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Clockwise from top left: C-SATS co-founders Derek Streat, Dr. Thomas Lendvay, Dr. Lee White, and Dr. Timothy Kowalewski.

Performance reviews are commonplace in most industries as a way for employers to ensure that their employees are putting out high quality work.

But in the medical world, and specifically for surgeons, this process doesn’t happen as often — and it’s a problem that a new startup spun out of the University of Washington wants to tackle.

Seattle-based C-SATS just raised $2.5 million to build out its cloud-based performance management system that evaluates surgeons, improves their skills, and ultimately helps hospitals save money.

C-SATS — or Crowd-Sourced Assessment of Technical Skills — does this by paying experts to analyze video of surgeries and assess overall performance, like how well a surgeon used their hands to make an incision, for example.

Co-founder and CEO Derek Streat told GeekWire that it’s not uncommon for surgeons to have no skill-based assessments once they leave a residency program and enter the workplace because of the time and money it takes to review surgeries.

“It’s crazy to think of people operating on us and not ever being reviewed after they leave school,” said Streat, a veteran Seattle entrepreneur and former entrepreneur-in-residence at UW’s CoMotion. “We’re reviewed inside a corporate environment more than that.”

Photo via surassawadee /
Photo via surassawadee /

Dr. Thomas Lendvay, another C-SATS co-founder and a pediatric surgeon and urologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, wondered if technology could help fix this problem and improve the quality of care at hospitals around the world.

So, three years ago, Lendvay — also the co-director of the Seattle Children’s Robotic Surgery Program — teamed up with fellow co-founders Timothy Kowalewski and Lee White to start validating a method that would allow a panel of experts review recorded video of surgeries just hours after an operation.

After months of research at the University of Washington, the founders realized that their solution was more accurate, less biased, and less costly than the existing peer-review model that, when actually used, was less effective.

That’s when Streat, a veteran of who previously founded AdReady and Medify, joined the team and helped spin the startup out of the UW. The company has been on the market for the past nine months.

“I looked at the market opportunity and realized that quality in healthcare is the biggest thing happening in the biggest industry in this country,” Streat said. “These guys had a very specific, pure way to empower an organization to improve their quality.”

Streat noted that much of the hardware and video recording technology already exists in operating rooms. This allows C-SATS to focus on its software, which uploads these videos to a secure server within 30 seconds after an operation and uses an algorithm to match said videos with the appropriate assessment tool for a particular procedure.

Photo via Shutterstock.
Photo via Shutterstock.

Then, the platform reaches out to experts — which also include non-surgeons — that have been vetted and trained to evaluate specific operations. All in all, the entire process from post-surgery to review takes two-to-three hours.

“If an institution did that with only peer reviews, they’d probably spend two or three weeks doing that,” Streat said, noting that C-SATS offers something that’s 10 times as fast and one-tenth the cost.

The company, previously located at the UW’s Fluke Hall incubator and now headquartered in Seattle’s University District, pays experts to review the videos and makes money with a software-as-a-service model. Its customers include Seattle Children’s Hospital, University of Toronto, University of Connecticut, Virginia Mason, Ford Health System, Florida Hospital Nicholson Center, and others.

The over-arching idea is to help surgeons improve their skills and ultimately help health systems offer better care for patients.

“They end up with surgeons that provide better output, are more productive, and drive revenue,” Streat said. “They also help reduce cost and become more efficient with how they operate, which reduces risk for organizations and ensures that they adhere to compliance standards better. We provide that watchful eye.”

C-SATS is part of a bigger change in the U.S. healthcare industry sometimes referred to “quality-based healthcare,” which pays doctors for the quality of their work versus the quantity.

“Everyone wants to help change the quality in healthcare, but it’s very hard to do,” Streat noted. “C-SATS is one of the only things I’ve seen that has a very pure way of empowering an organization to move the quality needle.”

The $2.5 million funding round included participation from the UW’s W Fund, WRF Capital, Point B Capital, Founders Co-op, and the Seattle Angel Fund. C-SATS also received grant money from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the UW itself.

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