Digital Fireside Chats: Normunds Ancupans, DATAMED
In a series of interviews with European industry leaders and digital health innovators, we will try to shed some light upon the lightspeed fast developments in Europe’s emerging market for “Digiconomy”-related products and services. We will share some fascinating industry insights and investigate the challenges and opportunities that will accompany this disruptive wave of innovation. Both civil society and the business world will be significantly affected by this new generation of healthcare developments. For this insight into the digital health industry, we will consult both well established, industry-leading companies and innovative startups from all over Europe.
With the recent dramatic increases in data collection, cloud storage and access to digital medical information on- and offline, it is fair to say that already, healthcare is on a fast path towards becoming a full-blown data-driven industry. Over the last couple of years, the further development of Digital Health and its introduction into more and more areas of medical practice, have contributed substantially to a much more comprehensive collection and use of medical data, both personal and technical. Data storage and processing hence play a pivotal part in this next-generation healthcare and medical research.
DATAMED medical data archive systems enable the storage and procession of data from areas like radiology, laboratory, functional diagnostics, etc.
What is your fascination with the field and what was your pathway into the segment?
Digital Health is technical and that’s very interesting for me personally. It also helps improve peoples’ lives. With an education in finance & economics, I started out as a bank products manager in various departments, until head-hunters approached me with a sales position offer in a local fast growing IT company.
Soon I realized that the IT sector is a much broader and dynamic sphere, a full spectrum service provider for all other industries, including banks. As a recent graduate, young, single and fearless, I decided to take the chance and jumped into IT, the completely new and unknown. During my career in IT account management, I was introduced to the public sector, healthcare, defence, and other sectors, but the healthcare industry proved to be the most rapidly changing, always adopting new technologies, thus opening opportunities for IT&T innovations.
Then came the unplanned and risky part every entrepreneur faces sooner or later: the actual startup. I met my current partners – doctor and IT gurus, who had started the service, but had some problems on the business side. We all realized that there is a potential and we should do it together. So I left Microsoft, and joined DATAMED. It was late 2009, a difficult period for all.
What is the unique appeal of the company you lead?
It is our service-orientation to customers, a willingness to solve technological challenges, and a de facto vendor neutrality (in regards to medical imaging technology, archiving images and documents in a standard format).
From an entrepreneurial perspective, it is also challenging to reach profitability in a short amount of time, during the early stages of the startup, while always providing the best possible service to gain greatest customer base.
In the healthcare sector, you have to prove yourself as a reliable partner in quite a sensitive, mature market, and crowded with big companies’ products that have dominated the sector for decades, like GE, Siemens, Toshiba, AGFA, Philips, etc. We realized soon that reselling global manufacturers’ medical devices is not interesting, and would limit us in our potential. So we decided to proceed on solutions that work with all devices and provide clinics with vendor neutral solutions that always provide clinicians with the digital medical examination data they need.
What was your biggest career challenge so far?
Moving from a well-paid global company employee position to the startup.
What was your biggest professional success so far?
The greatest success is to be part of a strong team of great individuals, attracting people to work together for years. Each colleague has his or her own responsibilities, skills, character and personality to complement the others and thus contributes to the overall success of the company.
What drives you to continually advance your company?
I personally feel it as some sort of addiction to continuously improve. In some books it is called entrepreneurship.
Which Digital Health development so far do you consider the most remarkable?
Advancements in diagnostic imaging, providing a more and more detailed picture of the human body from the inside perspective.
Which game-changing product / service can we look forward to?
Datamed IS, of course! And I was recently inspired by Theranos, the micro lab test services startup who are inventing technology for multiple routine blood tests with only a fingerprick’s blood drop.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge in the field of Digital Health?
Legal challenges, data access rights or restrictions, security, data protection.
How will these developments change our lives and society in 5‚ 10, 25 years?
At one point in time, all health data should be digital, accessible for the healthcare personnel and the patient to improve quality and duration of the treatment.
I like to look at this as a realistic approach, where changes are welcomed by the broad public, not only by R&D departments or demo hospitals. A first step to accomplish and implement this in any country, or region, would be a working, centralized eHealth system that collects and transfers health information, has connections to local clinics and their information systems, where the data is created and processed.
I believe, in Latvia this will be implemented somewhat within from one year for the digital imaging and selective basic info collection, to 5 years for a complete functional national eHealth system.
What advice would you give graduates who want to join the Digital Health industry / a topical startup?
Welcome! It is just accelerating, it is full of interesting challenges, it is rewarding for those who do and invent, and perhaps, most importantly, it is helping people live better lives.
Which three qualities should an ideal candidate have who wants to build a career in digital health?
I think it perfectly corresponds with the values of our company: Responsibility. Efficiency. Innovation.
Normunds Ančupāns, thank you very much!
Normunds Ančupāns is CEO and partner of DATAMED Ltd., an innovative medical data archive system developer from Riga, Latvia.
His responsibilities encompass business development, customer relationships, sales, legal, marketing and other non-technical aspects of the Digital Health company.
Normunds is also CEO and partner of the laboratory information systems developer Medap Systems SIA, and founder of the Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) clinic “LOR klinika” in Riga, Latvia.
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