The Heart Behind Inspiren: Nurse-Led Innovation in Senior Care

Apr 21, 2024

By The Inspiren Team


Healthcare technology has evolved at a dizzying pace over the past two decades, from the adoption of electronic medical records and surgical robots to the more recent emergence of artificial intelligence and data-driven care models. 

This article profiles Mike Wang, our founder and Chief Clinical Officer. Mike discusses his path from nursing to technology, and the value of clinician-led innovation in health care. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the founding of Inspiren and its role in reshaping the landscape of senior care. 


Inspiren founder Mike Wang showcasing and AUGi device

Inspiren founder Mike Wang with an AUGi device


Mike Wang was born in the town of ChangChun, in the Manchurian region of China. He immigrated with his family to the U.S., landing in Long Island, New York, when he was nine years old. 

“You could say that I grew up in the Chinese restaurant that my family operated,” Mike remembers. “I was that kid that you saw doing homework in the front of the restaurant every day after the school bus dropped me off.” 

In his adoptive home of New York, the events of 9/11 in Mike’s early adulthood inspired him to join the army. After having the honor of serving his country, he pursued a career in nursing to continue his path of service as a civilian.

From nursing to tech


Man and Woman standing next to Inspiren banner

AUGi and Mike at Palm Garden

It was in the early days of clinical practice that Mike witnessed firsthand the gaps in care delivery. Working on a cardiac step-down unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Mike was stunned by the staggering number of preventable adverse events. Compared to the marvels of modern “Star Wars” medicine, as he calls it, the science of care delivery lagged woefully behind. 

Mike homed in on the biggest challenge he saw on his unit: falls. Despite the clinical staff’s dedication, ensuring patient safety proved elusive without constant, one-on-one vigilance. 

“A cardiac surgery could be successful,” recalls Mike, “but if patients fell afterward, especially with chest tubes in, they could get infections and have other serious complications. I cringe thinking about how often this happened. It should have been a zero harm environment, but hospitals just didn’t have the right tools. I felt a strong urge to do something about it.”

“Our managers assembled task forces and committees,” he continues, “and they kept saying we had to do better with falls—but that’s like a coach saying at half time, ‘We really need to win, so let’s score more points.’ We had no data, no strategy, no benchmarks. I saw a lot of effort and resources being spent, but we made so little progress.”

Determined to bridge this gap, Mike started to envision a data-driven, AI-backed system that could revolutionize patient monitoring and care efficiency, a concept that would plant the seeds of Inspiren.

The value of clinician-led innovation


Vin and Jeff with masks

Vincent Cocito  & Jeff Morelli

In 2017, Mike joined forces with Jeffrey Morelli and Vincent Cocito, who came from healthcare technology. Jeff and Vin were kindred spirits in the pursuit of healthcare innovation, and all three were fueled by a fervent desire to transform care delivery.

The team spent their first two years huddled together in the library at Columbia University. They read publications and patents, especially around computer vision and ambient patient monitoring, setting a goal to create a piece of hardware that could gather data and track care delivery. 

“We were surprised that there were no existing solutions that had all of the features we wanted,” Mike says, “so we decided to build it ourselves.” They delved headlong into hardware engineering and entrepreneurship with no prior experience. “We had no idea how hard it would be when we set out.”

Yet it was the unwavering support of Mike’s clinical colleagues that got Inspiren’s foot in the door. “Our early believers were not venture capitalists. The first person to invest in Inspiren was my charge nurse,” Mike remembers poignantly. “It was fellow nurses who recognized the potential of what we were working on. Clinical staff at New York Presbyterian championed Inspiren, and they ended up being our first customers.” 

Inspiren’s earliest implementations were a success. The team installed AUGi, its multi sensor device, in acute care patient rooms, and care teams saw significant reductions in falls with injury—as much as 80%—all without infrastructure changes or new data entry for staff. 

“Our clinician-led team created a product that was really built for care,” says Mike, “not just for billing or compliance.” 

Inspiren’s evolution from acute care to senior living


And then covid happened. 

“Covid accelerated the need for remote patient monitoring across many care settings,” Mike explains. “And I also had a new, deeply personal connection to what we were building at Inspiren.” 

Mike’s grandmother in China became ill. Though the family hired a 24/7 caregiver and installed a nanny cam, his grandmother still had falls and developed pressure injuries. “We couldn’t keep track of the care she was receiving or understand what was happening. Her caregiver did their best, but people have to sleep. Bad things happened when no one was looking.”

Experiencing this all-too-common situation prompted Mike to think about whether there was a place for Inspiren in senior living—and it ignited in him a personal mission to redefine senior care. 

“Our first foray into the industry was attending Senior Living 100 in 2023. We didn’t know anyone and felt like the awkward kid at the school dance, but we really thought we had something to offer. What’s more, we were truly humbled by our meetings with community operators. We saw their passion for caring for seniors and supporting them to have the best possible lives in their later years.” 

Importantly, Mike saw an opportunity in senior care to improve not only patient safety but operational efficiency as well, making caregivers’ jobs easier and reducing burnout. Utilizing the team’s frontline expertise, Inspiren expanded its feature set to empower caregivers with AI-driven analytics and insights that streamline workflows, prioritize tasks, and enhance clinical decision-making—all while enabling them to refocus their attention back at the bedside. The result was a holistic operating system tailored for senior living communities, and built by nurses, for nurses.

Inspiren’s first presentation to a senior living partner soon followed with Maplewood Senior Living, a trailblazer in the industry—and it landed. They saw Inspiren’s value, clinical bona fides, and track record in complex acute care settings, and they decided to be the first senior living community to implement the complete operating system.

This year at Senior Living 100, Mike and the team arrived to handshakes and embraces from new business partners and friends. “It was really fulfilling to see the impact that Inspiren has already had on their communities. I already see a shift in the market: Operators are still talking about falls and safety, but they’re talking more about prevention, not just detection. They’re seeing the implications of having clinical data integrated with workforce efficiency and revenue insights. They’re starting to understand the pull of what we at Inspiren like to call ‘irresistible data.’”


Inspiren AUGi install crew smiling in group photo

The Inspiren install crew

A culture of compassion and results


Central to Inspiren’s ethos is a commitment to caring for others. According to Mike, “We chose our brand with intention. We want to inspire ren,” which is a Confucian pillar of altruism that harkens back to Mike’s Chinese heritage and testifies to the team’s mission to save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering. “This is really a sacred cause for our team.”

Mike is passionate about frontline caregivers playing a primary role in building technology for health care: “Those who have been at the bedside understand the process of care, so we need clinical domain experts driving innovation,” he says. That’s why Mike built a clinician-led culture at Inspiren, with nurses comprising 20% of the team. Mike continues to encourage clinicians to join the ranks and empower other frontline caregivers to build solutions to improve care.

Mike also prides himself on a culture of results: “There’s a quote from Thomas Edison: ‘Vision without execution is hallucination.’ We really focus on execution at Inspiren. That’s how we built the company from its earliest days in the Columbia Library, solving one important problem every day.”

Even as a young boy, Mike embodied this drive. He lived near a man-made lake called Nan Hu (Southern Lake) and likes to share the story of how he taught himself to swim there.

“I’d always wanted to know how to swim, but my parents were too busy and there were certainly no swimming classes in China in the 1980s. I would sneak away on my own with my friend and venture into the lake. We made our own floatation devices by breaking off styrofoam pieces from shipping containers and stuffing them into our shorts. As I edged closer and closer toward the deep end of the lake, it was sink or swim. For whatever reason, I thought it was worth the risk.” 

Pioneering the future of senior care


Inspiren is a navigator for senior living communities: A wayfinder at the point of care to help clinicians and operators make better decisions, and a guide through the shifting dynamics of an industry moving toward data-driven care. 

“I love working with senior living communities,” says Mike. “Inspiren shares a vision with operators to mitigate risks, empower caregivers, and streamline operations, all to enhance resident safety and quality of life. Our hearts are in the same place. And communities are eager to make improvements, so they can be very nimble in adopting technology that makes an immediate and noticeable impact.” 

Looking ahead, Mike envisions a future where data-driven solutions facilitate seamless transitions across senior care settings and help seniors and their communities thrive. He and the Inspiren team are poised to lead the charge in building that future, one innovation at a time.