Srinath Vaddepally reached for the call button on his hospital bed. It wasn’t there. With severe pain in his abdomen, the Carnegie Mellon University graduate student dragged himself out of bed and stumbled to the nurses’ station, where he collapsed on the floor. That’s when he saw an opportunity.
Three years later, Vaddepally is a CMU alumnus and CEO of RistCall, a technology company aiming to transform patient care in hospitals and nursing homes with wearable smart devices that allow two-way communication between patient and caregiver.
RistCall enables messages and alerts with specific requests to be sent directly to caregivers so they can prioritize and coordinate responses. The technology also lets caregivers ask the patient for more information, and shows patients, right on their wrists, that their call has been answered.
Growing up in India, Vaddepally had an entrepreneurial bent, running a photography business for his father and starting several music startups as an undergraduate student. After completing his degree in engineering at the Christu Jyoti Institute of Technology and Science and relocating to Houston for an engineering job with Texas Instruments, Vaddepally decided to pursue a master’s degree that would combine all of his skills and interests.
He turned to Google to search for the right program and school.
“I put four words into Google: engineering, management, business, computing,” he recalled.
The first result? Carnegie Mellon’s master’s degree program in Engineering and Technology Innovation Management (E&TIM), which allows its students to cross-enroll in classes in CMU’s Tepper School of Business and School of Computer Science. After completing the E&TIM program, Vaddepally went on to earn his master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2013.
In the three years since his hospital stay, RistCall has matured through fellowships with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, accelerators and incubators, including CMU’s Project Olympus and DreamIt Health, a 16-week business boot camp partnership between Independence Blue Cross, Penn Medicine and DreamIt Ventures.
“RistCall is a shining example of how a good idea with substantive mentoring can turn into a feasible reality,” said Lenore Blum, who is the founding director of Project Olympus.
Now, as part of ongoing research and testing, RistCall is finding early success in a nursing home in Pittsburgh. According to Vaddepally, the hard part is keeping up: The nursing home liked the devices so much they’ve asked for four times the number of devices in the initial agreement.
Partnering with software developer Harbinger Systems, RistCall recently won the 2016 Mobile Star “Superstar” Award in the Patient Care Innovation category. The Mobile Star Awards have honored the most innovative mobile applications across industries over the past 15 years.
“That made me very happy,” Vaddepally said. “It’s a validation of our hard work and the true market need — validation that we’re working on something really meaningful and innovative.”