Homegrown Medical Startup Promises Health Revolution

Dr. Eric Cadesky, a Vancouver physician, using the app with a patient.

Move over, on-demand TV: online health care has arrived

It’s the kind of soppy late September Saturday in Vancouver that confirms another summer had died, but I don’t dodge puddles on my way to see a family doctor. I sit in no waiting rooms and flip through zero magazines rife with microbes of endless coughs and sneezes. I’m at home and general practitioner Dr. Eric Cadesky is at his home office. We chat via video link on Medeo.ca, a teleconferencing platform promising to vault the doctor’s house call into the information age.
“The health care we’re providing really is almost like science fiction. We’re doing surgeries with lasers, we’re able to see inside the entire body without opening it up,” Cadesky says. “We’re performing these incredibly complex investigations and treatments, but the way we talk about it between practitioners and among patients is really stuck 50, 60 years in the past.”
He’s talking about faxes, which, even in our time of personalized genomics and space tourism, remain the most common way for doctors to send and receive health information. Cadesky, who is also on the board of directors at the British Columbia Medical Association, says doctors have been looking for years for more efficient ways to communicate with patients, work part-time or off-site and increase overall access to care.
“There’s actually a fee code for doing telehealth conferencing,” he says. Doctors such as Cadesky can bill the provincial government via the B.C. Medical Services Plan (MSP). Medeo sends the bill automatically, along with providing scheduling, support, and secure virtual exam rooms – for 30 percent of the doctors’ service fee billed to MSP.
“This comes out of the pockets of doctors,” says Medeo CEO Ryan Wilson by phone a few days later. “We really wanted to shift the paradigm to one where a doctor and a patient could be in any private location with Internet access or cellular access and we also wanted to make sure it never was going to cost the patient anything.”
Before Medeo, Wilson was a certified information systems auditor in the banking sector, specializing in paperless bank-to-bank money transfers. He began dating a doctor and heard frequent complaints about the lack of technology in health care communications. Eventually those complaints, coupled with his prior knowledge of secure data and collaboration with eager health professionals, turned into a business plan.
“You can deposit money in Toronto and take it out five seconds later in Vancouver. But if you go to St. Paul’s Hospital and then go to a hospital in White Rock, the two can’t talk together at all.”
Wilson says Medeo hopes to link everything: doctors to doctors, doctors to patients, patients to pharmacists, charts in the cloud.
“So the pharmacist now isn’t just dispensing some random drug written on a piece of paper, they understand the broader context that prescription was made in,” he says.
IBM built the server and Cisco did the networking and security. Since launching last year, the startup has grown to 25 full-time staff. Wilson says 146 doctors had registered with Medeo as of October 1 and that up to 50 patients per day sign up to use the video service. Mental health discussions are popular, as are visits from rural parts of B.C. Once signed into the webpage or app, patients can attach photos and files such as lab results. At the other end, a doctor can upload a prescription or blood work requisition directly to a pharmacy or laboratory of the patient’s choice.
Wilson says the next phase of growth will connect scores of new patients with family doctors via partnerships with post-secondary institutions – including UBC, SFU, UNBC and Capilano U – in a pilot to offer digital primary care to a demographic that barely remembers life before the smartphone.
“You now have access to your records. You can see your prescriptions online, you can see your lab results online, you can see the notes the doctor made,” Wilson says. “We’re empowering patients by putting their information in their hands.”