How one healthcare startup tackled the problem that stumped Google
When Maayan Cohen's partner received a brain tumor diagnosis a few years ago, Cohen compiled medical records the old-fashioned way. "I used a very sophisticated system," she said. "I used a binder." That experience prompted her to create a system that would make the process easier: a mobile application to aggregate paper and digital medical records. But with larger companies already trying to tackle the problem (through Google Health and other initiatives), Cohen said it seemed like an impossible mission for a startup.
The team at Hello Doctor decided to take a different route: a direct-to-consumer model that puts patients at the center of the system. "We're not going through the healthcare providers," Cohen said. "We're going around them." To date, she said, several hundred users are already managing their entire medical record on Hello Doctor's iPad and iPhone apps.
Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Cohen:
Take regulations seriously -- Hello Doctor is a consumer app, Cohen said, which means it's not regulated by HIPAA. But to provide users with confidence in the system, she said, the team decided to become HIPAA-compliant anyway. Although it took significant time and effort, Cohen said, Hello Doctor changed procedures and invested in technology to become compliant. "It's scary at the beginning because HIPAA is written in a way that's very complex to understand," she said. "Once you get past it, you actually created a very good entry barrier for yourself."
Strive for a well-balanced team -- Cohen, who has a background in business marketing, shares co-founder status with a technologist and a designer who specializes in user experience. Each co-founder has a different mission, she said, whether it's to bring more people to the app, make the system simpler or move the technology forward. "We're very well balanced," Cohen said.
Choose passion over experience -- "Getting great people on board who have a lot of energy and motivation is the most important thing," Cohen said. "Our entire team went through medical conditions and dealt with the healthcare system." One team member was recently pregnant, she said, while others had experience with bowel disease and a relative's cancer. "They're all very motivated in creating this project," Cohen said. "They're coming to work with a real mission."
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