Chris Fernandez is the co-founder and CEO of EnsoData, a company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the process of accurately diagnosing health conditions. Fernandez used his expertise to design and then clinically validate EnsoData’s pioneering technology, Waveform AI.
Using the various Waveform AI applications, EnsoData is now working to increase patient access, improve outcomes and enhance the patient and provider experiences while also addressing the affordability of healthcare.
The company’s first application, EnsoSleep, aids clinicians in diagnosing sleep apnea by automating the analysis of home and in-clinic sleep studies. EnsoSleep is now in use in over 400 sleep clinics in the U.S., analyzing some 14,000 sleep studies per month.
A native of Aurora, Illinois, Fernandez holds a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He has also acted as a leading contributor to the open source machine learning platform - NEXT ML.
Why is Madison perfect for healthcare IT?
For starters, we have a world class healthcare digital IT ecosystem with premiere research and medical sectors. We have global leaders in the life sciences and medical technology sectors like Epic Systems, Exact Sciences and Promega right here in our own backyard. Add in the talent from the UW-Madison and you’ve got a recipe for success.
What attracted you to the Madison region?
My co-founders and I attended the UW; then after we graduated we moved to the Bay Area to start our company. But we chose to relocate back to Madison because of the great community, which we wanted to continue to be a part of and take advantage of. Plus, we really felt like Madison had done so much for us we wanted a chance to give something back.
What are the biggest challenges in raising venture capital (VC) for healthcare startups in this region?
In general, the biggest challenge is that folks in the Midwest are simply too modest. To raise VC you really need to be ready to tell a big story and to share a big vision. I think most company founders in Wisconsin and the Midwest have a good story to tell but don’t do themselves justice in telling their story the way it deserves to be told. Of course, we are fortunate now to have homegrown VC firms like HealthX Ventures who already know there are plenty of opportunities right here.
How has the COVID 19 pandemic affected your company?
For EnsoData, COVID has reinforced a set of trends that we felt were inevitable in healthcare. It’s accelerated virtualization of care and the adoption of home-based diagnostics. COVID has put significant strain on our existing healthcare systems to maintain continuity of patient access during these challenging times. Sleep centers are really having to adapt quickly to find new ways to support virtual care on a larger scale. We’ve felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these clinics to maintain that continuity of care so folks don’t lose access to their healthcare because it can now be done virtually.
What is your favorite thing to do in Madison?
Well, I’d normally say La Fete de Marquette but since that isn’t happening this year, I’ve been spending more time on lakes Monona and Mendota
Overall, my favorite thing to do is spend time in nature — or in good company, with good people, enjoying good drinks and good food. Madison is a great place to live and do business.