Cardinal Analytx – AI Tools to Predict One’s Health and Care Costs

Dr. Chris DeRienzo, Chief Medical Officer at Cardinal Analytx Solutions, a predictive analytics company, discusses their mission to use advanced machine learning to better predict and responsibly contain health care costs, while also improving the quality of care.

As Chief Medical Officer for Cardinal Analytx, Chris leads the company’s clinical enterprise, helping connect world-class data science to “better care sooner” for patients, employees, and plan members across the nation.

Recognized by Modern Healthcare in 2018 as one of 15 “Up and Comers” Under 40 and Becker’s as one of healthcare’s “Rising Stars,” Chris has published and presented internationally on leveraging analytics to drive continuous improvement, implementing data science in healthcare, and the intersection of humanity and technology. He is also the author of Tiny Medicine: One Doctor’s Biggest Lessons from His Smallest Patients (Big Eye Books, Summer 2019).  

Prior to joining Cardinal, he served as Chief Quality Officer for Mission Health, a $2B integrated delivery system based in Asheville, NC. Board Certified in both Pediatrics and Neonatology, Dr. DeRienzo completed his M.D., Masters in Public Policy, and post-graduate medical training at Duke University. He is still a practicing neonatologist in the Mission Children’s NICU follow-up clinic and volunteers as a member of the Mercy Health (Chesterfield, MO) Board Quality Committee and the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Board of Directors. Nationally, DeRienzo was the fourth medical student elected and re-elected to serve on the AMA Board of Trustees and appointed by the North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2018 to serve on the Medical Care Advisory Committee.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard here on Health Professional Radio, glad that you could join me. We’re going to have a brief conversation with Dr. Chris DeRienzo. He’s Chief Medical Officer at Cardinal Analytix. He’s also an author, the author of Tiny Medicine: One Doctor’s Biggest Lessons from His Smallest Patients, published by Big Eye Books. Welcome to the program Chris, how are you?

Dr. Chris DeRienzo: I’m terrific Neal, thanks so much for having me today.

Neal: I’m glad you could take the time. Now I did mention that you’re an author and you’re also Chief Medical Officer there at Cardinal Analytix. Give us a brief background about yourself and let’s talk about your role at Cardinal.

Dr DeRienzo: Sure thing. So I’m a neonatologist I went to medical school and then I started practicing in the NICU, that’s the intensive care unit for very sick little babies. I worked for a few years at a large health system and had worked in a couple of different areas, one of which was the intersection of population, health and analytics. I’ve gotten to see how with developing data, science, technology we could leverage the power of these new AI enabled tools to really change outcomes in people’s lives and that’s what drew me to Cardinal. That’s why I still get to practice very part time and help patients individually but now as part of Cardinal Analytix, I get to work with these brilliant data scientists and computer engineers and change lives for patients, members and employees across the whole country and that’s a pretty cool thing to get to do.

Neal: Now we’re pretty familiar with the word analytics, analysis. Cardinal Analytix is a predictive analytics company. What is predictive analytics briefly?

Dr DeRienzo: So when you think about analytics historically all we’ve been able to do is really describe the past but the power of machine learning enables us to peek around the corner and see more into the future and so our purpose as a company is grounded on better care sooner. We’re spun out of Stanford StartX about four years ago, using machine learning to look at a population of people and say “What could we do differently if we saw tomorrow’s risk today?” And so within the universe of an analytics ecosystem, predictive and prescriptive analytics is “Can the data that we have in health claims and prescription claims, in lab values and so on tell us something about a person that suggests that they have a high risk of getting sicker in the next year? And if so, is there something we could do about that to help them from falling off  helpless?”

Neal: So not only better sooner but better sooner and less costly because of the predictive analytics that you’re employing?

Dr DeRienzo: That’s exactly right. As a country Neal, we spend trillions of dollars on treating folks that have chronic conditions. Much of that because we can’t catch them early enough to keep them healthy and so as folks with diabetes or COPD or heart failure beginning to slowly get worse and worse and worse, they become at really high risk of being hospitalized or in the emergency department or needing very high cost drugs and to help get them back under control, imagine what you could do differently if instead of catching them when they were in the ED, in a really bad crisis, we caught them six, nine, twelve months before that and we were able to help get them on the right path and keep them from being in ED, keep them from being hospitalized. That’s the kind of power that marrying world-class data science with our clinically relevant actions helps us do today for clients around the country.

Neal: Do these analytics predict an individual’s ability to manage a condition once that condition is predicted based on you know as we discussed cost? Because once you run the numbers, it may reveal that “Oh wow, there’s really nothing that we can do to keep this person, to minimize this individual’s risk of this, that or the other condition.”

Dr DeRienzo: That’s a great question and I think when you look within the continuum of care for any condition if for example, a once a preemie is born at 24 weeks you know that that baby is going to be in the hospital for around fourteen weeks no matter what because when you’re born at five hundred grams, you just need to quintuple in size before you’re safe to go out into the world. That said, being born at 24 weeks while at guarantee is about a 14 week hospital stay,  there’s a lot of other things that could happen to you in the course of your hospital stay that we can prevent from happening. So think about the same analogy for someone with diabetes or COPD or heart failure, now once they’ve been diagnosed with that condition in some cases, maybe we can reverse it like some cases types of diabetes. But in other cases it’s possible that they’re going to have to live with that condition for the rest of their lives and then within that construct, what can we do to keep them as healthy as they can possibly be? So for something like diabetes, ensuring that you’re having your A1C checked every six months, that you’re in really close contact with your primary care provider and that you’re connected to a diabetes management program, under a weight management program, that you’re accessing some of the new technologies that help keep your blood sugar within a really much, much tighter control than we could ever achieve in the past and doing that, in the short term may lead to some greater engagement with the health system but when you look over the arc of someone’s life, we can lead to much healthier outcomes and that in turn then leads to much lower total cost of care.

Neal: Now in addition to Cardinal Analytix, you’re the author of Tiny Medicine: One Doctor’s Biggest Lessons from His Smallest Patients. When you’re talking about reducing an individual’s risk, I understand you’re talking about the preemie, being born and the 14 week guaranteed stay pretty much. It’s very easy to keep an infant in for lack of a better term compliance but when a person is a young adult, in a middle-aged male, some of these predictors may not be as effective in prompting this person to go to the doctor to get better care sooner. How does predictive analytics, how does it move patients toward that care?

Dr DeRienzo: You’re spot on Neal I think that what you’re getting at really is that no matter how powerful the AI is we can never take the humanity out of healthcare and so if you look at the folks, our clients we work with, really anybody who has a responsibility for helping manage a population so big health plans or provider who’s working in the population health space or even a big employer, they have humans whose job it is today is to try to reach out and engage with people at this point in their lives where they can help make a difference and they have lots of different levers that they can use. And so where we can support a team like that at using machine learning is identify the folks who a care manager, who often comes from either a nursing background or a social worker’s background, today they have to run through lists of people, get backgrounds on them, find out where they think they could be helpful and then try to contact them and they spent hours and hours on the data preparatory side. Using a solution like the one that we offer at Cardinal enables those humans and so again just people, care managers who are people whose responsibility is to connect with other people to spend more of their time actually making connections with humans and that could be on the phone, that could be through home visits, that could be through any of the levers that they have but really what we’re helping match is the right people, connecting with the right patients, members, employees at the right time to lead to a big disruption in their health. And that’s some of the feedback that we’ve heard from our clients. I’ll never forget, one of my favorite quotes from a care manager,  one of our clients team said “Gosh you know it felt like I was just meant to connect with that person at this time because I could really make a difference in their life.”

Neal: Where can we go online and get some more information about Cardinal Analytix and what can we expect to find once we got land on your website?

Dr DeRienzo: You bet. You can either reach out to me through LinkedIn or you can just google Cardinal Analytix, that’s spelt with an X and you’ll come right to our website and that will walk through the three different offerings that we have today around a cost bloom around matching patients who have preference-sensitive conditions with providers who are really high value and then around looking at total population risk. You’ll also read a little bit about our two co-founders, two really brilliant Stanford professions, Dr. Arnold Milstein and Nigam Shah as well as some of the members of our team and the folks who are really fortunate to have help advise us as we steer the course of our growth over the next couple years.

Neal: And we’d all like to get a copy of Tiny Medicine: One Doctor’s Biggest Lessons from His Smallest Patients, published by Big Eye Books this summer as a matter of fact. Where can we go online and get a copy of that? And I’m sure it’s at all of them normal literary outlets.

Dr DeRienzo: You got it Neal. Pre-orders are live on Amazon and Barnes & Noble today and as you noted, the book will drop on that June 11.

Neal: Chris, it’s been a pleasure thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio, hoping you’ll come back.

Dr DeRienzo: It would be my pleasure Neal, thank you very much.

Neal: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard in conversation with Dr. Chris DeRienzo, Chief Medical Officer at Cardinal Analytix and also the author of Tiny Medicine: One Doctor’s Biggest Lessons from His Smallest Patients. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud and be sure and visit our Affiliate page when you visit our platform.

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