In 2015, Daniel Warner was living in Chicago after SnapSaves — where he acted as chief growth officer — exited to Groupon. This was around the same time when he started getting sick daily, and on a trip back to his hometown of Toronto one day, Warner got checked out at Mount Sinai Hospital where he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
He ended up as an in-patient for a month and an out-patient six months after, travelling 40 minutes to his appointments.
“Soon after that, my daughter started nursery and she started to literally come home with either an illness or an art project every week,” said Warner. “After yet another very late night — in the SickKids emergency department — I said enough’s enough.”
Like most entrepreneurs, Warner was pushed to turn his harrowing experience into a way to change the experiences of others in the same position. Early last year, he founded MediSeen, which has just raised a $1.1 million funding round from Vitality Capital and several individual angel investors like Jay Rosenzweig, CEO of Rosenzweig & Co.; Prime Quadrant CEO Mo Lidsky; former CEO Lakeridge Health Kevin Empey; and Peter Ekstein, co-founder of Weston Premium Woods.
“Access to care is a big concern and a lot of people may not have the ability to readily travel.”
– Daniel Warner
Toronto-based MediSeen wants to bring back the house call. It allows users to request healthcare providers to come to their home for a scheduled appointment, get insight into what provider they choose based on factors like languages spoken or specialities, and securely communicate through in-app message or phone calls. OHIP services are 100 percent covered, while non-OHIP services can be paid for by credit card and reimbursed through insurance.
“MediSeen makes tremendous sense for young parents,” said Gershon Hurwen, managing partner of Vitality Capital. “A few months before we reviewed the investment, my eight-month-old son was exposed to measles at our doctor’s office while he was there for a routine visit. At the time, he was too young to be vaccinated and had to be quarantined for three weeks. I would much rather have used MediSeen for his non-urgent healthcare.”
Health services covered via MediSeen are wide-ranging, from physicians and registered nurses to psychologists and social workers. There are also veterinary care and wellness-focused specialists like personal trainers and yoga therapists.
“The way that our healthcare system is built is very hospital-centric, and we truly believe that we should be taking care of patients — loved ones — at home as opposed to the hospital because, at the very least, there aren’t enough beds and a lot of those beds are being taken up by patients who should not be there,” said Warner, adding that Canada and the US have some of the worst access to care wait time ratings due to overwhelmed clinics. MediSeen’s solution is to decentralize healthcare and act like a “neighbourhood watch” for healthcare.
The company said it provides value both for the patient that can get easier access to care, and to healthcare practitioners — vetted by MediSeen — looking for another outlet to provide their services. As Canada’s aging baby boomer population is expected to put a strain on Canada’s health care system, the hope is that a service like this can fill an important gap.
“Whether it’s an expecting mom, young family, someone with a chronic illness like myself, or mobility issues or people in the aging population or palliative care, the preferred setting of care for all of the above is at home. Access to care is a big concern and a lot of people may not have the ability to readily travel,” said Warner.
“Healthcare is very slow because we’re worried about risk, and the startup space moves a mile a minute.”
– Elise Devlin, VP of clinical strategy
Of course, building a solution for the health industry is complicated. Healthcare startups must always keep patient privacy and health top of mind and navigate government regulations that — while designed to protect patients — can slow down the pace of startups. Top that with a traditionally slow-moving industry — we can access our banking information on our phones, but struggle to do the same with our crucial medical information — and it doesn’t exactly encourage entrepreneurs to enter the space.
“I come from the healthcare space. I think the toughest part of being a startup…is that healthcare is very slow because we’re worried about risk, and the startup space moves a mile a minute,” said Elise Devlin, VP of clinical strategy. “Putting those two worlds together can be challenging just because of that pace. But how we’ve dealt with it is just that we’re politely persistent — you have to make friends in the space and get people to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. We’ve only had cheerleaders.”
The startup often engages with the Ontario government, and was part of former Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ Digital Health Roundtable group with other startups in its space, including SecureKey and PointClickCare, to help government understand how to better engage with startups. For Warner, governments should be taking a more active role in vetting healthtechs and provide more guidance on a variety of factors, including the piloting and implementation process for startups in this space.
“We’re big supporters of MediSeen,” said Bill Charnetski, Ontario’s chief health innovation strategist. “We believe MediSeen is an example of the type of solution that small and medium-sized businesses can address pressing problems. Namely, they’re a company enabling faster and better access for Ontarians to their physicians to ensure we’re optimally using the capacity that we have in our physician community.”
Currently, the startup is focused on rolling out in Ontario to work on its product before tackling other markets. MediSeen plans to add medication delivery and lab testing in the future.
“It’s humanizing healthcare, and looking at what’s been done in terms of uberizing healthcare like you see in the States, where you can get a provider on demand. But you don’t know who this provider is and you don’t have any health records to reflect on. We really felt, as a business, we needed to ensure that it was multiple services on one platform,” said Warner.
Disclosure: MediSeen is a sponsor of BetaKit’s HealthTech Times newsletter, which syndicates weekly.