The Clinician was founded in 2015 in Singapore. Today it operates globally with 33 staff based in different countries, namely New Zealand, Singapore, and Europe. Its focus is to support the implementation of outcome measure frameworks across different countries with its value-based digital platform. The company’s core product is ZEDOC, a health outcomes platform operating via the cloud that helps healthcare organisations collect and make sense of patient-generated health data.
Its CEO and co-founder, Ron Tenenbaum, says that “The transition to value-based models has been expected to cause a seismic shift in health systems worldwide. However, the reality has been more of a slow continental drift because organisations are struggling with where to start”. He says that this is a key focus for The Clinician, who are building predefined outcome projects for specific care pathways, giving their customers a starting point for their outcomes journey.
Ron Tenenbaum: The Lead-Up to The Clinician
Setting up a startup and neurosurgery are not exactly the same thing, but for Ron Tenenbaum, the latter led to the former.
Born in Israel, he trained in neurosurgery with a special interest in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.
In 2014, he attended an ‘out of scope’ course at Stanford University, where he was introduced to the concept of value-based care. He says that at that time, he was unaware of the extent to which healthcare was becoming unsustainable.
Every startup needs a problem which it helps solve. The problem that provided the initial idea behind The Clinician was massive— the unsustainability of healthcare.
Attending this course led to a shift in Ron Tenenbaum’s thinking, creating a light bulb moment. He realised that the issue of sustainable healthcare was the “global warming of healthcare.” At this point, solving this problem became his priority.
He founded The Clinician with the help of friends from Silicon Valley and family. Ron Tenenbaum was a doctor and admitted there was an awful lot he didn’t know about business, so this team helped with the business plan, conceptualisation of the critical product, acquiring investment, etcetera.
An Inside Look at Ron Tenenbaum, the Man
Running a startup with such a bold vision would be a massive challenge for anyone. So, how does he relax?
Ron says that “first of all we have an amazing team and we take care of each other.”
He also says that going to the gym helps diffuse the tension, and he loves to cook — “Tuscan food.”
He draws inspiration from his two children because “they aren’t afraid of anything.” He says that for them, every day is a fresh start — a new adventure. “They are never afraid to try a new sport,” for example. As adults, he believes we protect ourselves, retreat into our comfort zones. For Ron, an essential quality you must have in running a startup is to be willing to venture out. He cites André Gide, a French Author and former winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, who once said: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Ron believes that it is vital founders do not look for safe zones.
Striking out, being bold and showing the courage to shun safety might be one side of the coin. But Ron believes there is another prerequisite for running a startup and that is the ability to listen. He says that the best advice he ever received was from a professor in cardiology which was to “listen to people.”
He had been rushing into meetings, presenting slides, evangelising his core idea and the benefits provided by The Clinician, when after one meeting this particular professor took him to one side. “Make sure you listen to what people are trying to achieve,” said the professor. “You have great ideas, but sometimes it’s a bit too much forward-thinking.”
So that’s courage and listening— two ingredients that can be tossed together like a chef cooking food, helping create a successful startup. But what about if he had his time all over again. What would Ron do differently?
He says that there is a consensus among the founders that they need to celebrate successes more often. He says that in startups, you keep running, moving forward, and you don’t take stock and celebrate the achievements. That doesn’t mean throwing a party to mark every positive step, but it does mean recognition of when something has been done well.
As for books — alas, Ron Tenenbaum, neurosurgeon, startup entrepreneur, and man trying to improve the world, says he doesn’t have much time to read “these days.” He cites ‘The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands,’ Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is in Your Hands: Amazon.co.uk: Eric Topol: Books by Eric Topol as a must-read. Considered by many as the bible of digital health, the book is as relevant now as when it was written five years ago, suggests Ron. The book looks at the democratisation of healthcare, how patients will hold their own data, and how the relationship between patients and clinicians will change.
The World Is Your Oyster
Ron Tenenbaum has lived all over the world, which gives him a somewhat unique perspective of healthcare systems around the world. Where does he think the best place is for digital health?
Ron says that things are changing rapidly. In countries with mature healthcare systems, such as Australia, US, Northern Europe and Canada: “they know where they want to go, and now they need good technology solutions to help them get there”
However, other countries are moving really fast. He cites the example of the UAE, where they ran a test to reduce the decision-making cycle for the acceptance of digital solutions: “Now they can make a decision in six minutes, it’s incredible.”
And the Excitement
So, the mission is to create more value for patients while maintaining or reducing healthcare costs. As for the solution, the road to value starts with measuring the outcomes that matter most to patients. So, what excites Ron Tenenbaum about the industry?
He says that he loves the disruption and the shift away from old models of fee-for-service payments towards more patient-centred, value-based models. Furthermore he says that this shift is only possible with the right technology.
One of The Clinician’s unique selling points is what Ron refers to as patient engagement – the response rates of collecting outcomes from patients in the comfort of their own homes.
Digital communication doesn’t always engage its target audience and many technologies haven’t been built with the patient in mind.
With The Clinician’s ZEDOC platform, the patient has been placed at the centre with a number of innovative techniques used to keep them engaged throughout the care journey. He says that in Singapore, the response rate amongst the community has been tracking at 80 per cent.
Maybe we can glean much from the term Ron and his colleagues emphasise: digital bedside manner. They use the phrase to describe how the company’s platform engages patients from the comfort of their own homes and creates personal communication channels with their care teams.
For example, they are conducting one study looking at micro-interactions on the screen — specifically the messages to patients and how they interact with those messages. The focus of these approaches is to make the experience for patients relevant and engaging.
In addition to ZEDOC’s patient-centred approach, Ron explains it has also been built with an interoperability-first approach – meaning that ZEDOC has been built to work with other information systems, namely the key patient administration and electronic medical record systems. This approach has led The Clinician to an exciting collaboration with a world-leading technology company.
The Clinician has recently secured a national contract in Singapore to service the public health system for outcomes measurement, with the first of potentially hundreds of projects beginning at the start of 2021.
Impact of COVID-19
As is so often the case with startups operating in digital health, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an acceleration of activity.
In some cases, it meant modification of existing products. With COVID, however, a different product was added, namely remote monitoring care products relating to patient outcome measures and how patients perceive their symptoms.
With COVID, customers often asked the company to add features to support the monitoring of patients at home — trying to support the objective of keeping patients away from hospitals.
At first, it was existing customers who wanted these capabilities, but it has grown from there. Ron says: “We now have ten different verticals,” and for The Clinician team, the challenge now is finding more hours in the day to meet this rapidly growing demand.
Ron says that as a result of the pandemic, the transformation to digital health has been explosive.
As an example, he cites the case of Germany. Before the pandemic the percentage number of clinicians ready to do teleconsultancy was in the single digits, now it is 60 per cent.
Now he says “we see a lot of clinics who are shifting towards virtual consultations and digital healthcare”
Because of the international spread of the team, remote working and communication was already an important part of the company’s operation. But COVID-19 added an extra dimension. Many members of the team, including Ron, were parents and with the pandemic came the responsibility thrust upon parents of homeschooling.
To support the disperse team, the company implanted new communication approaches, ensuring, for example, that each individual had a conversation three times a week with someone in management, checking they were “okay.”
The company also worked on a contingency plan which was very well received and helped everyone to continue their valuable contribution to the team.
Partnership During Unprecedented Times
Since the pandemic, The Clinician has formed two new strategic partnerships. One is with the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM): and the other with Amazon AWS.
Being Part of the Galen Growth 2020 HealthTech Cohort
Ron Tenenbaum says that being part of the Galen Growth 2020 HealthTech Cohort is “a great platform for us to meet customers, other startups, and opinion leaders. It is a collaborative platform for which we are very grateful.” The programme is part of Galen Growth’s unique contribution to the ecosystem, embarking every year with 25 startups without charging fees or taking equity, to help them scale to the next level using Galen Growth’s unique set of solutions and network.
About the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort
The Clinician is part of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort, the only acceleration programme built to scale digital health startups to be the next generation powering healthcare innovation in the New Normal in Asia. In 2020, Galen Growth is working with 25 HealthTech startups which will benefit from Galen Growth’s long-established and unmatched curated community of investors, corporate leaders and innovation teams and other essential stakeholders through our proven multi-channel tools. For more information, visit Galen Growth’s HealthTech Cohort webpage or read this article on the launch of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort.
Read our previous interview with Dr Eric Schulze, CEO & Founder of Lifetrack Medical Systems here.
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