2020 in Review, And a Peek at What’s to Come



It’s somewhat difficult to know how to begin a piece like this in a way that doesn’t come off as cliché, because no doubt we’re all inundated with opinion musings that declare “Wow, am I ever glad 2020 is almost done.” 

Then again, one can hardly blame: how we think, how we debate, how we work, how we learn, how we play, how we live … all of it has been brought into question and put through the wringer this year.

For those who know me, you’ll know that I think about most business decisions from a product perspective: who are we trying to help, what are they trying to do, why that’s difficult, how would we like it to change, and what do we have to offer to make that happen. 

Even before we knew how unusual this year would be, I felt like we came into 2020 having crossed an important threshold.

We’d proven that the problem we’re trying to solve is one that matters and is felt by many, and philosophically our approach to solving it had viability: that digital health innovators face many hurdles in growing market access to their solutions, and guaranteeing, automating and proving data privacy and security compliance on their behalf addresses one of the first and biggest barriers.

Our strategy for this year revolved around 3 objectives:

  1. Make MedStack Control work for a general set of application stacks and the workflow of most back-end developers;
  2. Bring our compliance automation proposition to the forefront; and
  3. Give our customers as much visibility as we can.

It’s worth stating that none of this organization in our thinking would have been possible without the important work of our Product Manager, Marcus Polini.

We knew we were on the clock, because industry attention was curving upwards. Even still, little did we fully realize that we’d be heading into the biggest year for digital health ever.

Q1: First new feature for MedStack Control, and first new certification

Having launched the basic experience of MedStack Control in 2019, in Q1 we released our first major enhancement: a scalable, managed database service, bringing together the needs of application developers that went beyond the capabilities of databases running in containers, while continuing to rely on MedStack’s fully-automated privacy compliance guarantees.

We also achieved a big milestone in our first major industry certification, SOC 2 Type 1. This is something we’d known was critical especially for some hospital audits, and I’m so proud of how smoothly the process went. We immediately had customers seeking out our audit report to share with their customers and partners, and this became an important component of our sales messaging. 

But not only did we win the certification, but we designed a unique process to do so, by way of an automated real-time evidence generation tool that powers what we call Active Compliance. We soon set out to make this work for our customers as well, to support their own certification and audit processes.

We’d geared up to launch all of this exciting news at HIMSS 2020, but of course the end of the quarter had other plans in mind for the event, and instead we found ourselves mentoring our customers and other founders on how best to seamlessly shift to a work-at-home environment.

Q2: Supporting the new critical mission of digital health, new corporate partners

The second quarter was tumultuous for everyone, with the world grappling with the serious ramp-up of the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time. The investment community was in turmoil and it seemed everyone was  recalibrating in real time to balance working and learning from home.

It quickly became evident that cloud digital health developers would be called upon to do more, and move from the periphery to the centre of healthcare delivery. A number of our customers themselves called us and said they’d be planning major expansions.  

We thought long and hard about what we could best do to support the pandemic crisis, and issued a call-out to accelerators and individual funds with an offer of a discount on MedStack’s platform for these new innovations. This led to a number of exciting new partnerships.

On the corporate side, three very important things happened with us in Q2.

  1. First, we deepened our partnership with Microsoft to launch MedStack Control availability via the Azure Marketplace.
  2. Second, we were proud to welcome a partnership with Blu Venture Investors to the MedStack family, their first-ever investment outside of the US. Raising venture financing in this environment was a very uncertain endeavour, and we’ve been very grateful for our work with Blu ever since.
  3. Finally, we announced a partnership with Founder Institute to bring our platform and industry knowledge to early, first-time founders building digital health.

Q3: A new look and our biggest quarter yet

With these achievements in the first two quarters, and the momentum on digital health ramping up, Q3 would be our most active quarter thus far.

We kicked it off with a whole new look for MedStack Control, as one of the first commercial implementations of the gorgeously-designed Tailwind UI framework. A good portion of this was implemented elegantly by our new hire, Software Developer Nichole de la Cruz.

Underneath this new look, we also expanded developer capabilities and flexibility with database IP whitelisting and one-click reboot and resizing. 

We were perhaps most excited to announce that MedStack Control had earned HITRUST CSF certification, something we’d been working on for a very long time.

Fitting then that in this same quarter, we amended our privacy policies to clarify how they could easily be inherited by our customers, we were named to an e-book of Canada’s most exciting cybersecurity companies, and earned our place in this year’s CIX Top 20.

Taking home the top prize at the SAAS NORTH PitchFest was a wonderful surprise amidst this very busy month.

Q4: New model for feature roll-out, compliance standards in the forefront

The fourth quarter kicked off with no signs of slowing down. We were completely humbled to be named by PwC and CB Insights to a list of the top digital health disruptors in Canada.

We released support for what we consider to be the final of the four main building blocks of cloud infrastructure, bringing MedStack Control to its full potential.

Along with Docker containers, scalable managed database services and the pre-configured network proxy and load balancer, MedStack Control now also features support for object file storage, seamlessly provisionable from the Dashboard with, as always, data security and privacy compliance fully automated and built in. 

This was a tricky feature to build, given our need to introduce an access token service to integrate with the underlying security layer, but the response has been tremendously positive.

We rolled out the feature in conjunction with an all-new technical support documentation portal, completely re-written for usability, search and self-service.

Also this quarter, Simon Woodside, our Co-Founder, CTO and Chief Privacy and Security Officer (longest title in the company!) levelled up our compliance automation offering with the completion of a Type 2 audit for SOC 2 and an improved mapping framework to draw relationships between line items in ISO2001, HIPAA and our policy set.

And in pursuit of delivering a holistic compliance offering, we released an IT asset tracking tool for digital health companies based on what we developed internally to pursue our own certifications.

What we really do for digital health is empower our amazing innovative customers

It is admittedly rather exciting to see all that our team has accomplished this year, a year in which by most accounts was difficult to make headway because of all of the uncertainty around us. But uncertain we are not: we’re more sure of the criticality of our mission and those of our customers than ever before, whether that’s work to:

  • Help ensure continued care delivery,
  • Facilitate better decision-making and increased scale in this new socially-distant environment by way of telemedicine,
  • Help those struggling with mental illness find and leverage the resources they need,
  • Help keep our medical institutions safe,
  • Ensure we care for our valued seniors with dignity,
  • Provide technology tooling for home monitoring of medical conditions, or
  • Empower genetic researchers to deliver results faster.

We are already excited for what’s to come in Q1 of 2021, starting with a new technical support engagement experience to help us deliver even better support for our customers, and the launch of a deployment API for integration with pre-built DevOps pipelines, making it even faster for digital health companies to onboard and manage scale. These are just hints of all that we have planned for next year.

With all that our customers need of us and what healthcare needs of them, we will also be growing our team. Have a look at our Careers Page and let us know if there’s someone you feel we should talk to. Professionalism, truthfulness, customer-centricity, diversity and collaboration drive all we are and what we do. And I’d like to thank all of my teammates at MedStack for living and upholding these ideals every day.

Digital health is truly a very exciting place to work these days. Thank you to the many companies who’ve joined our community this year; for what you do and for being our inspiration. And of course, my sincere thanks to all of those working tirelessly in our healthcare industry – we are all in awe of you.

I wish everyone in our community a safe and happy holiday season. Take care of each other. I’ll see you in January.


Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay