Kitman Labs CEO Stephen Smith answers questions on his team’s latest innovation to help elite sport organizations achieve greater performance on and off the field.
“Traditional EMR solutions are where data goes to die. Performance Medicine harnesses intelligence to let teams be proactive, not just reactive.”
Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs CEO
Short and sweet: what is Performance Medicine?
A tool that unlocks siloed medical data so staff and athletes can be proactive, not just reactive – and achieves this in an ultra-secure way for privacy and security.
What’s the pain point in sports medicine that it solves?
Practitioners’ role has changed dramatically, but their tools are stuck in 2012.
Ten years ago, sports medicine practitioners could only be reactive: they treated athletes for injury to get them back on the field and the EMR solutions available to them were only good for statutory reporting and compliance.
Today, the responsibilities for practitioners in this space are wildly different. Teams need them to be out in front, to be proactive instead of reactive. Managers are asking medical staff ‘How can we optimize player health and safety? How do we keep athletes on the field longer? How do we teach them and work with them to identify risks before they happen?’
So the role has changed, but the tech is stuck in the last decade – and so is the terminology we use. If we want to be accurate, ‘sports medicine’ as a term doesn’t do justice to the committed medical staff who care as deeply about their athlete’s performance as they do their health and safety. As a community, we need to start using the terminology ‘performance medicine.’
How does Performance Medicine impact relationships between departments?
It lets medical and the performance teams speak the same language to revolutionize how decision-making happens in high-performing organizations. It allows for integration, alignment, and collaboration.
Teams can now access and use their data to support communication and foster collaboration between medical and performance teams. They can understand more easily the true drivers of injury, and correlate injury data with performance outcomes. There’s greater visibility to patterns of the problem. Both sides can see the full picture and work in tandem based on shared data and understanding. Medical staff can be integrated into the performance organization and achieve greater strategic impact within the team.
In yesterday’s high-performance team environment, there’d be a lot of conflict between the medical team and the coaching staff, performance staff, or general management.
With Performance Medicine, now as the medical staff is treating an athlete, they understand the context of what’s coming next, what’s required of that athlete, where they may struggle or what modifications may be relevant based on what the team needs of them. Now, they have a very effective vehicle to communicate across the team with anyone involved.
How does Performance Medicine protect athlete data privacy?
Privacy is the backbone of every conversation we have on athletes’ medical information.
We made a very distinct decision to treat every single piece of data like a piece of medical data. When we founded Kitman Labs nearly a decade ago, we chose to invest in world-class security. We were just a small company back then – only 20-30 employees – but we chose to become ISO 27001-certified to significantly enhance the security of athlete information we’re trusted to protect. We resolved never to allow our partners or their athletes to become vulnerable as a result of their relationship with us.
The cost to get certified at the time was close to half a million dollars – a huge investment for a company as small as we were. We also knew it would cost us several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year just to maintain that certification. At the same time, we also invested in a significant risk data management and private security team for a mature, sophisticated approach. From our earliest beginnings, we have treated athlete privacy as sacred.
In years to come, we’re going to see people getting smarter on this and teams and their athletes demanding this level of security as a matter of course.
Performance Medicine is a key capability of the Intelligence Platform (iP) ®. It’s one of our core solutions that shows how much more impact you can give one person by providing them with a platform that actually lets them integrate, align, and collaborate with other team members.
We created the Intelligence Platform (iP) ® to be a first-of-its-kind platform that integrates operational and analytical capabilities as the operating system of the future for global sport.
More than ever, organizations confront unrelenting competitive pressures and higher-than-ever expectations from athletes, coaches, owners, fans, and investors. At the same time, they’re facing exponentially growing data sets: teams have just too much to process, too much to harness on their own.
The iP delivers a complete picture of an organization’s athletes, all in one place, where all the information can be queried and investigated by everyone, together, and at the same time. And if we can do that for every single department, we can provide objectivity and information that drives decision making across every person within the high performance team. That’s what the iP is all about. Performance Medicine honors this ethos, and applies it within a medical context.
How would you characterize Performance Medicine’s impact on organization?
Three ways: people, process, and performance.
For people, your medical staff becomes more proactive and strategic, focusing not just on fixing injuries, but also on becoming fully integrated into the forward-looking needs of the term from the performance perspective. They can think about player health in the context of player readiness, and they have a shared understanding with the performance staff to connect their work to real outcomes.
On the process front, Performance Medicine helps people shift from competing mandates to cooperation and collaboration. It gives them deeper insights from cross-functional data to support real-time decision making.
With regard to performance, it lets people think about return to health as inclusive of being able to perform on the field. Health becomes functional and connected to the performance needs of the team. It also gives a better understanding of the true drivers of injury – and lets people quantify that impact and anticipate it.
How have your partners felt the impact of connecting performance and medicine?
They tell us it’s a dramatic difference – in the medical outcomes, in the care they’re able to provide their athletes, and in the operational culture of their organizations.
I think the cultural shift was honestly the most surprising to us. We’ve heard partners say their relationship with their coaching staff has changed dramatically for the better. The relationship with their strength and conditioning staff has improved such that they now operate in lockstep. People have even used the word “harmonious” – which if you come from a high performance team, you know how crazy that sounds.
They’ve gained the alignment just by surfacing their own information and sharing it back in the relevant ways. Instead of making decisions in pockets or silos, they’re surfacing all of this information that was fragmented before to create a shared data landscape that lets them make shared decisions. It’s allowing them to stay more aligned.
And they’re making better decisions, and they’re getting better outcomes. I think that is incredibly powerful.