
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, will healthcare industry will remain as responsive in the future to such need for innovation? I don’t know. I would like to think so.
The reality is that healthcare is a tremendous business. It’s a major part of the GDP in most countries. It has rules, incentives and big players, and they don’t change unless they have to.
So, I believe more and more we have to innovate without changing the whole system. We don’t need to wait until the rules of the games change, we just need to drive the change ourselves and work with all parties to educate and make things possible.
According to Campden Wealth’s European Family Office Report 2022, tech continues to be a draw for European family offices, with 46% of respondents investing in healthcare tech. That can only be a good thing, as I believe technology improves lives whether it is diagnostic technology, management technology, medication technology or AI, it all makes things more predictable, better, faster and cheaper.
We implement technology in our organisation in a very unusual way. I tell people that we are actually a software company that delivers medical care. We have almost 100 software engineers and a team that has already been working for 12 years developing and continuing to improve healthcare operating systems.
An effective healthcare operating system is when all the decisions are made based on data, best practices and rules. When we started, it was considered a strange idea, but if you document every single thing and put our knowledge into structural data then you can have extremely predictable high-quality outcomes with the lowest cost.
So, we developed a system for patient education where we talk about different options. We can manage those educational campaigns thousands of times over, automatically like an option trading desk, and we can understand things in real time. That data can then be directed to someone to provide a better experience for the patient. This technology didn’t exist when we started, so we had to create it from scratch.
We advanced the electronic medical record system with structural data so that everything made sense. We added a medical guidelines system that knows what needs to be done in every single situation, in this way the computer can assist doctors make the right decision for the most appropriate and cost-effective treatment plans individualised for the patient. Obviously, the doctor can make the final decision, but when you can accelerate the time taken to aggregate and analyse the data to an instant, that is hugely beneficial in enabling the doctor to swiftly identify the correct course of action.
THE FUTURE OF MEDICAL INNOVATION
As an entrepreneur, I have to be very optimistic about the future. I think over the next ten years of healthcare, we’ll be creating and redefining how we think about health and medicine. The lessons of COVID taught us that, if there is a necessity, things can change instantaneously.
I hope that this common-sense foundation of doing what needs to be done with minimal red tape will help us to further develop early diagnosis testing and provide minimal invasive cures.
Basically, I want to give patients a security with warranty, a simple and regular test that will predict their health for the next five years – you will come to our USA Longevity Centers and have a scan and then follow the recommendations. I think we’ll see that medical science will develop better treatments for conditions discovered in their early stages and to further improve the outcomes.
I think we are about to see a tremendous progress to extend and improve life without burdening society… and it’s right around the corner.
From a personal perspective, my wife, Flora, and I have identical twin daughters, Elise and Beatrice. Who, at the age of 22, we’re blessed to say love hard work and they are in medical school now. Through their own specialisms, they’re thinking about how to solve big problems. They’re part of a next generation aiming to further improve the science and practice of medicine. That gives me tremendous hope that the next generation will far exceed our work and move us faster to better healthcare for all.