Healthtech Optimists Episode 1: Adding a positive voice to the digital health conversation
Listen: Episode 1: Adding a positive voice to the digital health conversation
Alrighty. Well he's here we go with our first podcast. So Alex, statistics planning to me, uh, I guess why we are doing this podcast. And I thought it'd be great if he, um, explained it again with the record button on.
Okay. So Courtney and I thought it important to contribute to a wider conversation about innovation in healthcare. It's currently a conversation that has, um, a lot of emotion, um, a dose of fear and we wanted to contribute to that story, the positive things that are happening in healthcare innovation. So new technologies, uh, how they're improving patients' experiences, how they're improving healthcare and sharing out perspective on what we think, uh, other positive impacts and balancing out the conversation about healthcare innovation.
Okay. Yeah, I mean I guess cause we are just, we're two guys that have recently, well, I mean I speak for myself here recently, got into the healthcare space and I think it's worth of wider conversation as we are trying to produce today on, you know, the digital healthcare landscape and um, hopefully in the future be chatting to a few like minded people in the industry. Um, you know, just to understand the industry a little bit more and then also to, uh, I guess further educate people in and around the industry around, you know, what's coming, where we are today and where we need to go.
Yeah, I think there's, um, I think much of the fear about where healthcare is going comes from a lack of information or lack of understanding. Um, I think we're naturally scared of things we don't understand and as technology and software particularly is now arriving in health, uh, I think it's easy for those to become really scary ideas about information moving around and sharing information. But the answer is not to simply put our heads in the sand or, uh, elicit fear amongst each other. It's about constructive conversations about the positive impacts that technology can make and software can make and being conscious of, of the risks and, and managing those
Yeah, totally. I mean, I think the digital health care landscape, um, can in some people's view lag where we are potentially from a corporate point of view. Um, but you know what I mean? It's something that, you know, technology is something that can actually help the healthcare landscape, um, be more efficient and, and, you know, reduce costs and all this, um, all those good things. But, uh, you know, without actually awareness of what's going on in the industry, one won't really get anywhere fast. Um, so I guess then what got you interested in getting a job into in health care then?
So I studied engineering. Um, I studied mechatronics at New South Wales and that was mainly because I loved robots and technology and how the world came apart and went back together. Um, by my second second business that I was involved in as an early employee slash founder, um, I was spending some time in the healthcare market building robotics for three d printers to reproduce cancer cells. And I realized the size of the lever that technology could apply in healthcare. Um, the sophistication of healthcare was comparatively low to other industries. So slight. So what happened to your, your, your three d printer that prints cancer cells? So, fortunately that business is now well funded. Um, and uh, recently by some Australian VCs, including, uh, I think blackbird and they've produced Australia's, or sorry, the world's first high throughput, three d printer for cell biology, um, company's called Inventia and their product's called Rastrum.
So very proud to say I built the first prototype of, uh, of that and now this whole team of people who really actually know what they're doing now. Right. Um, and so you're not involved anymore, no longer involved in that business apart from, uh, a great level of admiration for, uh, Julio and the, the, the companies building the product you'd brought to market. Wow. Okay. So, I mean, that's a great thought. I guess in the digital health care landscape. How many years ago was that? Yeah, that was probably four or five. Five years ago. Five and a half years ago now. Okay. And that opened my eyes to applying technology into healthcare and I've moved to look for increasing leverage with technology and ultimately ended up in software. So softwares you could argue is, the ultimate leverage. Um, and that's brought me over the past couple of years to starting and growing a couple of technology businesses in health.
Okay. And so, so you moved on from, from that business, where did you go next to them?
So probably the, um, the, the business of note from there was a company called Doctus, which was Australia's first direct to consumer prescription medication platform. Um, that was a business that was in 2015 and 16. Um, and that was offering prescription medication, um, online, uh, for a range of men's health and women's health, um, conditions, everything from contraception to, uh, viagra and hair loss. So, um, uh, business, uh, a little bit along the lines of, um, a really new exciting business called Pilot that's been lost launched by Tim Doyle, um, who are doing a much better productized version of, uh, of what we kicked off a little while ago.
Okay, cool. And so from there then you moved on to health engine?
Yeah, so I've, I've known health engine, um, until most recently, uh, I was Chief of Staff there until March of this year, 2019. And you know, really excitingly with healthengine helped, um, deploy series A investment, um, by Sequoia, uh, helped grow product there, um, over 40 people and help the business kind of double in size. And at one point I was even acting VP of engineering.
Okay. But that's like strong engineering.
Yeah. Until I hired a real one. So apologies to the Engineering Organization for having to deal with me for so long cellar.
Okay. That's really interesting. So obviously a long, well I'm in a reasonably long history in the, in the digital healthcare space. Um, and now you're starting with Vybrance. Um, and so I suppose, you know, where do you see is going, where do you see the Australian digital health cares community going or what do you see happening in the next 10 years?
So what became apparent to me after spending a number of years building a range of technology businesses in health was that there was an incredible range of exciting technologies coming. Um, but long before those really transformative technologies could have a widespread impact, we needed to solve some slightly less sexy and headline-grabbing problems. And the problem that came up time and time again was the problem of connectivity in terms of software connectivity to be able to move data around and build, build rich products. Um, the, you know, the lifeblood of good products is understanding about your customer or your user or how your user interacted. He's interacting with the world and healthcare is historically siloed with antiquated business models and outdated, um, databases. So this, this made it really challenging for the companies who are innovating to build their products and deploy them to market. And so you talking about the silos of data or healthcare data spread around Australia and I guess the world to write correct. And that an individual patient would have information locked up in a whole plethora of disparate locations and usually not even be aware of what they were. And so building products to treat a whole human is quite challenging because that single human has data everywhere and very difficult to to bring it together.
And from the technology side bought are they sort of struggle with like, you know, the fact that the data is spread out everywhere. I suppose what you're saying is that the patient really struggles to get a whole view of, of their entire health history
Yeah. And at some levels the patient really just wants to get healthier. They want to get better. Um, but it becomes very challenging for our healthcare system and for practitioners and for software, organize it as software developers, building products to build products that can treat that whole human without that information available. Um, and generally that's, it's not caused by any bad actors, but just a lot of legacy structure. Um, and so that really was, uh, the, the preface for vibrance, the built the business. You know, we're, we are building now and that is to start connecting a whole range of important data sources from practice management systems to hospital patient administration systems, um, and start connecting to these silos, transforming the data into a standard format and making that available in Web API APIs that software developers know and love to use. So that approaching product in healthcare can, can start to look more like approaching product in, in other, more progressive industries. The information is available and it's, it's rich and it's interactive. Okay.
Yeah. I mean I, I suppose my, my chats with various practitioners have led me to believe that these silos of data actually, um, you know, they really, uh, limits the, the kind of work that some practitioners can do where, you know, information might be stuck in an aged care system and that same information about that patient may be stuck in a practitioner system somewhere else. Um, are you saying that vibrance is going to try and solve this problem and give practitioners access to more information?
Look, I think ultimately make their job easier. Yeah. It does have to end up at the practitioner and the products that will be effective in healthcare will undoubtedly have a strong focus on the practitioner. Um, and how that practitioners workflow is affected or improved. I think that's crucial. You will have to flow into the patient as well at some point. Um, there's two ways that I, that I think about the changing landscape of software in healthcare. And the first is that software will start to do the things that we can see. It should be doing right now. Things like a shared view, um, you know, a single view of a whole range of data sources for a patient. So a patient goes to a hospital and there's information about, you know, complete information about their previous history at that hospital and, and also about their admissions to a nearby hospital or a GP. So that's kind of the obvious future of software and healthcare where it starts to fulfill our, our current expectations. Whats also really exciting and what I think a business like vibrance can begin to enable is that there's a whole menagerie of functionality that we are not even thinking about yet that you can get when you connect a healthcare ecosystem. Things like, you know, that same patient having a view in a hospital, ultimately you would want that system to interact with the other lifestyle factors of that patient, whether it was their, um, their food security or the exercise or their transport, all the other factors that end up impacting on, um, on a patient.
Right. So that's really interesting. So you're saying that potentially, you know, the, the fitbit's that I'm wearing or the, you know, the runs that I'm doing on Strava, they can all feed into my, into my overall record.
Yes. And I think that, that, that creates a more complete picture. And then I think we realize that health is a much broader thing than medications and exercise. Uh, it includes a whole lot of lifestyle factors and particularly in developed countries, the lifestyle factors are as important, you know, predictors of health. And so health is a, is a broad picture that includes how to get the person to the, um, uh, appointment or, you know, get them to the follow up. Um, I heard the CEO of Blue Shield Blue Cross talking about one of the most predictive factors for hospital readmissions was whether that patient had transport and so interesting increasing the connectivity from a patient record to include how that patient can travel around and do they have food security. Um, is the kind of really exciting, broader future that we can get to if we, if we have more connectivity and.
I guess enabling things like Teddy Hills for instance.
Yeah, exactly. So in, in situations where it makes we're, where it's compelling, tele-health should be readily available and easily accessible to both the clinician and the patient.
Yeah. Well, awesome. So, so pretending now that we are 10 years in the future and you've managed to connect all these disparate, uh, data sources of health, I mean, what are the sorts of things that you hope, um, Vybrance can solve for the, um, for, for health care in Australia? I mean, I guess what do you sort of see the data? What do you see as solving with that data or that connectivity? What would you like to see?
Yeah, I think the hallmark of all the, the, the indicator of success for the business we are building would be a true ecosystem of software companies creating impactful products for healthcare. And those products be able to be deployed widely and readily. And for healthcare organizations, organizations who are delivering health to be able to find the products that, that really impacted business and their patients and deploy them in and see the value. So in 10 years time, I'd love to look back and, and see, hey, we, we were able to contribute to a whole ecosystem, um, of, you know, numerous [inaudible], uncountable number of software companies building functionality. Um, and it being a much more fluid journey to be able to connect to data, build products, deploy those products, discover those products. Um, because that in my views, that has to happen for health care to materially improve. Um, and it is such a high dimensional, um, challenge to solve that it's not going to be solved by any one person. It needs, you know, needs, it needs an army to do it. And that's an army of software companies. Yeah.
Okay. I mean, I, I assume one day we might listen to this podcast in the future and realize how, how wrong we were about that. Um, and what the future of Vybrance is, was, or, um, what becomes the time capsule. Yeah, exactly. Put a lovely to the cut, have something to look back on it and think, okay, well that's what we were thinking then. You know, we are, we are today.
Irrational optimism is, is an important thing at this building companies.
Yeah, that's right. I mean, yeah, we have to be optimistic here. We sit in the, in the Gordon Library recording this together. Um, hopefully one day we're sitting in our offices surrounded by other software developers helping us achieve that cream. Exactly right. Um, all right, awesome. And um, I guess to wrap it up then, uh, uh, one question I like to ask you, which I, I have stolen from another podcaster who are reveal at another time, but what do you wish your 20 year old self knew?
I was reflecting on this recently? Um, someone asked me a, a similar question and there were, there were three things that sprung to mind for me, um, that I found to be somewhat timeless and they're certainly applicable to me now at 33. Um, and the first is that, uh, the closer than you think and that not necessarily to the end goal or to whatever success may be, would have, have you defined that, but that you're closer to success or to progress than you realize. So you're closer to that next, um, that next co-founder, that next company, that next customer, um, you know, you can go for quite a long period of time and it feels like you're getting nowhere. Yeah. And when you, when you're not following a, a bit of, well beaten, track progress comes in chunks. Um, so you know, you apply for, you know, you apply for 19 jobs and you don't get any of them and you think I'm a terrible human being.
And then, you know, a few months later, the perfect role comes out of nowhere. Um, and I think that that has applied to me, building companies, starting products, trying to raise money time and time again. It's, it's tough going through the, the, the, the plateau stage. Um, but the, the progress comes in chunks. And so a lesson for me has been the closer than you think. The, the second one was about, um, finding your people in some way. And this was the idea that if you want to do something again off the beaten track, you want to do something somewhat new. Um, and ultimately we all stand, you know, cliche. We all stand on, um, on the shoulders of giants. So you're gonna need other people to do that. You need investors, you need lawyers, you need co-founders. You need for supportive friends. Might I need a partner. You know, parents need to understand what you're doing. Um, well you got to go, go and find these humans. Um, I'm actually sure
if you want to stand on my shoulders, I don't have to be able to support, carry on.
Well, you know, they need to, they need to find you as well. So you need to be there giant at some point. So the finding your people is a really important thing. And that takes a long time cause you've got to work with people. You've got to fall out with people who gotta learn the lessons, um, where you have to actually actively go out and create, you know, curate those humans so that together you can, you can build really great things. Um, wow. Okay. The, you know, the classically misattributed so-called African proverb, which has been well disproved, but it's still a nice quote nonetheless, which is if you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together. And I really liked that, but not an African proverb. Um, so the first one was, was, um, you're closer than you think . Second was, was, um, find your people.
And the third one was fund your mission. And I think it's less Utopian and touchy feely than it might sound. But emission for me helps me. Number One, orient me when I have choices to make. And often there's pretty tan, there's pretty tantalizing things that are somewhat tangential to what your mission is. So that's, that's helpful to say, well, this is the direction I'm going. Um, but importantly, it also keeps you going through the tough times. Um, if you're doing something new, if you're creating something different, you're going to fail a few times. Things are gonna go wrong. Um, and so agmission is that, that, that piece that keeps you, keeps you going through those, those times. But it's not a case of just figuring out, oh, this is what I want to do. And you know, cause the world doesn't really care what you like doing.
The world cares a lot more about what you're good at. So it is a bit of a, uh, my 20 year old self. It would be go and do some experimentation, figure out, you know, parts of the world that you want to play in. Um, but if you figure out like idea that I'm okay with technology and then I'm okay with kind of communicating technology and its implications, then you know, I'll probably make a better, a better founder than I would a, you know, a technical leader at an engineering firm. Um, so finding that mission, I think a combination of, um, of both what you wanna do and what you're good at. Okay.
Oh, they are. Um, are they more, we just had a little little technical glitch now. No we are still, we're still recording. Are there any more to add to those three?
No, I think that those are the three timeless pieces for me, which is, you know, you're closer than you think. And you know, I think that's relevant to us now in terms of building definitely this week too, right? I mean, some of the discussions we've had with with potential customers, I feel like we're, or we're a lot closer to, which is exciting, right? Yeah. And it's a roller coaster of, you know, progress and then gaps and you know, what did that darkest is before the dawn. Right? So that's, I'm convinced of that pace. Yeah. So I think it's always a case of being close to new thing when you're doing something new. Um, you know, finding your people I think is an ongoing journey. And you know, we've been fortunate to share, to share our respective views and find each other and start building something new, which is really exciting. And to also share a mission of, you know, this is something we can genuinely get excited about every day and beat our heads into the sand is know against the brick wall as yes, we need to, um, contributing to connectivity in healthcare is something that can get us through the tough times.
Yeah, totally. Yeah. I mean, I think it's a, I can put up with each other. Exactly. Yeah. I mean if you look at the broader mission, then I think it's very easy to put up with each other. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Cool. Awesome. Well, look, I think a, that's been grate for today. Probably next week. What we're gonna do, uh, what we might do. Turn the tables, right? Yeah. We're going to turn the tables, Alex can have crack at me. Perfect. And Look, I hope you've enjoyed today. Um, this is our first attempt at this, but, uh, if you, if you do like what you hear, if you, uh, have enjoyed today, then obviously tune in next week or the week after, I'm not sure which often we'll be doing it, but most importantly, share on Linkedin, share on Facebook, share on Twitter, wherever you can. Um, let's get the conversation around digital health in Australia and, and hopefully, um, you know, broader than that. Um, yeah. Out there
and yeah. Yeah. And there's a role, you know, we want to hear from anybody else who wants to partake in this conversation of the positive impacts of, of technology innovation. And I think that really is a need for a more, uh, a more vocal community, particularly the companies and the people and the evangelists who are moving, uh, moving forward. And there's a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work. We want to showcase those. We wanna ultimately partake in the wider public conversation about the role of technology in health. And so if that excites you, reach out to us, come on the show. We, we want to build the inertia. And the positive impacts of tech and health.
Yeah. I mean please come on the show because, you know, if it's just the two of us every week, cause I can give very, very, very quickly. Um, but yeah, we'd love to, we'd love to chat to you. All right.
Until next time. Thanks guys. See Ya.