Digital Health Champions: Care Coordination With The Patient In Mind
For most people, going to the hospital is stressful. Apart from the fact that there is something wrong, few people are really familiar with clinical processes. To improve patient experience and enable medical staff to focus on patients in real need of attention, the team of Buddy Healthcare developed a digital platform for care coordination.
On Buddy Healthcare
Jussi, thank you for sharing some insights on Buddy Healthcare. Could you briefly summarize what do you do and what problem this addresses?
My, pleasure, I hope I can provide some insights to people interested in digital health.
Buddy Healthcare digitizes clinical pathways in surgery. BuddyCare App provides patients with all the information they need to navigate throughout the surgery process. BuddyCare Web for hospitals provides real-time visibility over patients’ preparation and recovery statuses. With this solution, providers can:
- Educate patients and improve care adherence
- Reduce clinical no-shows and cancellations
- Collect Patient Reported Outcomes
Your aim is to care for patients pre-and post-surgery, with a care coordination and patient engagement platform. What triggered the founders to commit to this cause? Is there a story behind it?
Previously, I was a business developer for another health IT company and had a road trip in the U.S. Somehow, I ended up in a discussion with people from a local children’s hospital who started telling me about their very specific challenges around outpatient surgeries to which they hadn’t found a solution. When I came back to Finland, I discussed this with Finnish hospitals and learnt they were having similar challenges. Thus, I decided to start building my own business. The first co-development partners were all pediatric hospitals but nowadays we have customers in orthopedics, cardiology and plastics as well.
What is the unique appeal of Buddy Healthcare? How do you isolate yourself from competitors in your industry?
We’ve been able to develop a patient centric care coordination solution. It’s a solution that guides patients throughout care and continuously collects data and insights, enabling hospitals to develop evidence based pathways. I have to give huge credit to our co-development partners in Finland and the US that have offered their expertise and that really want to be forerunners in digital transformation.
To what extent do you interact across the world and how important are international markets for your company?
As a Finnish company, we have to look at international markets immediately. Finland is indeed a good test market and hospitals are open to new solutions. But, the Finnish market for new health tech solutions is relatively small and, to survive, you need to have customers abroad as well. We have projects ongoing in the Americas and we are active in Central Europe.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for you at the moment?
I think the biggest challenge is still attitudes. In general, hospitals have become more open to new solutions, but you always face one or two key decision makers who don’t want to change because the old model “still works.” These discussions take way too much time and energy, which are especially critical for a startup.
What do you consider your biggest success so far?
Of course, some of the nominations and awards we have won are some kind of success stories and something to mention. Anyway, we consider every new customer project as a huge opportunity to learn and make changes. Every successful customer project feels like the biggest success in that moment. I feel always privileged and grateful to our team when I hear good feedback from our customers and patients.
What are the next steps for your company? Are there any milestones ahead?
Next step is to move from startup phase to stabilized business. From a technology perspective, we are currently testing how we could use AI to provide even smarter pathways to hospitals and patients, but I can’t disclose details yet.
On Digital Health In General
Do you think that there is a need for a digital transformation in healthcare? Why?
There definitely is. Healthcare in Western countries is not sustainable. As the population is getting older, providers need and payers insist on new solutions that reduce the total cost of care while improving the care quality at the same time.
Is there a specific development you are currently excited about?
AI and blockchain are closest to my heart. In general, I’m excited to see there are so many cool companies developing their own solutions to transform healthcare.
To what extent does the digital transformation require a change in business culture?
You have to remember that the number one task of hospitals is to save lives and to cure people. Hospitals are always in charge of the quality and outcomes. Naturally, they don’t always understand why they have to change if the old model or process works.
I think value based care is a good approach that forces providers to think about cost of care without compromising the quality. Value based care is the first needed change in business culture.
Developers should remember that healthcare won’t ever be a “one-size fits all” business. To some extent, you have to adapt to your customers’ needs. On the other hand, hospitals have to change as well. Both parties have to come closer to each other’s and work collectively when developing new solutions.
I encourage all startups developing digital health solutions to start a joint project with a hospital as soon as possible. When you get hospitals to innovate with you, they commit to change at the same time.
How is digital health going to change our lives in 5, 10 and 25 years?
During the next five to 10 years, AI will take care of basic decision making, while doctors are involved only in the most difficult cases. Blockchain will move the control of the health data from hospitals and servers to patients.
What will happen in 25 years? I can’t even imagine but I’m eagerly waiting to see that.
What is the most important thing to know about digital health, to work in this field?
You should know your customers, their needs, their challenges, their limitations. Healthcare is a really isolated business and you should have a hands-on understanding of how and why everything works as they do.
Why is now the time to start working in digital health?
If you don’t transform healthcare, someone else will do it. It’s time to act, now!
Job and Career Opportunities in Digital Health
How do you judge the overall career opportunities in digital health?
As more and more companies work in this business, career opportunities will grow a lot. Digital health is a team play and winning teams require versatile expertise such as developers, data scientists, doctors, consultants, business developers, service designers, leaders…
How is your core team composed? What backgrounds do you have and how did you get to connect? What motivates team members to commit to the cause?
Currently we have mostly engineers on our team, and we are now adding some sales people as well. Although the core team is missing a medical background we are lucky that, since the beginning, we’ve been able to work with a couple of hospitals that have provided their medical expertise for our use.
What advice would you give graduates who want to join digital health industry or a digital health startup?
Be eager but be patient and don’t give up! The run in digital health is longer than a marathon.
Which three qualities should your ideal candidate have?
An ideal candidate is an innovative team player who wants to solve challenges.
Jussi, thank you so much for this interview!
About the interviewee
Jussi is CEO and Founder of Buddy Healthcare, a company transforming pre and post surgery care. Buddy’s surgery care coordination and patient engagement platform automates and monitors patients’ surgery preparation and recovery procedures.
After starting his career in a mobile health startup in 2005, Jussi has solved customers’ challenges in healthcare, communications and digitalization in an intrapreneurial role in corporations like Nokia and Tieto, as well as startups. Jussi has MSc in Information Technology from University of Oulu, Finland. He is passionate about digital health, AI, blockchain and building new innovative services that make people life easier.