Jonathan Schwartz on why we need CareZone
Former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has created a subscription-based health care site to help people to keep track of medical records for their loved ones, such as medications, doctor visits, and legal documents. SmartPlanet correspondent Sumi Das sits down with Schwartz to discuss the new venture and what he learned from his days at Sun.
>> Sumi Das: As the baby boomers start heading into their golden years -- medical visits, filling prescriptions, and health insurance forms will become ever more frequent. That's where CareZone comes in. The new startup wants to provide a private online place for people to take care of their family. And the person running the new company is Jonathan Schwartz, the former CEO of tech giant Sun Microsystems. Jonathan, thanks for joining me today.
>> Jonathan Schwartz: Thanks for the opportunity.
>> Sumi Das: So tell us briefly about CareZone, and what can users do with the new service?
>> Jonathan Schwartz: Well about 11 years ago I had my first child, and he had a series of issues that, you know, lots of parents have kids who've got chronic issues -- in America it's about 25% of all children have some form of chronic issue. And we were just looking for a place to get organized, to store stuff, and then to stay connected between the two of us -- my wife and me -- as well as our sitter, and maybe other folks who might be helping. And there was no place to really do that that we felt safe with. So for the past 10, 11 years, you know, we've been kind of thinking about that and talking about it. And, you know, and so when I had an opportunity about two years ago to really go devote some time and energy and talent to it, a very good friend of mine named Walter Smith phonetic, who's one of the original creators of the Apple Newton, he and I got together, and we just sat down and talked for about six months about what could we do to make a difference in the lives of people like us, people who have parents who are aging, children who might have issues, and -- and who just want a safe place to store stuff, get organized, and -- and share access. And that's what CareZone's all about.
>> Sumi Das: You launched a couple of weeks ago. As you go out and tell people about CareZone, have you been met with any resistance from the healthcare industry, healthcare professionals?
>> Jonathan Schwartz: No, and we're, you know, healthcare is a -- is a big, you know, it's a big word. It's a -- it's a 7 trillion dollar market, but it's really only two syllables -- health and care. For us, health is what the physicians and the doctors and the scientists have to go grapple with. And they're going to grapple with IT issues as well as more fundamental technical issues. That's not where we're focused. Our domain expertise is in taking care of people -- taking care of our children, taking care of our parents, taking care of our -- our loved ones, our spouses. And -- and from among that audience -- people who every day have to deal with where did they put the new therapist report they just got for their child? That audience has just been overwhelming in their embrace of what we're doing, because they don't feel comfortable on traditional social networks storing stuff where -- and having ads sold against them, or putting it in a place where, you know, you know, a marketing engine may go harvest it and go sell it to somebody else. So we just wanted to provide a safe place for people like us, who wanted to store information, get organized, and share access.
>> Sumi Das: What did you take away from your role at Sun that has helped you launch CareZone?
>> Jonathan Schwartz: Oh, about a thousand things. And I think, you know, for the most part, most people's professional experiences are -- are very useful. You know, you learn some things to do, you learn some things not to do. And -- and -- and by and large there's one unifying experience across every experience I've had, which is find the best people you possibly can. And so the team of people that we've assembled at CareZone are really some of the most talented people I've ever worked with. And that's what matters, because smart people can get in a room, figure out what the problem is, listen to people who are experiencing the problem, and then deliver a solution that just entirely meets their need. So number one, you know, obviously find the best people around. Number two, find great markets. Because if you built buggy whips today, it's going to be a -- it's going to be a hard place to go sell 'em. If you sell a need experienced by people who are caring for children and parents, the odds are good to people who have parents in China and Brazil, and Indonesia, and the US, and in London -- and those are all the markets now that we can serve. We built a service that's by design meant to be global.
>> Sumi Das: What's the difference between running a startup that has not that many employees -- less than a dozen, and running a large tech company that has thousands of employees?
>> Jonathan Schwartz: Well you certainly have a lot more help when you're surrounded by -- you know, my direct staff when I was at Sun is larger than my whole company. You know, but on the other hand, you can get things done a lot more quickly, there's a lot fewer people you got to talk to. I think the biggest fundamental difference isn't so much in the size of the company, it's that we're a private company. So we can get together one day and just decide let's go do this now, and not have to go consult with a team of lawyers, or go communicate with shareholders. So for the most part, you know, we're able to act much, much more quickly. So we can get things done quickly and -- and efficiently, you know, but on the other hand it'd be great if we had the world's best 20,000 person sales force spread across the world to go generate revenue, and we don't have that. So we're going to use word of mouth, and -- and connectivity with caregivers.
>> Sumi Das: Looking at the bigger picture, what else do you think needs to be done in order to cut through all of the red tape that exists in the healthcare industry?
>> Jonathan Schwartz: You know, most of the -- the IT problems in the healthcare industry are not technical problems. They're fundamentally cultural problems, which is hospitals for the most part rarely look at the CIO and say you're going to save a lot of people's lives. They're going to look at the surgeons, the diagnosticians, the clinicians. They're going to say you're going to -- we want more people like you, and oh yeah, we'll get to that IT project later. So for the most part, IT just is not -- it's a -- it's 9th on the list of priorities in an average medical institution. And even after you get them automated, you then have the problem of how do we communicate between and among different institutions? And so I -- I would think --
>> Sumi Das: You need a single platform.
>> Jonathan Schwartz: You -- you need a -- well you need some standards.
>> Sumi Das: Mm-hmm.
>> Jonathan Schwartz: And -- and again, standards are -- are rarely technical, they're cultural. How many people want to agree on how you transport a medical record or convey an MRI image? You know, I had my own experience recently where I had an MRI done. As I walked into the -- to the machine there was a Sun workstation in the -- in the front of it. And then, you know, I was given a -- a CD on the way out, and said here's your -- your image. And I said what am I supposed to do with this? And they said well you're going to need to take that wherever you go because they won't be able to get the image from us, you're going to have to give it to them. And so I naturally stuck that in my CareZone account, and actually ended up displaying my MRI to my back surgeon in December over my phone, because he couldn't actually read the CD. So that's just crazy in -- in today's age. And that's again a -- it's a reflection not of is the technology available to go affect the connection, and make sure that records can be transported. It's a matter of it not being a cultural priority, or an imperative for the healthcare industry. And the recent healthcare legislation is trying to incent and subsidize, and push people to -- to automate. But even that isn't nearly so good as a market force. And the market force to automate healthcare, it's not very strong as opposed to the market forces around automating financial services or media and entertainment. That's an overwhelming imperative, and that's why those industries got there first.
>> Sumi Das: Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of CareZone. Thanks for joining us today.
>> Jonathan Schwartz: Sumi, thanks for the opportunity.
>> Sumi Das: For Smart Planet, I'm Sumi Das.