Meet Blake – The Researcher

By Blake Marggraff, CEO; HIMSS Champion of Health

Blake is a CEO at a startup in St. Louis. He researches solutions to his biggest challenges by using a variety of mental models and employing the scientific method. His favorite part of his work is creative problem-solving through experimentation and learning from both successes and failures.

My team and I rely on our passions, superpowers and personal visions to solve challenges and uncover opportunities.

I start the day with exercise, usually only an hour or so in my apartment’s gym, and a run through the park across the street if the weather is nice. Then, barring any early off-site meetings, it’s straight to the office. We’re based in the heart of St. Louis’s innovation district, Cortex, and I’m grateful to work in such an intellectually and aesthetically energizing space. Coffee, yogurt and walking meetings start the workday around 8:00 am, with one-on-one meetings and key discussions peppering the week. As a venture-backed startup, at least a few hours each week go toward calls with current and potential investors, alongside discussions with sales and current partners.

It’s a privilege to work alongside my team members. We all have our own passions, superpowers and personal visions. We discuss wins, challenges and opportunities in our Friday all-hands meetings, which help maintain transparency and grow a sense of momentum, and keep our internal processes and cultural elements well aligned.

I really enjoy digging into tough problems.

When we encounter tough problems – which happens pretty frequently – I really enjoy digging in and applying a variety of mental models to the discovery and ideation processes. Since we’re a startup, most of our “solutions” to problems are just hypotheses. That means that experimentation is a major part of our problem-solving process, and we learn from success and failure alike. Whether it’s clinical research, a new user interface, or the latest marketing campaign, everything we do is driven by the scientific method, with a quantitative, time-based outcome and clearly defined assumptions.

By the (usually not-so-early) evening, I’ll wrap up and head to a local climbing gym for an hour or two. The best part about climbing is that while you’re four clips up and going for a tiny crimp with bad feet, you can’t think about anything else – the stresses of the day take a back seat, at least for a couple minutes. The end to a productive day is usually the same: podcasts. I work with people who are intentional about learning and personal growth, and my subscriptions cover subjects from economics to art and, of course, lots of healthcare.

One of the biggest challenges is asking the right question.

My company is focused on a deceptively simple issue: asking the right question… the right question to understand trends in a patient’s symptomatology and chronic conditions; the right question to deliver actionable insights (not just a boatload of data) to providers; the right question to create a valuable predictive model that will eliminate utilization weeks or months in the future; etc.

My motivation is having a measurable impact on individuals and populations.

Having a quantifiable impact on the world is a key motivator. For example, each time a COPD patient starts using my company’s COPD tool, we know there’s a greater than 60% reduction in that person’s hospitalization risk. Those numbers translate not only to better, happier lives, but also to direct individual and national financial benefits: a simple QALY (quality-adjusted life year) analysis shows that by using my company, our healthcare partners have helped add more than $50 million to the United States’ GDP.

One of my favorite things about health information and technology is seeing the direct impact it has on individuals.

Through our work with an organization that supports substance-dependent individuals, our team watched four video interviews with people recovering from opioid or alcohol dependence, all of whom cited our tool as crucial to their recovery. We had recently published outcomes on substance use in the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst, but seeing the direct impact was moving and hugely motivating.

My superpower is understanding and helping align interests and incentives.

As educator and influencer Emily Pilloton observed, “It’s not about making change. It’s about creating conditions and developing incentives under which change is possible.” Thus, driving improvements must be contingent on understanding the root causes of various issues; and because humans are involved, those root causes usually come in the form of misaligned incentives.

My kryptonite is busywork.

As my co-founders know, I don’t get along well with unnecessary paperwork or overly bureaucratic processes. That can make some – perhaps many – of my interactions with the current healthcare environment… challenging. Fortunately, I’m in a position to help remove those very same frustrations.

I am a champion of health because…

Helping someone live a dramatically healthier life is the single most effective way to create positive change for that person. Technology is the most effective tool to scale any given solution nationally and globally. That means healthcare technology is the optimal way to achieve my own personal mission of driving the greatest positive quantitative change in the world that I can.


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