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Member Spotlight: Hipmed on Global Healthcare Access

With the acceleration of technological innovation and access to smartphones across the globe, you’d think everyone would have direct access to healthcare. But access to health services is still an issue, especially in developing communities.

To address the disparity between access to healthcare and the increasing usage of smartphones, 1776 member Hipmed, is revolutionizing how patients and doctors communicate and expanding global access to health services.

Hipmed founder Tim Sidie talked to 1776 about the next generation of medical consultation, using technology to overcome the lack of medical infrastructure and the future for startups innovating in the health industry.

How did you become interested in technology and the health industry?

Technology has always felt more like a pastime than a job! I’m grateful to work in a field that I really enjoy. I started my career as a NASA engineer and soon got involved in startups — this is my second foray into entrepreneurship, but first in the health industry. I’m out to make a big difference this time around, and the most profound outcome I can imagine achieving is an improvement to global healthcare availability.

What is the Hipmed story? What problem is Hipmed solving?

Hipmed kicked off with a somber realization — soon, more people around the world will carry a smartphone than have access to nearby, convenient healthcare services. There’s been a rapid development in phone technology and manufacturing and distribution, but globally, there hasn’t been an equal growth in global health services.

So, why not piggy back the progress of healthcare development on this huge technological surge? That’s the question we plan on answering in a big way.

What makes Hipmed different from other health startups?

I think there’s been a lack of attention to the needs of disadvantaged communities, those without the resources to deploy quality diagnostic healthcare services. We hope to correct that imbalance by bridging the gap between the first-response diagnostic process and follow-up, long-term healthcare.

To do this, we utilize one of the most prevalent and powerful devices that are generally available in most regions — smartphones. With arrays of sensors and significant computing power, it turns out that they can be deployed like little self-contained clinics.

How is Hipmed getting doctors and patients on board?

Getting this product into the hands of practitioners has been tricky. Time is a precious commodity for all healthcare workers, but there’s nothing better than real field use demonstrating value.

We’re putting our platform in the hands of volunteer practitioners in areas we want to focus on — the disadvantaged areas that could most benefit from a technological boost. We’re stressing that, while in this trial period, Hipmed’s platform should be accompanied by older equipment for comparison and confirmation of data. Once we build confidence in the community though, we’ll leave that decision to the healthcare workers in the field who need to lug that equipment around.

What are the most common challenges of innovating in the health field?

Government-driven regulation jumps to mind. Regulation is really important and necessary in a lot of ways, but it does bring some obstacles to bear that technology alone can’t solve. It can become a process of compromise between proper innovation and fulfilling certain criteria. It’s an important dialogue — one that we’re happy to be a part of — but it can take some time to get to a conclusion that everyone’s happy with.

What market opportunities were available to Hipmed in its early stages? How did you overcome them?

I’d say very few market opportunities made themselves truly available. There’s certainly a few hurdles to overcome — besides regulation, there’s also the complex relationship that providers of healthcare have to patients, and vice versa.

Between medical insurance providers, medical institutions at the core of healthcare, individual physicians and practitioners and finally patients, each group involved in the medical process needs to be considered in any health initiative. Each needs a different story, a different value proposition — why is this product going to make their lives easier? Hipmed answers this by focusing on a situation where it’s very clear where the value lies — it’s in providing tools to make a full-spectrum medical process possible where it may not have been before.

What caregiving problems do patients face? How can startups and technology address these problems?

The major pain points and global problems we’re hoping to solve are availability, convenience and the possibly extensive amount of time it can take to reach a diagnosis.

Be it a rural area, underdeveloped region, or disaster zone, there are certain situations that lack the medical infrastructure that many take for granted, causing patients to have to travel to receive healthcare, or go untreated.

Startups and technology can tackle this by making it easier to bring care to patients. Telemedicine — consultation with a medical professional via phone or video — has developed nicely, but generally lacks the ability to provide the medical professional with ground truth data, data that would make any diagnosis more accurate. If that data is made available along with a teleconsultation, office visits will start to seem obsolete.

What trends do you see emerging in health startups?

There’s definitely two significant trends right now — startups involved in developing new, exciting medical technology and startups involved in working with health insurance and new pathways for patients to receive inexpensive healthcare from provisions granted by the Affordable Care Act. Both are fascinating fields that offer a lot of growth potential.

We’ve focused on medical technology because it has the potential to make a global difference. However, startups involved in new possibilities in medical insurance and financial services solve some very important problems, and I genuinely enjoy hearing about new initiatives in both areas.

What are the next steps for Hipmed?

We’re working to spin up a pilot program with assistance from an incubator in Africa to get real field feedback and to start to proliferate a reputation within the international community. We’ll constantly be in a state of evaluation and adjustment, especially in the initial validation stages.

Once we learn a few lessons and see broad success — defined by successful patient transitions from diagnosis to treatment — the next phase is to approach various NGOs and international health organizations to get our platform in the hands of any who could benefit from it.

Do you have any tips for other rising health startups?

Be bold! There’s clearly a lot of attention being paid to the sector right now and a huge amount of momentum. Now is the time to extend ideas to their fullest potential. The market is hungry enough to help solve auxiliary challenges, like regulation and certification, if there’s a genuinely exciting idea or new approach to healthcare at stake. However, be prepared to invest massive amounts of time in any effort involved with the health industry!

Martin De Leon

Martin De Leon is a senior from San Diego, CA studying culture and politics at Georgetown University. As an editorial and marketing intern at 1776, he assists with writing for…