Health QR is a secure, user-friendly mobile app that allows for seamless management of personal medical records.
While working as a Senior Policy Analyst for the government, Health QR Founder and CEO Patricia Ryan found the slow pace of healthcare innovation frustrating. To overcome these challenges, she wanted to empower people to take a leading role in their own health.
Read on for Patricia’s inspiring story and the exciting next steps for this company as they change the face of healthcare.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR COMPANY?
When I started my company I was working as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Department of Health. I was frustrated by how quickly the US was developing and adopting technologies for electronic health records compared to Canada and how the US government mandated that EMR’s had to provide patients with access to their medical information.
As I explored the issue of giving patients access to their health information I was especially inspired by two individuals, Dave deBronkart and Salvatore Iaconesi. Both men were facing terminal illnesses and took control of their medical information to become active and empowered partners in their care. Both men are alive today and give TED talks to inspire others to manage their information. When I heard their stories I began making plans to start my company and leave my government job.
WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST REWARDING ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
I’m inspired building something that can save lives, an app that people find value in. It is so rewarding to align ourselves with partners who believe in our vision and want to help make it happen. The most challenging is the pace of adoption in healthcare. I understand it, I worked in healthcare all my career but when you are selling a technology that can truly change people’s lives, waiting out a long sales cycle is hard.
HOW HAS ENTREPRENEURSHIP DEFIED OR LIVED UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
I didn’t really have any expectations, it took me a long time to consider myself an entrepreneur and I still struggle with the label. This journey is a result of chasing a vision that I’m passionate about, a journey that began late in life after a career in non-profit working with national health agencies like the Kidney Foundation and the Muscular Dystrophy Association and then community development roles with public health.
I’ve had to learn a whole new language of start ups just to network but I am not really comfortable with it. My focus is on building a great product to help people live better.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH INNOVATION FACTORY?
When I founded the company we were in Halifax, NS. It became apparent that we needed to be present in Ontario to really grow. I visited all the tech startups and felt most at home at the McMaster Innovation Park and with the team at the Innovation Factory. The support and welcome I received was tremendous.
WHat have you valued most about innovation factory’s support?
There have been a number of services that I’ve accessed over the past 2 years but it has been the one-on-one support that has been most impactful. Alex Lee has taken the time to really understand my company, he has introduced me to mentors, supported me through two Health Technology Fund applications and connected me to valuable contacts. When I’m struggling with how to approach something, I can always call on him.
How do you measure success?
Success is measured by the adoption of the product by consumers. Despite the fact that our ‘customers’ are pharmacies, it is their patients (our end users) who truly matter for the success of the product. If we are not giving them a valuable experience with the app, it doesn’t matter how many pharmacies we sell to.
WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU FROM YOUR COMPETITION?
Our product, ‘Your Health Report’, is the only pharmacy-integrated application focused on improving medication management and adherence. Our approach is to develop programs based on indication of use (diagnosis) and the therapy used to treat the diagnosis. We developed Canada’s first pharmacy-integrated medication management program for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). All of the competitive products out there have similar platform features such as viewing your medication profile, ordering refills and co-managing medications but that is not enough to create value. Our app does all that and supports an individual who wants to better manage their medications and their chronic condition.
WHAT IS THE BEST RECOGNITION YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
I was presenting at a BioTech conference in Halifax a year ago. Our IBD program was under development and I was explaining how the program would work for IBD patients to help them manage their medications. When it came time for Q&A a young man went to the microphone and said “I live with Crohn’s Disease and it is horrible.” He went on to say how much he felt the app would help him and then he came up on stage and gave me his card and a hug. I don’t think I will ever receive a more important recognition than a patient’s validation and support.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND?
For product development, we just completed an adherence program for multi-dose vaccines that will be rolled out in early March. We chose to start with Twinrix and Shingrix (the new shingles vaccine) and are excited to measure the impact on adherence for these. We have partners for 3 new medication management programs; Type 2 Diabetes, Chronic Pain and Asthma. Each program is different and some involve integration with other technologies in order to give the patient that valuable experience.
We are also in discussion with the pharmacogenomics companies in Canada to look at partnerships to promote the new service in pharmacy using the app. For sales we are in discussion with some of the national pharmacy chains and hoping to land some pilot projects to test our new developments this year.
What support will you look to Innovation Factory for in the coming months?
The Innovation Factory is my go-to for support on finding funding opportunities and partners. Each of our new programs will need funding support from government, the private sector or investors. iF helps me navigate that.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS WHO MAY JUST HAVE AN IDEA?
Get out early and talk to customers, get to know their pain, and clearly understand the return on investment if they buy your product. Validate your idea early and often and once you talk to a few customers be open minded about changing your idea to suit their needs. If you can’t sell it, you won’t see it come to life.
HOW CAN WE CONNECT WITH YOU?
Twitter – @HealthQR
Facebook – healthqr
Linkedin – Patricia Ryan