COTA is a data analytics firm aiming to make complex data on cancer more digestible for physicians and researchers. (COTA)

COTA Inc. is a winner of FierceHealthcare's Fierce 15 awards. See our other honorees here

How do you improve the way physicians treat cancer? That is the very question that COTA seeks to answer. COTA was formed in 2011 to curate and organize real-world patient data so that doctors can make better decisions and reduce costs.

COTA’s digital classification scheme—known as the COTA Nodal Address system—aims to categorize patient and disease characteristics and create a “digital code” that would be used for each patient’s journey to treat cancer.

The system is the first to precisely categorize patient factors, disease and intended therapies in order to enable precision medicine. The goal is to make it easier to group patients together to determine any changes in treatment plans, outcomes and costs.

The analytics company also aims to organize complex data to help researchers find a cure.

Fierce Insights from COTA CEO Mike Doyle

What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?

While each company has its own unique challenges, my best piece of advice across the board is to have thick skin. Particularly in healthcare, it can be incredibly hard to launch anything that challenges the status quo, but that’s where you have the greatest opportunities to improve the lives of patients. Equally important to having thick skin and taking the no’s in stride is having people who believe strongly in the company’s mission and values.

COTA CEO Mike Doyle

What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?

As a CEO, you have to be an optimist but a practical optimist. As I’ve done this more and more, I’ve found that the emphasis on "practical" becomes more important, particularly if you’re trying to do something that disrupts an existing industry or process.

Early in my career, I wouldn’t even allow myself to think about a company that I was running not being successful. I’ve learned that when you acknowledge failure as a possibility, it forces you to not only have a plan A but also plans B, C and D.

What is one change you predict in healthcare that people wouldn’t expect?

People have been talking about the golden age of electronic medical records and increased data in healthcare for over a decade but, up to this point, we have seen very little output or improvement in care because of it. I believe we are finally at the point when healthcare decisions and actions will be consistently made in a data-driven way. What this really boils down to is a light at the end of the tunnel for EHRs. These systems were created for billing purposes, and now through technology, we’re beginning to realize the immense opportunity they have to improve the quality of care.