As Munjal Shah, CEO of generative artificial intelligence company Hippocratic AI, looks forward, he acknowledges things at his last company didn’t work out.
Shah was the founder and longtime CEO of Health IQ, an AI-enabled life insurance startup that filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a Delaware federal court in August, listing $256 million in liabilities and $1.3 million in assets. Shah had stepped down as CEO seven months earlier, after 10 years in the role.
“I’ve done three companies before [Hippocratic AI],” Shah said in an interview at HLTH this week. He founded sales management tech company Andale, which sold to Vendio in 2006, and e-commerce AI company Like.com, which sold to Google in 2010.
“Two did well, the last one didn't. And it pains me a lot. I spent a whole decade of my life trying to make that successful and it pains me that we had to file Chapter 7 [bankruptcy]," he said.
Health IQ faced separate litigation from ex-customers that alleged the life insurance tech company allegedly breached its contracts with them. In terms of specific litigation against Health IQ, a Hippocratic AI spokesperson directed questions to a trustee who has been given control over Health IQ's bankruptcy proceedings. The trustee did not respond to a request for comment.
In May, Hippocratic AI launched with Shah as co-founder and CEO. The company was awarded $50 million at its launch to build a large language generative AI model specifically for healthcare, with backing from venture capital firms General Catalyst and Andreessen Horowitz. Andreessen Horowitz had also backed Health IQ. Hippocratic AI received another $15 million in funding in July and publicly named 10 healthcare partners.
In his last 60 days as CEO of Health IQ in late 2022, Shah said he pitched 50 investors to save the company, but it didn’t work out.
“I have two choices at this point in my life,” Shah said. “I can basically go crawl in a hole and die, which seems like some people [think] that's what [I] should do. Or I can redeem myself by building something that improves the health of the world.”
Andreessen Horowitz did not respond to a request for comment. General Catalyst partner Alex Momeni said in a statement that the promise of health AI requires a visionary and Shah is "one of the only people in the world qualified to build Hippocratic."
Focus shifts to Hippocratic AI
Shah is focused on building up Hippocratic AI amid the healthcare industry’s generative AI craze. At its launch, the company claimed one of its large language models outperformed OpenAI’s GPT-4 model on 105 of 114 healthcare exams and certifications.
Hippocratic AI is developing models to help health systems solve staffing challenges, Shah said. One model in process, for instance, will aim to serve as an autopilot that can assist nurses with treating chronic care patients by providing reminders to take medications when necessary, he said.
"With this AI, you can do a call check in [with patients] and then if there's something concerning, it will escalate it to a real nurse or a real doctor," Shah said.
Shah said he doesn’t think using generative AI to summarize notes in the electronic health record, a popular use case among several vendors, will be as effective in helping health systems.
Hippocratic's AI nursing care model is being overtrained for safety, Shah said. It is using more than 1,000 nurses to educate and assess the model’s accuracy, he said. It’s also being trained to verbally speak rather than send written answers and to escalate its responses to clinicians when necessary. On Tuesday at HLTH, the company announced a physician advisory panel that includes executives from Cleveland Clinic and New York-based Mount Sinai Health System.
All the training means that the model will be ready for use when it’s safe, said Shah, who did not put a date on when that might happen.
“When we raised the money, we did not promise a timeline,” Shah said. “We said we're going to build a true product for an elaborate industry, but it's going to be safe. We named the whole damn company after the Hippocratic Oath. Do no harm. That’s our priority.”