Editor’s note: WRAL TechWire and the Council for Entrepreneurial development are partnering to present a series of profiles and Q&As featuring companies startups and emerging companies participating in the CED’s annual Life Science conference coming up Feb. 28-March 1 in Raleigh. The latest profile is KelaHealth, an informatics startup based in Durham.


  • Website: http://www.kelahealth.com
  • CEO: Bora Chang
  • Contact information: bora@kelahealth.com
  • Sub-sector: Healthcare IT/Digital Health                                                         
  • Headquarters: Durham, NC
  • Year Founded: 2016
  • Watch informational video at: https://igg.me/at/kelahealth


KēlaHealth is a software-as-a-service health informatics technology company that uses machine learning for predicting surgery complication risk and deploying risk modification interventions for surgeons.

KēlaHealth aims to reduce surgical complications by

(1) leveraging data from millions of patients to generate accurate clinical risk predictions,

(2) standardizing surgeon variability in practice by suggesting interventions specific to the patient and surgical procedure, and

(3) addressing administrative and regulatory needs for quality compliance in surgical care.

Ultimately, kēlaHealth provides value for patients, surgeons and hospitals by employing precision medicine to decrease surgical complications, optimize surgical care, and therefore, maximize financial benefit to the hospital system under new value-based care models.


  • Bora Chang, MD​
  • Jeff Sun, MD
  • Elizabeth Lorenzi, MS
  • Ouwen Huang
  • Erich Huang, MD-PhD
  • Christopher Mantyh, MD
  • Katherine Heller, PhD
  • Carl Brinkman, MBA


  • Funding: $100,000
  • Winner of Duke Innovation Jam ($50K)
  • Duke Institute for Health Innovation Grant ($50K)
  • Top 15 Teams for Round 1 of Duke Startup Challenge 2016-2017 (Ongoing)
  • Completed clinical pilot study with 200 patients at Duke Hospital
  • Exclusive license to technology from Duke University


Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, Duke Office of Licensing and Ventures, Groundwork Labs, NC IDEA, SBTDC, Wyrick-Robbins


  • What is the primary pain point you are seeking to address?

KelaHealth aims to decrease avoidable surgical complications. Based on a fairly conservative complication rate of 15% from more than 50 million surgeries performed annually in the U.S., and at an average cost of $11,626 per complication, the estimated costs to the U.S. surgical market is about $45 billion dollars annually. Currently, surgeons rely on experience to assess the risk of complications and conduct preventative perioperative care. This subjective approach creates significant practice variability leading to surgical complications.

The fundamental causes of avoidable complications are:

1) limited human cognitive capacity for objective risk assessment,

2) variability in clinical management, and

3) lack of efficient and unobtrusive mechanisms for implementing best-practice hospital protocols.

KelaHealth addresses these fundamental causes by

1) providing objective risk predictions in real time,

2) recommending standardized evidence-based preventative actions, and

3) a platform for disseminating care protocols and tracking practice patterns as well as patient outcomes.

  • What sets your company apart? What’s the “secret sauce”?

Our company developed novel predictive models for surgical complications using machine learning algorithms from validated data containing almost 4 million surgeries. Although our predictive models already perform extremely well in comparison to other models published in the medical literature, we are developing new technologies that will tailor predictions to each individual health system’s data over time, thus learning and honing models that are specific to different populations. Our team is also an interdisciplinary mix of experts in surgery, machine learning and software development which allows us to have deep clinical insight, thoughtful and innovative design and effective execution.

  • Why should investors be interested in your company? What is the potential market size?

As U.S. healthcare expenditures have dramatically increased over the past several decades, the health of U.S. populations have followed opposing trends: the U.S. is spending more for poorer health outcomes. To address this unsustainable trajectory of healthcare in America, stakeholders in the public and private sectors have moved towards aligning payers, providers and patients in their goals for better care at lower cost.

The shift to “value-based care” from the current “fee-for-service” model is the paradigm change that most hospital systems are preparing for. Specifically, reimbursement models in surgery are moving to a bundled payment system where complications from a surgical event are not being reimbursed. Hence, hospitals are financially incentivized to use kelaHealth to provide the optimal surgical care for each patient and proactively prevent any complications from occurring.

We envision kelaHealth to be the market leader in health data analytics and practice management across medical and surgical specialties in the next decade. Our approach of utilizing machine learning to predict and integrate interventions for patients is specialty-agnostic, thereby potentiating the expansion from our first surgical use case to a broad spectrum of medical fields as our company grows. We know that there is an unmet need for clinical predictive analytics and risk modification since various specialties have already approached us for partnership including orthopedic, transplant, cardiothoracic surgery, neonatology, and geriatrics. The demand is quickly mounting and we envision serving the healthcare industry as the gold-standard in precision and personalized analytics.