In this episode, Anjali Kataria, CEO and Co-founder of Mytonomy, joins Renee at The Table as they discuss Anjali’s background as Entrepreneur in Residence with the FDA as well as how her work as an entrepreneur in the tech space led her to create Mytonomy. Anjali shares about Mytonomy and how it focuses on interacting with healthcare patients by providing engaging, relative, diverse, and trustworthy video instruction that relieves some of the educational burden from healthcare workers. The episode concludes with a discussion on leadership and leading during a season of fast-paced growth for an organization.
Anjali brings two decades of healthcare and technology experience as both an entrepreneur and executive, having started and run various software and services companies including Conformia Software, an enterprise Product Lifecycle Management company acquired by Oracle in 2009. Prior to Mytonomy, Anjali served as Senior Technology Advisor and Entrepreneur in Residence (“EIR”) in the Obama Administration and at the US Food and Drug Administration (2011-2013).
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Renee DeSilva 0:06
Welcome back to the Academy Table. I’m Renee DeSilva, CEO of The Academy and your host. In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of speaking to Anjali Kataria, the CEO and Co-founder of Mytonomy. Mytonomy is a video-based patient engagement and education company. As you’ll hear, Anjali is a true veteran of enterprise software and serial entrepreneurship, both from the private sector and also from her time working on cloud solutions and tech innovations at the FDA. I had several takeaways from my conversation with Anjali. First, I was struck by Anjali’s experience at the FDA where she worked on several 6-month, intensely mission-focused projects. To me, it demonstrates how diverse stakeholders, in this case, public and private sectors, can accelerate progress through collaboration. Next, to produce their short-form videos, Mytonomy has an in-house film studio. Listen to the power of pairing creatives, technologists, and health experts. It allows patients to more deeply engage with their health while also helping clinicians by encouraging education from outside the traditional four walls. Finally, her reflections on leadership. She keeps the focus on what you can control like attitude and effort instead of just the scoreboard. So with that, let’s head to The Table.
Renee DeSilva 1:36
Anjali, so happy to have you join us today at The Table. Thank you so much for joining us.
Anjali Kataria 1:40
Thank you, Renee, for having me. I’m looking forward to it.
Renee DeSilva 1:43
There’s so much ground to cover with you. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know you as a friend and colleague, but I’d love to just back up a bit before we jump into what you’re up to these days at Mytonomy. Would you just tell us a little bit about your role as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the FDA during the Obama administration?
Anjali Kataria 2:00
Sure, happy to jump into that. Gosh, that was 10 years ago and such a wonderful group of people. My time in the Obama administration was characterized by working with phenomenally talented people, both who came in through appointments but perhaps even more importantly, all of the people that I worked with at the FDA who were civil servants. I didn’t realize what an incredibly talented civil servant base we have that sustains through multiple administrations. My role was really interesting. I came in in 2011. There was a new program, you may remember or not, it was a while ago. Obama wanted to bring private-sector individuals into government. We didn’t have a pathway for that at the time. The Entrepreneur in Residence program was pilot tested at the FDA at CDRH. It was a way to bring folks from the private sector into all of our government agencies with the FDA kind of raising their hand and going first, folks from the private sector and the academic world on projects, on a mission. These were 6 month, short appointments. I was part of the first team of 6. We had a little bunker over at CDRH. It was very military-oriented in terms of these analogies, but just a fascinating experience. We were charged with looking at how to rapidly innovate the device space for end-stage renal disease patients where the most common therapeutic agent was, unfortunately, a kidney transplant. We just didn’t have great innovation in that space. Yet, we had probably close to 20,000 patients with end-stage renal disease having kidney transplants every year. At the same time, we had a waitlist of almost 100,000 patients. This was a big problem. We created the Innovation Pathway. You might be more familiar with the Cures Act where it ended up getting codified over a couple of years into the Breakthrough Device Program. That was my first mission. I was asked to stay on as part of the EIR program. We then created PIF, Presidential Innovation Fellows. We had over 100 EIRs across multiple agencies by the time I left in 2013. I stayed at the FDA for a second tour. In that time, I also expanded my role to Senior Technology Advisor to the center director, Dr. Jeff Shuren, Devices and Radiological Health. That was a fascinating time. We were looking at innovation using new technologies, software applications is what I was mainly looking at. How could we bring in Enterprise SaaS? Ten years ago, the cloud was still relatively new and very new inside of the government. Bringing in Enterprise SaaS applications was not an easy task because we didn’t have all the regulations around it. FedRAMP and FISMA were just being crafted. We were just learning how to use the existing third-party applications at scale. Typically government agencies had built these large enterprise applications on-premise. It was a fascinating time to see and to be a part of ushering in a digital transformation in government which operates at such a big scale.
Renee DeSilva 6:06
That’s amazing. I hear thematically in that background this theme of being focused on missions. I love how you talk about that. Six months stints and then moving onto the next problem to solve. I hear a lot about activating around startups and tapping into that entrepreneurial energy and to do so with both public and private domains coming together. Talk about how that then led to the mission that you’re on now leading Mytonomy. Tell us a little bit about that journey.
Anjali Kataria 6:35
Going back to the FDA, I came into the FDA as a serial entrepreneur. I came into the FDA from Silicon Valley where I’d had two startups. My second company was acquired by Oracle. I was in the product lifecycle management space. We were an enterprise software company. I cut my teeth in the enterprise software space. In the FDA, one of my innovations, one of my tasks as Senior Technology Advisor, was to innovate around how government officials who were charged with regulating us could also adopt a second role or identity as a customer service agent to industry and the people. I was very passionate about this. I wanted us to think of ourselves in government as agents, as service agents to the people, not just regulators. Sometimes those roles can flip, but many times they don’t. That is where I started to get involved with CRM, customer relationship management, because a lot of what we needed to do from a workflow or behavior change perspective could then also be automated with the assistance of great enterprise software. The category of enterprise software can help us understand the people we serve and to be better agents in serving those people is customer relationship management software. That’s where the two worlds kind of collided. My Enterprise SaaS background and what I was trying to do then ultimately took me to the Executive Office of the President and I led Cloud First which was an informal gathering of CIOs from different agencies. It started with a handful of CIOs and over time grew to 11 CIOs of different agencies and their teams. It was a roundtable. We all shared what we were working on related to customer relationship management, related to Enterprise SaaS, related to cloud first. How could we choose cloud first over enterprise on-premise applications? How could we also think about using technology to innovate how we serve our customers, ultimately, the people and the industries that we serve?
Renee DeSilva 8:48
Let’s stay on that thread for a moment, this relationship between customer relationship management and healthcare, patient engagement, education, and then ultimately the experience. What do you think about the relationship between those various parts?
Anjali Kataria 9:05
CRM, customer relationship management, is a set of application software that helps the owner to understand their consumer, member, or patient much better and to deliver services to that individual in more effective ways. If you look historically, marketing departments have typically used CRM solutions along with HubSpot or other marketing automation tools to help reach patients old and new. They typically do this through campaigns. “Come get your mammogram,” they send you an email or they send you a flyer in the mail. Before we had software automation, we were mailing campaigns to people. “It’s time for your annual checkup or time for dental cleaning.” We’ve been running campaigns that are part of a CRM strategy, either manually, physically, and now many of those are becoming digitized. That’s probably the number one way people think of CRM. When I look at what Mytonomy is doing, we’re helping to reshape the future of patient engagement so that patients can lead healthier, happier lives and be more independent for longer and drive longitudinal engagement. Mytonomy is using CRM and expanding the use case. We’re advancing patient education. A major use case in the CRM space is that we want to reach patients and we want to engage them to either buy something new, buy a new service, or come in and take action on an appointment. We also have to educate them on what that appointment entails. We have to educate them on how to get ready for that appointment, how to go home, and how to continue the care plan and comply with their medications. The missing glue, in my mind, in my view, looking at CRM and having been in this space for more than a decade, is that education has often been overlooked as an enabler of driving high levels of activation, participation, and engagement which is ultimately what CRM is doing. CRM is helping you engage with your consumer so that you can get an outcome. That’s one of the best software categories to drive engagement. What we’re doing at Mytonomy and what I’m seeing take off is extending that vision of what CRM can do and that application software footprint into an enabler of digital transformation in the clinical workflow — helping providers, clinicians, nurses, doctors replace themselves to some extent, not entirely, but replace themselves on the mundane tasks of educating patients so that patients are getting that education when it’s most important to them, when they can absorb it. It’s not when they’re out the door at discharge and they’re trying to figure out if their spouse is pulling up the car or if there’s going to be traffic, but rather when they can go to it, when they’re about to change their wound dressing, or when they’re about to give themselves that insulin shot. They can then watch that content on Mytonomy. We can talk about content in a minute, because that’s a major part of a CRM strategy, one that we haven’t often thought of in healthcare, but other industries have valued, high-quality content.
Renee DeSilva 13:19
A lot to unpack there. If I were to play back, one of the things that resonated with me as you were talking about this is this notion of meeting patients where they are on that journey and being able to deliver that content in asynchronous ways based upon where they are and whatever their care pathway is. If you take that, how do you begin to think through the bold vision of how we begin to reimagine that instruction and experience for patients. I’ve heard Mytonomy referred to as the Netflix of healthcare by Gartner. What does that vision look like for you if you were to fast forward five years or beyond?
Anjali Kataria 13:55
Today, Mytonomy already sits on having built a team of Emmy award-winning directors, producers, scriptwriters from Universal, from Netflix, from Apple TV, from Prime who have built engaging consumer-oriented content. They’ve built TV series or series for cable, series for streaming. We’ve brought that in-house and created a film studio and looked at the top 70 therapeutic areas. We’ve already built 100 TV series with about 10-15 episodes each that could easily be on Amazon Prime, broadcast-quality, story-oriented cartoon animation, live narrative, live actors. We find that delivering that kind of content, fifty percent of us are streaming entertainment content every week. Why can’t we bring that consumer behavior into healthcare? That was the premise of Mytonomy. We think that 5 years from now streaming will be even higher than it is right now. We’ll be doing even more learning, more entertaining through streaming content. Quality of content matters. That’s where Mytonomy is growing very, very rapidly. I think in 5 years, we’ll have several thousand more episodes available of very high quality, broadcast-quality content that then is delivered through an intelligent engagement platform that understands you and understands what you’re watching when you’re watching. It’s consolidating and putting all of your information together in one place. You don’t have to go find those handouts that you were given; they’ll be in your playlist. Being able to give them tools like Mytonomy that can help save them time and elevate the conversation, elevate the quality and safety level by empowering patients to take on more of that care is the equation. In the next 5 years, we’ll see that home is becoming the epicenter of care.
Renee DeSilva 16:47
Anjali, one of the things that you mentioned was that as we meet patients on their care journey and provide high polished content to them, we’ll see the benefit of reduction in staff workload. When we talk to our members across The Academy, it does feel like the workforce pressures are at a crisis point. Talk through how you imagine the role of the work that you’re doing at Mytonomy and how that can reduce the burden on nurses and other people who are providing care.
Anjali Kataria 17:16
That’s a great question. We are in a historic situation on staffing challenges. We are seeing that Mytonomy CRM can help nurses extend their reach, which is what enterprise software does. It helps automate things that can be automated to provide greater productivity. Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll replace nurses or that we’ll replace a doctor. I’m not an entrepreneur that believes, some of the Silicon Valley VCs will say, “Oh, we’re going to eliminate doctors and nurses and we’ll go to an AI world.” I think we will have AI, but I don’t think we’ll eliminate doctors and nurses. I think what CRM and what content does is provides you the ability to take something off the shelf that’s been filmed with very, very high quality with a film studio behind it. It’s got your message, your branding, and now you’re unleashing an entire clinical unit, a clinical care unit, which is virtual, digital, and asynchronous so that patients can watch that content whenever they want. That’s where that analogy of Netflix for healthcare comes from.
Renee DeSilva 19:14
That’s great. I was going to say as you were chatting, one of the things that raised for me was the sentiment that we hear that patients who are more engaged generally have better outcomes. I wonder if you’re beginning to track any data around that. I’m wondering, given some of your data and analytics background, how do you think about being able to track that for your community?
Anjali Kataria 19:38
There are so many ways to track that. We’ve started. We have over 10 validated studies that show that more engaged patients do have better outcomes. It applies to every patient. We have people during COVID who have been telling us that our COVID content is saving lives. People are watching content because of the trust they have in their provider, their hospital who recommended it. If you think about where people get content, where do people seek medical advice from? Where do they trust the medical advice that they seek? They trust medical advice from their doctor and nurse. If our doctors and nurses are delivering via a video streaming platform with an engagement platform underneath it, then you’ve got a real winner that can save nurses and doctors time because patients will adopt it. It’s accurate information.
Renee DeSilva 21:31
On your accuracy thread, one of the things that has been animating you most recently is creating content that gets to some of the poor information that’s out in the orbit. This notion of taking some of the resources that you have and combating misinformation. Can you talk a little bit about how you focus there?
Anjali Kataria 21:51
Yes, especially with COVID. The pandemic has been a huge challenge for all of us. Yet, we don’t all fall in line and take the advice from the CDC or the FDA or our government agencies or even our news sources as truth. We are going online and deciding for ourselves what we think is true or not. One of the biggest problems in the pandemic has been this lack of trust in credible information sources and people getting their information from wherever they want to believe that it’s true. That’s where Mytonomy has been playing a role. This has been such a crisis. It’s essentially like a warzone. We’ve been producing content that then is used by hospitals to educate communities about how to stay safe during COVID — how to wear a mask, how to socially distance. It has then evolved. We keep it updated. We evolved it when we got the vaccines, helping people understand the vaccines and the science behind them. Then helping during the different stages when people could get vaccinated and as information came out about pregnancy and the fact that women who are pregnant should get the vaccine if they can. This problem of misinformation is enormous. It’s a serious challenge to how our democracy functions and whether people will live or die, as we’re seeing in COVID. Because we can produce short films, we decided to do the COVID work at no cost. We delivered it for free and we put it out on YouTube. It’s the only content we put out in a series on YouTube. We had over 3 million views in our first couple of months. Over 750,000 of those views came from watching the Spanish versions of our content.
Renee DeSilva 23:55
That’s fantastic. That’s great. All right, I want to switch gears a bit and talk about your leadership journey. In particular, let’s talk about your leadership style. My first question for you on that would be, can you reflect on how your leadership style has evolved. I think about this for myself too. I hope that I show up differently as a leader now than I did 20 years ago. I’d love any reflections that you might have on your journey.
Anjali Kataria 24:21
As we think about what influences us as a leader, for me, my biggest influences are probably that I played competitive sports in high school and I performed dance and music. Throughout my youth, even through college and grad school, I performed ballet, Indian classical dance, and piano. One of the things that I tell our team today is that leadership and winning is about what you’re able to control. What you can control are your effort and your attitude. Early on, I used to look at the scoreboard quite a bit. Early on in life, I used to look at the scoreboard. Now as a leader, I look at the effort and the attitude and I don’t look at the scoreboard. That’s where it’s a major change.
Renee DeSilva 25:35
That resonates with me. Although, I joke with my children that I was a high school debate champion. I was never quite athletic and I think debate is a sport. They give me a hard time about that.
Anjali Kataria 25:46
I agree with you. I was a high school debate champion, too. I was a Lincoln Douglas State Champion. It’s kind of funny. I can see that in you. That’s great. You’re always great with articulating a viewpoint and helping other people understand it, which is one of the things debate gives us.
Renee DeSilva 26:01
I agree, thank you for that. What about other influences? Can you talk a little bit about being the daughter of immigrant doctors, a woman of color? I think the data on the women CEOs, there are 2% of women CEOs who identify as women of color. Talk a little bit about how that journey has been for you if you would.
Anjali Kataria 26:18
When I think about that, I think about my parents. They taught me how to survive and how to thrive in the face of uncertainty. Probably this will resonate with many children of first-generation parents who immigrated here because you have to get very comfortable with not being comfortable with the status quo and living with uncertainty because you don’t have the luxury of a map that was handed down to you from generations before. You have to create your map; you have to create your path. You learn at the core to remain optimistic, to solve problems as they come, and to not get too tightly wound up, not be rigid. Not being too rigid is important. Those are some of the influences. My parents were both researchers so they’re very analytical. They’re both doctors. They left Ohio State, we were Buckeyes early on in our life, and they left Ohio State to go to Eastern North Carolina, Greenville, North Carolina to help start a medical school because they saw the opportunity of creating something bigger than where they were from the ground up. That’s where that optimism, innovation, and sense of purpose come from for me.
Renee DeSilva 28:11
That’s great. I also wonder, how has the pandemic influenced the way that you lead?
Anjali Kataria 28:18
The pandemic was a huge situation of uncertainty. It required me to be even more flexible than I ever thought I could be, to quickly adapt to new environments that were rapidly changing, emerging, and growing so quickly. We were named to the Inc 5000 list last year in 2020 and we had a 377% three-year trailing growth rate. In 2021, we had a 585% trailing growth rate. Going through that kind of growth, year over year over year during a pandemic was challenging. You’re hiring people on Zoom that you’ve never met and integrating them into the team virtually. Business, like healthcare, is about relationships. It becomes very difficult to establish real, meaningful relationships. As a leader, I had to think of new ways. I started sending out care packages. I started sending out snack boxes. That was so popular with our team.
Renee DeSilva 29:36
The power of a good snack. That’s right. You mentioned the growth path and the speed at which that has happened. Even while growth is generally a positive thing, I’ve noted at different points in my career that that can also sometimes be unsettling for teams because by definition it means that new jobs are being created, responsibilities are being shifted, probably puts a premium on communications, both the pace and frequency of that. Do you have any advice for people who are charting an aggressive growth path as a CEO?
Anjali Kataria 30:09
All of it, plus, plus. As a tech company, we were already great at remote work in several divisions, but our studio and creative teams, which is just about half our company, were not. They valued in-person work. You hear the same thing from Netflix and Peacock and other studios that are producing content, that people like to work together and work in person and collaborate because ideas beget ideas. If you’re in a creative role, you love those hallway conversations because it’s a catalyst for you to think of other things. It’s hard to do that on Zoom. It’s really hard to have that impromptu creativity. We tried things like virtual meetings. We ran a customer meeting where we all went into the Metaverse, we all had Oculus headsets. We spent two days and everybody had enormous headaches. It was great to see everybody’s avatar and there was a sense of connection in the Metaverse that’s very different from Zoom. But, I think we’re still trying to figure out some of the physical pieces of that to sustain longer meetings in those environments. You can do 30-45 minutes and that’s about it for a large group because everybody’s physical toleration is still very different. We’re still kind of figuring that out. You can do cocktail hours and learn about making pizza together remotely. It’s just not the same. We’re humans and we like that human connection. We’re storytellers. We want to interact with each other physically. Although we’re great at Zoom and we’re great at remote work as a software and tech company, I think when you bring diverse groups of teams together, especially in big companies, you start to see the differences. Not everybody does great on Zoom. We’ve got to find new hybrid ways. We’ve opened our office back up and I think bringing people in for retreats and department meetings and having longer time together is helping as we re-engage in in-person meetings and communications.
Renee DeSilva 32:19
You know, the core of what we spend our time on at The Academy is bringing together folks in curated sessions. I was just in Palm Beach earlier this year with our finance executives. We probably had 100 people gathered and we did it in appropriate, socially distanced ways and such, but there is such an appetite for people to come back together and begin to reconnect. I share that with you. I’ve got two final questions for you. One is one that I ask all of my guests, but one is tailor-made for you. You are in the content business and we’ve talked about the Netflix analogy a bit. On your quiet days when you’re trying to reset, do you binge-watch any content that you would share?
Anjali Kataria 33:00
Oh my gosh, absolutely. I love Silicon Valley. I think I binge-watched it probably twice. There were so many accuracies there that were hilarious to see having, you know, grown up in the early part of my career in Silicon Valley. My husband, who’s also co-founder with me at Mytonomy, was ex-Google. We just really laughed at that. I love to watch Ted Lasso; I love A Million Little Things. I love some of these shows. My son is now 12 and in seventh grade and we find a good show, a whole series, and then watch it together. I love it.
Renee DeSilva 33:37
It’s awesome. I’m adding Silicon Valley to my list. I have not seen that series. My final question, one that I asked all of my guests, is if you could invite two people for a conversation at a table that you curated, who would they be and why?
Anjali Kataria 33:52
Well, I would invite Malcolm Gladwell or Dan Ariely or Dan Pink. I love behavioral economists of our time. I loved reading Outliers. I’m reading David and Goliath now. I love Dan Ariely’s work at Duke as a professor of psychology and behavioral economics. Not only do I find these kinds of researchers interesting, but I think understanding rational and irrational behavior in the context of healthcare is really important. As a tech entrepreneur, we’re trying to solve challenges that ultimately come down to human behavior.
Renee DeSilva 34:38
I love that. Well, Anjali, I hope that you and I will be around a physical table at some point together in person soon, but until then, it was really lovely catching up with you today.
Anjali Kataria 34:47
It was lovely. Thank you so much, Renee.
Renee DeSilva 34:50
Thanks again for joining me at The Table. The Table is a podcast produced by the Health Management Academy. Make sure you catch future episodes by visiting our website theacademytable.com or by subscribing on the podcast platform of your choice. If you have suggestions for topics or guests, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to talking with you soon.