The following excerpt was originally published in the story “How tech startups are bringing the digital revolution to hospitals” in Canadian Business on November 4, 2015:
How tech startups are bringing the digital revolution to hospitals
Cancelling a surgery is stressful, for everyone involved. For patients, it can prolong months of anxiety. For surgeons, it disrupts a highly regimented schedule.
Carmine Simone, chief of surgery at Toronto East General Hospital, had six procedures cancelled over a three-month period in 2013 because the patients had failed to stop taking their medication beforehand. His unit was also fielding waves of calls from discharged patients asking panicky questions after the fact.
Simone found a solution with Seamless MD, a mobile app he and his team prescribed to patients during an 11-month pilot program. Seamless MD guides people through surgery prep and recovery: Before the operation, it provides educational material and videos on patients’ upcoming procedures and sends reminders to stop medication at the right time. After surgery, the app allows patients to track any issues they experience and communicate those electronically to hospital staff. They also get full access to their records. The results of Simone’s test? Zero procedure cancellations and a dramatic reduction in the number of distressed patient calls.
“Seamless allows patients to access reliable information when they want, tailored to their specific needs,” Simone says. “It makes an already stressful situation more bearable for patients.”
Seamless MD is a Toronto-based startup co-founded by three recent university graduates. It’s part of a wave of Canadian companies aiming to transform health care and bring the country’s hospitals into the digital age—a massive opportunity to modernize the country’s aging health-care system, and to meet the expectations of a clientele increasingly used to managing every aspect of their lives through a screen.
Back in Toronto, Seamless MD is also gearing up for growth. The startup is tiny right now, with only seven employees, but the founders have attracted a number of institutional and angel investors to help fund expansion in the face of demand from new customers.
The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto and the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal are both testing the company’s surgery preparation and recovery app. The app, available for iOS and Android devices and on the web, is free for patients to use, but the hospitals pay an undisclosed amount for it.
Liu and his partners, like most Canadian companies operating in the health-care space, see their home country as a big opportunity, but they also have eyes on the broader U.S. market, where the pressure for hospitals to smarten up is even greater.
But Liu is also a doctor, so he’s pleased that governments are finally taking action to modernize hospitals and thereby improve the quality of care.
“Until you try to fix the policy and get health-care providers to care more about quality and cost, people aren’t going to move as quickly about it,” he says.