Pivoting in the Thick of it with Thalamus

March 4, 2021 / Share:

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While hospitals and entrepreneurs all over the globe have scrambled to manage the present state of healthcare in the face of a pandemic, one team has been squarely focused on healthcare’s future.

Thalamus was founded in 2013 to better manage the medical residency and fellowship interview process.   After a round of VC funding in July 2019, their plan was to build and integrate a new data platform into their core interview scheduling platform.  As a result, Thalamus would be like the Match.com for physicians, measuring likelihood of matching at various hospitals across the country. They launched this product enhancement in February 2020 and even signed up beta users.

But, like many businesses, Thalamus did not expect what came next.

Little did they know they would be right in the thick of the American COVID-19 outbreak from the beginning, as exhibitors at an Emergency Medicine conference in NYC in March 2020, where 5 physicians tested positive – some of the first in the country.

From that point, their mission was clear: Academic medical centers would no longer have the resources or capabilities to hold in-person interviews for residency and fellowship programs, which could include dozens of meetings for hundreds of candidates each interview day. Thalamus knew there was a need to pivot.

Immediately, they put their data priorities on hold and, with the same core team of 11 FTEs and some dedicated contractors/consultants, began work on three new products to help hospitals recruit the next generation of doctors virtually.  

They developed a custom virtual interview platform capable of handling many meetings simultaneously, an automated itinerary builder that turns the scheduling process into a minutes-long task, and an AI/machine learning tool to streamline application review.  

Thalamus made it possible for hospitals to not only cut down on the number of applicants interviewed, but also reduce the time spent looking for dedicated future residents.

So, on May 18th, when the governing organizations that run the recruitment process made the call for a fully virtual interview season, Thalamus was ready.

“Our products went from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have,’ virtually overnight,” said CEO and Founder Jason Reminick, MD, MBA, MS, who serves as a Project Healthcare advisor at the EC.

Thalamus quickly jumped from 500+ residency and fellowship programs at 100+ hospitals, to 2300+ programs at 200+ hospitals, and handled recruitment of 90% of all new physicians in the US.  During that time, they’ve processed over a hundred thousand applications, hosted over 12 million minutes of virtual interviews, and multiplied their revenue ten times.

“Really proud of my team, as we helped maintain sanity and sanctity of the process,” Reminick said, quoting feedback from an internal medicine program director at a participating hospital. “It was quite an aggressive timeline, but it worked.”

And virtual interviews are unlikely to go away, even when COVID is a distant memory, Reminick said, as the same tools that make the process accessible during a pandemic, also make it more accessible overall.

A virtual process, which cuts down on travel and lodging expenses benefits future residents in minority and marginalized groups who may have a harder time affording what can be a costly process. The AI review tool allows for a more holistic view of recruitment documents, and includes tools that can help eliminate conscious and unconscious bias.  

Technology and data, combined with utilizing virtual interviews as a screening tool in future recruitment seasons can assist in building equity, diversity and equality into the process. This is a key mission for Thalamus given the pledge they’ve taken as a Kapor Capital portfolio company. Reminick hopes the new products will provide added transparency and insight to make medical training more accessible for all through the pandemic and beyond.

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