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Riya joined Spry’s Operations team this January. As our VP of Growth, she is developing the distribution strategy for The Loop System to ensure that our wearable is in the hands of as many patients as possible.

 

At what age did you know you wanted a career in healthcare?

Being a child of Indian immigrants, it was ingrained in my head from an early age that I would become a doctor. However, I spent time in undergrad working in a clinician’s office and I quickly realized that I can’t handle the sight of blood, but also how behind healthcare was compared to many other industries. It was also during the start of the recession at this time and many health systems were struggling to figure out what changes they needed to make to optimize resources, stay afloat, and still provide excellent care to their patients. This really led me to wanting to pursue a career on the operations side of healthcare.

 

What made you most eager to join the team at Spry Health?

It was both the technology and the team that really influenced my decision. 

From a technology standpoint, I have been really intrigued by the concept of population health. Almost half of healthcare spending in the U.S. is driven from only 5% of the population– high-risk and chronically-ill patients. It’s highly disproportionate, but you would also think that with how much we’re spending on healthcare, we would have better outcomes for these patients. That unfortunately is not the case. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the country, drives over 5M ER visits each year, and medical costs exceed $30 billion. Traditional monitoring solutions haven’t really evolved over the years for this population resulting in low adherence rates. I really appreciated that Spry’s co-founders, PJ and Elad, made a conscious effort from the start to build the technology around the patient and this population’s lifestyle in order to drive adherence and capture the necessary data needed to make clinical decisions.

From a people standpoint, PJ and Elad are highly invested and care about the team. During one of my early meetings with PJ, he asked me about my long-term career goals. I was surprised that at the next meeting, before I even signed an offer letter, he shared his vision on how my role would evolve at Spry to get me to my ultimate career goal. It left a huge impression; I had never met a CEO like that before, let alone a startup CEO, and it was just really a testament to his leadership and investment in the team.

 

What are some trends you’re excited or concerned about in Healthcare?

It’s really exciting to see how new technologies and AI are impacting the chronic disease management space. I truly believe if we can make an impact in early detection, interventions, and overall care delivery for these patients, we’ll eventually see significant outcome improvements and healthcare costs decreasing. I think the value of remote patient monitoring is becoming even more evident today when dealing with the COVID-19 as COPD patients are a very high-risk population. Systems like ours enable clinical remote monitoring of a patient’s vitals without the need of human contact or risk of exposure.

One trend that is extremely concerning, and was also a large topic of discussion after this year’s JP Morgan conference, is that there are a lot of companies now trying to cash in on the digital health trend and causing a confusion by positioning their wellness app in the same category as an FDA-cleared medical device or wearable that is prescribed by a provider. Having a non-FDA cleared app or device position themselves as a solution for chronic conditions is pretty scary in my opinion. FDA clearance validates that a company has completed all the necessary clinical trials and clearance process to meet the accuracy, security, and privacy standards required by the FDA. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable if a loved one was using technology that hasn’t gone through this due diligence to manage his/her chronic condition.  

 

What have been your biggest hurdles as a woman in tech?

Navigating the “boys club” can be challenging and exhausting. It’s getting better than when I first started in the industry over 12 years ago. There’s still a lot that needs to be done to bridge the gender gap, but there’s a lot more awareness and it’s refreshing to see some leaders recognize there’s a gender gap and set initiatives to address it. I think one positive step forward was last year California passed a mandate that all public companies must have at least one woman on their boards. 

 

What can tech companies do to bridge the gender gap?

From my observation, a company’s culture is really built from the top down. It’s important to have a leadership team that not only believes that this is a priority, but also proactively participates in steps towards making a change. This can directly impact a company’s morale. A few steps I think are critical:

  1. Draw awareness – I think most women are used to companies saying they want to bridge the gender gap- but as they say, actions speak louder than words. I think it’s important for leaders to show a commitment- be transparent about the steps they are taking to address any shortcomings. Celebrating small accomplishments along  the way is a great place to start. 
  2. Promote inclusivity and diversity – This goes beyond just having it as part of your company values. Ensure that each executive and manager has sufficient training, resources, and support. Just one bad manager can really influence a whole team’s culture. Also, have clear and defined metrics for career progression that are transparent to all employees.  
  3. Create a support system and network – Male colleagues and leadership must be encouraged to participate. Women’s networks are great, but bridging the gap should not just be a women’s issue and their responsibility to fix. 

What advice do you have for prospective Spry Health candidates?

Be yourself. Yes, we are looking for top talent, but we also equally evaluate the culture fit. We’re a small and close-knit team. We work hard and we have fun together. Also, I’m hiring a Sales Development Representative to join my team, so please apply if you’re interested! 

 

You have extensive volunteer experience with Baal Dan Charities. Can you tell me a little more about that? 

Baal Dan is a U.S.-based 501c3 that supports the basic needs and social welfare of impoverished and vulnerable children in developing countries. Since 2006, Baal Dan has provided aid to over 10K children in over 12 countries through grants made to a coalition of grassroots partners such as orphanages and NGOs that are focused on orphans, street children, and impoverished children (including refugees). I’ve been involved with the organization for the past 10 years and have assisted in fundraising and development efforts. I’m a child of immigrants from India. I recognize how fortunate I am that my parents had the opportunity and resources to come here as students and that I was born and raised in this country where the possibilities are endless. While today Baal Dan impacts children across many countries, our initial projects were based in India. I felt the need to connect with my parents’ homeland and wanted to give back to those that weren’t as fortunate.

 

What are your favorite Podcasts?

Business – NPR’s How I built this 

Healthcare – Creating a New Healthcare by Dr. Zeev Neuwirth

Fun – Crime Junkie 

 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?

I think sometimes the best advice is also the simplest. A previous manager who has remained a mentor and friend once said that he follows what he calls the “be cool” business strategy. It sounds silly at first, but it’s really about reminding yourself not to overthink, overcomplicate, and oversell. If you’re forced to do any of those, you haven’t properly demonstrated your value. 

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