May 01, 2018
Anil Sethi, Ciitizen
founder and CEO of Ciitizen
When MM&M informs its Healthcare Transformer honorees that they made the top 40 cut, the usual response is a gracious thank-you and maybe some information on whether they plan to attend the accompanying awards reception. Here, on the other hand, is Sethi's response to the missive, presented in total: “I cannot attend as I'm heads down, killing cancer.”
Dock Sethi a point or two for bluntness, maybe, but add a bunch more for the belief in the importance and rigor of his mission. After his sister died of breast cancer last September – he'd been on leave from his job as director of Apple Health while caring for her – Sethi decided not to return to the company, instead founding Ciitizen to make it easier for sick patients to access their personal information.
Ciitizen subscribes to a broad definition of “personal information,” including everything from genomic data and lab reports to ethical wills and advanced directive under its purview. In December, he told CNBC that Ciitizen's goal is to use “health data as a palliative” and that the company prioritizes “depth rather than breadth.”
If anyone is up to the task of killing cancer, it's Sethi. He began his career at Apple in the late 1980s as a systems engineer, then founded or cofounded a handful of successful tech firms, including Dakota Imaging, which was eventually sold to WebMD, and Sequoia Software, snapped up by Citrix Systems. He pressed deeper into health tech in 2013 when he founded Gliimpse, a data aggregation play that was bought by Apple in 2016.
On his LinkedIn page, Sethi frames Gliimpse in contexts large and small. “As a consumer of healthcare, I leave behind a bread crumb trail of medical info wherever I've been seen. But I'm unable to easily access or share my own data,” he writes. “Obamacare is one of several forcing functions federally mandating physicians and hospitals give us our data: meds, labs, allergies – you get the idea. However, there's no single electronic health record that all physicians use. Worse, there isn't even a common file format across 1,000-plus systems.”
Gliimpse came closer to solving the vexing interoperability problem than any other company, or that's what the acquisition by Apple seems to suggest. “At one point, Cupertino, California [where Apple calls home] looked at 50 companies or so, but they picked our team,” Sethi told CNBC. Whether Ciitizen will resonate as well with the health tech world is anybody's guess, but Sethi's track record suggests it would be folly to bet against him.