Your.MD grabbed me when I met the founder, Henrik B Pettersen. Henrik, is a former banker with an infectious dream: to help one billion people be healthier and happier.
He knew that smartphones were the key to giving every human being safe, simple and actionable health advice. So he founded Your.MD at the end of 2012 on a whim, then launched a basic informational app in 2014.
I met Henrik at the end of 2014 in London at Scalini, his favourite Italian restaurant. Within minutes I was completely hooked on the idea. I immediately started working on what I thought would be the main challenges of getting such an ambitious project off the ground and scaled up.
Challenge One: Technology
The first issue was proving that software could safely and correctly identify the ‘best next steps’ for anyone with a medical question or problem.
Nobody had done it before so we had to be creative.
I called up Mario Alemi PhD, a friend, former colleague and shining star at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) with a passion for AI.
We locked ourselves in an office and we emerged two weeks later with the idea of a chatbot powered by smart algorithms as the best way to dispense personalised health advice to people.
I spent my first year with Your.MD proving that our AI-based approach could work. And it did.
In early 2016 we commissioned an independent assessment of our system and the results were great: the tech worked really well. You could very quickly input a few basic parameters around your health and the chatbot would direct you in the right way. We also demonstrated that the platform could be scaled up to a very large user-base.
We had our first challenge solved.
Challenge Two: The Business Model
The second hurdle was the business model: without a good business model your chances of success are very slim. Even with a great piece of tech, without a solid financial engine, the future looks grim.
We explored a simple idea: if we succeeded in giving valuable (and safe) health advice to people, could we then help them discover relevant products and services that could improve their health?
The Amazon of Healthcare does not exist yet, as far as I can see! We launched Your.MD’s health marketplace in 2016 and gave it a cool name: OneStop Health™.
More than 100 providers of high quality products/apps and services have been vetted and onboarded to OneStopHealth™ so far. We’ve measured the engagement and the results are very encouraging: we significantly outperform Google and users find our recommendations very helpful.
The second challenge was solved.
Challenge Three: Trust
In most business sectors, having great tech combined with a working and scalable business model is enough to ‘press the accelerator’ and start growing.
Not in healthcare. In healthcare you need a magical and elusive ingredient — trust.
Without trust, a healthcare product has zero chance of success. Zero.
As a startup in the nascent field of digital health-tech, Your.MD was starting from an incredibly difficult position as it was pitting the public’s trust of a doctor against a new and unheard of technology.
For the best part of 2017 we decided to invest a considerable amount of resources into building a trust framework. This is what we did:
- We were one of the first to establish a clinical advisory and governance board with senior and independent clinicians tasked with supervising and advising our clinical safety policies.
- We decided to pursue European Certification as a Medical Device (class 1), also known as a CE mark, even if it was not required by law.
- We appointed an independent auditor and supervisor for our data security policies and achieved the ePrivacy seal.
- We became fully GDPR compliant on the first day GDPR came into force.
I think we’ve invested in trust more than most other companies in this space and we are continuously working on new initiatives which will mark us out as leading in this field.
Building trust is a slow and complex task. As the saying goes: “Trust comes on foot but leaves on horseback!”. Patience and walking the talk are key.
This investment has paid off quickly though, as trust is the central point in discussions we are having with every external partner.
Challenge three will always be with us but the building blocks are in place.
Challenge Four: Partnership
One key insight we learned while solving the first three challenges is that healthcare products — physical or digital — are seldom chosen and most often given or recommended by a trusted source (a doctor or someone you know and trust).
In the past, TV could help with that: ‘As seen on TV!’ was the quick path to trust. Not anymore.
In 2018, I had a chance encounter with a senior executive from RB, the leading global consumer healthcare and home hygiene company.
The more we talked, the more we realised that we shared a very similar vision to ‘help people take health into their own hands’ and we also shared the same values of safety, integrity and putting customers at the core of everything we do.
It was a serendipitous and very important moment for Your.MD.
Other startups in our space traditionally seek investments from venture capitalists (VCs) — the most readily available option — or from corporate venture arms of multinationals that have set aside a pot of money for more risky investments.
I was concerned about the traditional funding routes though, as I had a strong feeling that in order for Your.MD to break into the market we needed much more than cash — we needed someone with trust to help us introduce our service to users.
We needed the equivalent of ‘As seen on TV!’ for the digital age.
Twelve months later, after a lot of work, meetings, discussions, negotiations and very thorough technical, clinical and legal due diligence we sealed an incredibly exciting partnership and investment agreement which unites RB and Your.MD in the effort to help everyone in the world be healthier.
Together we will endeavour to establish pre-primary care to help people find the best healthcare options for them. In particular, around self-care, the biggest untapped opportunity.
The four challenges are now resolved and I now look forward to exciting and healthier times for everyone!
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