After months of waiting for your dermatologist appointment, you finally get a reminder call. Unable to reach you, the receptionist leaves a voicemail with all the details you need. Have you ever accidentally deleted a voicemail?
Having weathered bad traffic for half an hour, you finally arrive at the clinic for your appendectomy follow-up with your surgeon. You spend an hour and a half flipping through tattered and outdated magazines before you get to see the surgeon to merely answer the question “How are you feeling?”
This is just a sample of the “accumulation of pain points” that Nick Ragaz, President & Co-Founder of Healthcare Made Simple Inc., saw as “a problem screaming out for a solution.”
Ragaz considers himself part of a generation that prefers using newer modes of communications than face-to-face conversations and phone calls. Spurred by the frustrations he experienced as a patient, Ragaz wants to bring the efficiency and accessibility of emails and messaging to doctors’ offices.
While receptionists are fielding calls and questions, Ragaz is developing a Web- and mobile-platform that he says will reduce administrative costs by enabling more efficient and better quality communications between doctors’ offices and patients. The solution is Wellx.
Secure emails are encrypted and are unlocked with a key. Providing that key and setting up the necessary infrastructure are hurdles. Wellx has all the controls that meet the standards required by legislation in Ontario. “The difference between using email and using Wellx is convenience,” Ragaz said.
While e-mails bounce around the Internet in a form that is readable by anyone, available to third parties, and sometimes only secured by a password (often weak), Wellx encrypts messages and provides a secure environment that they never leave. Additionally, it’s possible to enable enhanced authentication that requires a token in addition to a password.
The two main stakeholders of privacy and security in Ontario are the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) that enforces the Personal Health Information Protection Act and the Canadian Medical Protective Association. Ragaz has reviewed Wellx with the IPC so that they would at least be aware of Wellx.
After putting security and privacy measures are in place, Ragaz will be looking to get doctors to start using his tool. “The initial response is always, ‘I’m scared.’ A lot of doctors are concerned about getting too many messages and inappropriate messages,” Ragaz said.
But once they give Wellx a try, doctors see three benefits: getting information from patients that helps them provide better care like helping people with diabetes control their blood glucose levels, pushing out information to patients like test results, and notifying patients to come in for a flu shot during the flu season.
“It’s a process of going from fear to adoption and full engagement,” Ragaz said.
Before starting work on Wellx in late 2011, Healthcare Made Simple Inc. launched an earlier product that helps doctors adopt electronic medical records in 2012. The Wellx app is available for iPhones on the App Store.
At this time, Ragaz believes that the size of the market is limited and doubts that Wellx can show the kind of returns that venture capitalists look for. He is focused on growing the company he co-founded through revenue from Wellx’s provider-pay model.
Other companies are using patient-pay models but they’re not getting much traction. “We think that anybody should have access anytime,” Ragaz said.
Launching version two of Wellx is on the agenda. Ragaz hopes to present data that shows how Wellx improves communication between healthcare providers and patients, increases productivity, and reduces cost at the e-Health 2013: Accelerating Change conference this May.
To connect people in the startup community in order to leverage experiences, contacts, and ideas, Ragaz started the Healthcare Startups TO group on Meetup.com and hosted the first meeting in December last year.
The government has been looking at the use of telemedicine technologies, particularly in northern Canada, and how it can provide cost-effective substitutes to some types of care. Ragaz is hopeful that the government will enact reimbursement for online consultations in the future.
To learn more about Wellx, visit www.wellx.ca.