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Giving Back to our Digital Health Community

Published July 9, 2018 by Balaji Gopalan

What is MedStack, really? Yes, we’re a startup. Yes, our product is, technically, a DevOps automation system for cloud hosting. But we’re also much more. We’re creating a community and a movement. In the extent of our ambition, MedStack is also creating a culture.

Those who’ve heard our story know this: Simon Woodside and I created this company upon two fundamental beliefs:

  1. Healthcare is the most important human industry in desperate need of an infusion of technology disruption.
  2. Technology disruption in any industry is best catalyzed by an engaged developer and startup ecosystem each trying to tackle specific problems within it.

As such, we believe that it’s not only important for us to be building a technical platform that enables easier digital health technology development and commercialization, but to also put time and effort into encouraging, informing, and evangelizing the work of entrepreneurs in this space. This includes:

  1. Providing feedback to and informally mentoring very early stage digital health innovators, for example, through Simon’s efforts as Community Organizer for Hacking Health Hamilton.
  2. Amplifying the success stories of our customers as both entrepreneurs and healthcare innovators through our communication channels, such as our monthly newsletter and our approach to social media
  3. Hosting formal and informal industry events for our customers, prospects and community members to allow them to exchange ideas about how best to achieve success in this challenging space, such as the Dual Panel event we co-hosted during Toronto Health Innovation Week.

Further, the partnerships we’ve been building with various innovation communities around the world (such as accelerators and incubators) have created a channel for us to talk to many of these innovators at exactly the right stage, when these considerations are most crucial.

Why is healthcare software “hard”?

Many early-stage healthcare innovators don’t come from deep experience in healthcare IT. Rather, they are clinicians, researchers, patients, etc. looking to apply what they do know to make healthcare better. There’s a perception that healthcare software is “hard”, but not everyone knows why. In fact, the IT diligence within healthcare enterprises is so sensitive to patient data privacy and security and the expectations are so specific, that the majority of startups simply aren’t ready for this one-kick-at-the-can process. Worse still, some of the important considerations aren’t even accounted for until much later in the product cycle, which adds cost and risks critical sales opportunities.

But it doesn’t have to be so daunting. We can manage these challenges if the innovator community is up-front and participatory in our collective mission to keep patient data safe, in a consistent and transparent manner.

Guiding our local entrepreneurship community

It’s therefore a tremendous honour and welcome news that I’ve been invited to take on two new roles in our local entrepreneurship community.

I’ve been asked to join as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Ryerson DMZ Sandbox, a program dedicated to technology entrepreneurship accelerator at its earliest stages, with identification of unique value proposition, customer needs and business model. The startups in this program are not specifically focused on healthcare, but I’m already seeing a notable interest in our industry within the community. I’ve just started, but am decidedly amazed at the bold problems these visionaries are tackling, leveraging some bleeding edge science and technology.

I’ll also be taking on an Advisor role at the Biomedical Zone, Toronto’s hospital-resident healthcare incubator. Our community’s best digital health companies are part of this program, and MedStack itself is a proud and active alumni. I’ll be providing feedback on product strategy, industry integration and go to market planning for select companies in the Zone.

I’m proud to do my part to give back to this community and encourage more to participate in our mission to deliver and enable better care. It’s another step in what we’re trying to do at MedStack, beyond our platform itself. I’ve been completely inspired by what our over 40 digital health company customers are building in Canada, the US, and other parts of the world, and the creative ways in which they’re applying the most advanced ideas and technologies to such an established but critical industry. I can’t wait to see what my new friends will be showing me in my new roles.

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