Up & Running with Al Berning, CEO, Ambient Clinical Analytics – Medical Alley Association

Up & Running with Al Berning, CEO, Ambient Clinical Analytics

Al Berning is an entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience managing technology startups as a Mayo Clinic Entrepreneur in Residence. Currently, he is the CEO of Ambient Clinical Analytics, a company offering a suite of real-time analytics tools that use licensed Mayo Clinic technologies to give critical care providers access to vital process of care information for conditions like sepsis.

Al was the CEO of Liquid Cool Solutions from 2007 to 2012. Prior to Liquid Cool Solutions, he was CEO and Chairman of the Board of PEMSTAR from its founding in 1994. Al led PEMSTAR to an IPO on NASDAQ and its merger with Benchmark Electronics.

In the early part of his career, Al held numerous positions in management and engineering at IBM. He received a B.S. Industrial Engineering and an M.B.A. from St. Cloud State University. In 2005 he was selected by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to serve on the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee that resulted in the formation of the University of Minnesota Rochester. In 1999, Mr. Berning received the regional and national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Give us Ambient Clinical’s elevator pitch.

Ambient Clinical Analytics provides clinical analytics solutions to health systems and hospitals that reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes. Ambient Clinical uses licensed Mayo Clinic technologies, including 1,200 clinically vetted rules and algorithms, to give critical care providers situational awareness through real-time point of care access to vital process-of-care information and analytics for conditions like sepsis. Ambient Clinical has achieved FDA Class II clearance for the patented AWARE™ clinical analytics software platform. 

What led you to found Ambient Clinical?

I was asked to become an Entrepreneur in Residence at Mayo Clinic and started working with them on commercializing a set of AI-based analytics tools for patient care. We were impressed with the effectiveness and quality of the software in improving patient care and reducing medical errors and costs. Based on our assessment, we completed a commercial license and launched Ambient Clinic Analytics with Mayo Clinic.     

Did your company experience changes as a result of the pandemic?

Yes, we had several installations underway at the start of COVID. We immediately reviewed all of our installation processes to ensure all steps could be done remotely. All of our products were developed to support remote monitoring and telemedicine. We closely monitored the changes and ideas hospitals had for managing COVID and made product changes to support the ideas. As an example, we combined our CERTAIN patient treatment product with our YES Board product to specifically track the treatment and location of COVID patients in the hospital. Overall, we worked to stay attentive to the hospital’s needs during COVID and responded quickly when we could engage or help.                               

Whare the big milestones coming in the next few years for Ambient Clinical?

We are currently focused on launching our next 10 customers, completing a Series B financing in 2021, and are working on the next generation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Algorithms for patient care. Our objective is to quickly make our AWARE–Sepsis DART product available to all hospitals.        

How do you balance leading a startup with your everyday life?

I grew up on a dairy farm which gave me the experience of working seven days a week and taking personal time when you could.  We lived the slogan, “Work hard play hard.”  That gave me a great background for starting companies, which often require constant attention and at the same time making sure to stay in tune with my family and the other important things in my life.                   

What’s one thing people get wrong about startup life?

Having gone from corporate life, IBM, to my first startup, PEMSTAR, I recognized that many support structures and organizations would not be available, and we’d have to do it ourselves. I’ve seen some people go from a corporate career to a start-up expecting and hoping many things will be similar and they discover they miss and need the support structure and organizations.                  

What’s the best advice you have received in your career?

To be an effective leader, you have to know when to stop the analysis and make a decision. Often the analysis stage of a decision descends into a cycle of diminishing returns and frustration for the team, and it is the leader’s responsibility to stop the analysis cycle and “Just do it.”                                                    

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?

We are proud of our Sepsis DART product’s ability to detect and treat sepsis, which helps patients better survive sepsis. My goal is to get it installed in at least 50 hospitals in the upcoming year.       

How do you relax or decompress?

Spending time with my family and as often as possible skiing, boating, traveling, or golfing with them.  

What do you enjoy the most about the Medical Alley community?

The Medical Alley team and members do a great job of creating many ways to engage in ALL aspects of starting or running a medical company.   

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