Finance professionals involved in the growing world of healthtech are able to help chart new courses for their companies with the explosion of new funding sources, according to Sean Mulloy, CFO of Level Ex, a Chicago-based company that creates video games for doctors around the challenges of practicing medicine today.
Mulloy spoke with StrategicCFO360 about why investors are attracted to the field, what it means for all CFOs and what he sees as Level Ex’s biggest investment priority: people.
Can you explain why you feel health innovation funding will continue to surge, and how will it impact the healthcare industry?
The mix in the sources of funding in the healthcare ecosystem is changing. Recently we’ve seen an increase in investment and funding from strategic partnerships. Over the last couple of years, blue-chip corporations such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Meta, etc. have partnered with early-stage health tech companies to develop products, offerings and services, and grow market size.
For example, last year Amazon launched an accelerator program and introduced AWS for Health, which helps companies in the clinical space to leverage, aggregate and share data across the healthcare ecosystem. I anticipate more corporations are going to follow suit and invest in platforms and programs that allow them to capture value in the early-stage technological innovations that align with their core competencies.
Ideas and businesses that weren’t able to get off the ground or truly scale in the past, often due to a lack of funding, do not face the same challenges today. The technological advancements we’ve seen in other industries are now coming to healthcare.
For example, a couple of years ago, who would have thought that physical therapy could be done in the comfort of your own home? Now, you can purchase a VR-enabled device that replicates physical therapy routines in a game-like fashion. This type of technology reduces the friction for the patient to complete their exercises, increases their satisfaction and ultimately increases the overall outcome for the patient. It’s inevitable and logical to apply technology innovations to one of the largest, and most ripe for industries—healthcare.
What is your advice for other CFOs in their quest to integrate automation into everyday initiatives?
Take your assumptions about the limitations of what’s possible via data and data platforms and throw them out the door. Before I start a project or initiative with my data team, the first thing I ask is, “What’s available here?” I’ve been doing data integrations and connections long enough to know that we should not limit ourselves to our preconceived notions or old business processes. There are automated solutions to nearly any business process or challenge and it’s about identifying bottlenecks or pain points that warrant investigation into automated solutions.
For example, I’m currently working with our data analytics team to create an automated solution to our software development cost calculations, which in our current state, is a laborious, manual process for my accounting team. The automated calculation we’re working on together would decrease the number of man-hours needed to close the books on a monthly basis and reduce the probability of human error skewing our results.
As the CFO of medical video game company Level Ex, what financial investments have you prioritized this year and why?
People. People. People. Given the current employment environment, we’re focusing our efforts and resources on ensuring we’re retaining and attracting the best talent. We’re an ambitious company (anyone who tries to do something that’s never been done in the healthcare industry needs to be) with ambitious goals, and we know that to achieve these goals, we need the right people and skills. We’re investing in our employees via competitive compensation and benefits packages, further developing our employee training and development program to be best in class, and focused allocation of resources on improving our employees’ level of satisfaction here at Level Ex.
How do you envision the role of CFO evolving in the next five to 10 years?
A CFO’s impact on a business today is extremely different and much greater than it was only five or 10 years ago, and I expect this change to continue over the next five to 10 years. We are no longer only expected to be straightforward reporters of the finance numbers and “news,” but we’re also expected to drive strategic decisions via data-driven insights. The advancement of data has made gleaning these insights easier and less time consuming, and finance departments play a key role in being experts in identifying the processes and tools to do so. Advancements in technology, including machine learning, will also allow for faster and more accurate predictive modeling, and therefore more course correcting earlier in business processes and initiatives.