This health IT startup does tech for touchy subjects


Advance care planning luminatis something that nobody really likes to think about. Making decisions about what will take place at the end of our lives is scary and uncomfortable. We want to avoid it, so many of us do.

The result is billions and billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, along with unneeded turmoil for family members, due to operations and procedures that we never truly would have wanted.

Tom Valdivia observed this issue during his many years working in the health care system, as a physician and chief medical officer, but he never really came face-to-face with it until a few years ago when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Fortunately, she came through just fine, but Valdivia was struck by the fact that throughout the entire process, no conversation ever took place regarding what would happen if her pain became unbearable and the cancer was deemed untreatable.

Rather than trying to fix the system as it currently exists, Valdivia decided to attack the matter from a different angle. Instead of going directly to the consumer and trying to initiate a conversation no one really wants to have, why not go through the providers, with whom people already have a level of comfort and trust?

This concept created the basis for Luminat, a cloud-based private-label platform that enables a doctor and patient to jointly walk through the steps of advance care planning. The results of that process are integrated into the records of the health care organization so that they’ll be available when needed.

Luminat is designed to uncover what people truly do want in those final days, and that’s why this B2B model makes for a very consumer-friendly solution.

It’s a revolutionary approach, Valdivia believes.

“It’s such a big need, and if you look at some of the downstream effects… like spending 40-70 billion on unwanted interventions near end of life, that’s a sizable problem that we need to face as individuals, as a society, as health care providers.

“That’s why I think this is a compelling issue that providers are looking at right now.”

He’s confident in his product and the team he has in place, which includes cofounder and chief legal counsel Joe Einess, chief product officer Kristin Austrum, and senior advisor Jeff Rubins, who is the Head of Palliative Care at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Luminat is based in St. Louis Park, and Valdivia sees a lot of upside in what he says is a $10 billion opportunity. They’ve raised about $600,000 in investments, and the technology is already up and running at UMass. The company is in talks with two major organizations in the Twin Cities and another in Los Angeles, though he wasn’t prepared to name names quite yet.

The biggest barrier for this cost-saving software solution? Most hospitals don’t necessarily want to cut down on the expenses accrued in the procedures that could be eliminated.

“Health care providers are paid for doing more things and more complex things,” he says, “and that’s in direct contradiction to what the research shows people actually want near end of life.”

Ultimately he hopes that efficiency will win, especially with all the reform we’re currently seeing in health care.