Business Speed Dating

I spent the last week in San Francisco for the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference during which 25,000 individuals from across the healthcare sector descend upon the bay area. Startups, publicly-traded companies, investors, advisors, doctors, bankers and more all come west to attend presentations and meetings by day and cocktail parties and dinners by night. My calendar was packed with back-to-back 30 minute and hour long meetings – It is a little like speed dating for business. You meet with an interesting medical device company who is looking to raise capital followed by a meeting with an investor looking for an innovative medical device company that will put his money to work. My job is to introduce the two parties in hopes that I can generate a fee on any transactions that come to fruition. So while I participate in the speed dating, I am more of the matchmaker. After a long day of meetings, the ‘festivities’ begin. Many service providing companies such as law firms, private equity firms and banks including Mesirow, will host cocktail parties, occupying all the local bars and hotels, creating what is referred to as “the circuit.” This sort of evening speed dating entails quicker discussions, often sharing more ideas to spur business and investment.

Throughout the week, we met with some pretty interesting companies and a slew of investors. One company, Medsphere, has created an open-source electronic health record platform, employing the core code built by the VA that they were able to duplicate for free by taking advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. Ironically enough, they are now pursuing a Department of Defense grant, essentially taking technology from one branch of the government and selling it to another. Another company has developed a software and service platform to offer a telepharmacy service that would save hospitals a significant amount of time and money. All the while, hospitals such as North Shore LIJ are implementing venture arms that will provide capital for new technologies that will utilized by in their network as well as others. This corporate VC model is fascinating as the investors are also major customers, adding value in twofold. Innovation is slowly but surely finding its way into the healthcare industry and it will be exciting to see the significant changes that are ahead. Conferences such as this, while hectic and fast-paced, create opportunities to share ideas and promote growth for all constituents.

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Technically, I Got a Nose Job

During my junior year of college I broke my nose in a friendly scuffle, which caused a nasal septum deviation, otherwise known as a deviated septum. I was able to partially realign the peripheral for aesthetic purposes; however, the internal configuration was out of sync, impairing my ability to breathe through my right nostril. Without knowing the extent of the internal damage, I let the wound heal itself and once the bruising subsided effectively forgot the injury ever occurred. While not evident at the time, the restricted breathing became more apparent as it led to unforeseen complications that would affect my daily life. The frequency with which I was catching colds was increasing and the severity of the symptoms was worsening; persistent sinus congestion would lead to post-nasal drip which, in turn, would cause a sore throat.

It was roughly three years after the injury when I noticed a particular cold-induced sinus blockage was lasting longer than had been typical. My girlfriend suggested that I make an appointment to meet with Madeleine Schaberg, an ear, nose and throat specialist, to address these issues. I had not realized at the time, but after speaking with Dr. Schaberg, I was informed that my deviation was likely affecting not only my immune health but also my sleep cycle; the deviated septum was likely triggering sleep apnea, a disorder caused by interruptions in normal breathing patterns, thus negatively affecting sleep habits. After I presented my pertinent medical history, she proceeded with a nasal endoscopy and examined my left nostril with relative ease, but before she could get the endoscope past the hairs of my right nostril she began to chuckle – “I think we’ve found the culprit…the deviation in your septum is causing a 95% blockage on your right side, making it nearly impossible to breathe through.”  Since the cost of that appointment covered half of my annual deductible and rates were expected to increase with the ACA legislation, my decision to elect for surgery became that much easier. Dr. Schaberg referred me to a different specialist who focuses on rhinoplasties, which are often associated with plastic surgery procedures, so technically I got a nose job. I had heard a lot of bad things about this procedure and began to do some research of my own. Despite the dissuading testimonials, I was ready to go under the knife.

The procedure itself was nothing to worry about; however, the recovery was far less than enjoyable. I was told 2-3 days would be adequate time to recover to the point at which I could return to work, yet this was far from reality. It was not the pain that created cause for concern but rather the vast amounts of blood-saturated gauze that was taped to my face that made it extremely difficult to breathe with my head upright. Both nostrils were ‘packed’ with gauze while my septum was kept stationary with plastic stents, each nearly the size of a credit card. Frankly, I was unaware these were even in there until I went for a follow-up a week or so later and the doctor told me to look away while he used pliers to yank them out. Throughout the recovery, I was concerned even the slightest of contact to my nose would again dislodge the septum. It was necessary to sleep elevated on my back and I recall attempting to roll over one night and tapping my nose to the pillow, thinking to myself that I would need to go back and redo the procedure, but according to my doctor, this turned out to have been extreme cautiousness. I took a generic form of sleep aid (without a decongestant per my doctor’s orders), which offered some nighttime relief, and I indulged in terrible daytime television throughout the day, intermittently napping, drinking lots of fluids and eating soft foods. After the third day, the recovery started to become easier as I could tackle more solid foods and sit upright for longer periods of time without too much blood rushing to my head, and after a week, once the stents were removed, other than the residual bruising, all that was left of the recovery process was occasional sensitivity and daily sinus rinsing.

It’s been almost a year now since I had the procedure and the benefits are definitely noticeable. Part of the reason I decided to move forward with the procedure was that much of the research I had found suggested that the results were life-changing and while that term is rather strong, the surgery resulted in remarkable improvements in my daily life: the quality of my sleep is noticeably better, I do not become tired as frequently during the day, and I’m now capable of breathing through both nostrils and am no longer classified as a ‘mouth-breather’. If you are contemplating getting a septoplasty to improve your nasal passages, I would highly recommend it.