Thoughts on “Hello Doctor” CEO’s Talk at Platform Houston

I just returned from a talk by Maayan Cohen, CEO of Hello Doctor. Hello Doctor is an app that uses OCR to digitize patients’ medical documents (lab & radiology results, H&Ps, progress notes, etc.), storing them locally on their mobile devices as well as in the cloud (everything is encrypted).

It’s a simple concept that’s actually very powerful in the fragmented world of medicine.  (In my mind, any moderately clever idea is revolutionary in medicine, because so many things in medicine are inefficient or broken.)  Physicians often see patients who have had extensive care elsewhere, but even when we officially request those records, we sometimes don’t receive them.  The patient who accurately remembers her medical history is quite rare.

An interesting feature of the app is the use of “big data” to help patients see what other patients have chosen at decision points.  (E.g., “65% of patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis were started on this or that medication.”)

Overall, I was impressed with the app and I hope that it does well.  It has a direct competitor, Picnic Health.

This was the first “startup presentation” I’ve ever attended.  I surprised myself by asking her more questions than I expected.  I might have asked more questions than anyone else at the venue!  (Several other people asked very interesting questions, too.)  I asked her if physicians can easily transfer patient data from the app to their own medical information systems.  She said that’s tricky to do, both for legal and other reasons.  E.g., you can download only one document at a time…you can’t download everything in, say, one PDF or something.

After the talk, I introduced myself to a financial analyst who had asked several startup-related questions from the back of the room.  (I was introduced to the concept of “stickiness factor” by a question that he asked.)  We exchanged contact info.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Python programming meetup–this was my first “social” foray back into programming in at least a decade–and met a general surgery resident who had spent two years of a research fellowship creating a “smart” display for the EMR used in the SICU at his hospital.  He’d hired programmers and bought hardware with grants.  He told me something I won’t easily forget:  he said that administrators are too far removed from patient care, clinicians are too busy seeing patients, and that researchers are too busy trying to permanently establish their names in the literature for any of these groups to fix our broken healthcare system.  He said that it’s incumbent upon those physicians with a technological or entrepreneurial bent to try to do something to help out.

A few days later, he gave me a tour of the SICU, the hardware, software, and took me up to meet his team.  If things go well, they might start selling the system to other hospitals.  He suggested that they might have a position open this fall if the startup continues to succeed.  I told him I would consider it.


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