Medeo CEO Ryan Wilson discusses the virtual health-care concept that’s empowering patients and bringing doctor visits into the 21st century
According to Medeo Corp. CEO Ryan Wilson, it’s estimated that by 2020, a quarter of all health-care visits in Canada will be done virtually, creating an industry larger than the country’s automotive sector. This could be why when Wilson was approached to collaborate on a platform that would allow patients and doctors to conduct their visits online, he didn’t hesitate to jump on board.
In August 2012, while on Vancouver Island for a wedding, Wilson met with friend Andrew Wilkinson, who told him about his idea for the “cloud clinic,” a digital platform that would connect physicians with patients. “He said, ‘Why don’t we make a business out of it and you can be CEO,’” says Wilson. “I went back home and thought about it, flew back over on Harbour Air the next day, we white-boarded a business plan, and then I raised the capital, started hiring the team in October , built our data centres and technology in November/December and saw the first patient in January of 2013.”
The company adds anywhere from two to seven new doctors each week, for a current tally just shy of 400, and tens of thousands of patients are already signed up. “We really started focusing on growing in October, and for the past five months we’ve been doubling month over month in revenue, in patients, in all indicators,” says Wilson. “As far as we know, we’re probably the fastest-growing health-care technology in B.C., if not in Canada.”
Since launching the platform, some detractors have insisted that virtual health care cannot replace in-person visits, and Wilson agrees. “Until there’s a greater proliferation of biometric devices, the lion’s share of care is still going to have to be hands on. I would never suggest that there’s a replacement for being able to go and see a physician one-on-one. But there’s a lot of care that can be done virtually," he says. "We’ve spent billions of dollars in Canada on e-health, and still largely none of the systems talk together. In 16 months we now have a tool that everyone involved in the circle of care for a patient can share any document securely and instantly anywhere."
Wilson shares an anecdote about a surgeon who lauds virtual care for aiding the recovery of surgical patients, allowing them to go home earlier (saving the medical system thousands of dollars), rest in the comfort of their own homes and not be susceptible to hospital superbugs. “Those with tele-health are recovering faster and better and without complication,” says Wilson. “It’s all about medical appropriateness, and that’s why at Medeo we don’t tell doctors how to use tele-health. That’s the jurisdiction of the college of physicians and surgeons and judgment of physicians.”
Next for Medeo is an expansion east to Ontario, where the health-care system is struggling with overcrowded emergency waiting rooms. “Doctors are doing things that should have been handled in primary care, but many of these people don’t have a family doctor,” says Wilson. “We’re treating these patients in acute care environments, where it’s $800-$900 a visit, instead of in a family doctor’s office, which is $30-$40 a visit.”
Locally, Medeo is working on a pilot project that hopes to bring its services to five of the busiest hospital waiting rooms in B.C., putting up signs and posters for patients to try virtual care before seeing an emergency doctor. “You might be able to see a physician and have your problem resolved before making it all the way through the queue,” says Wilson.