Medeo's pitch is catchy enough: It's a service that allows British Columbians to speak to their doctors by video link, giving them full access to provincial health care without having to book an afternoon off work, or make a prohibitive trip to a distant office. But if the technology is adopted by the doctors and patients it hopes to attract, it could make a mark far beyond telehealth.
As CEO Ryan Wilson explains, Medeo isn't a medical product; it's a utility for doctors and patients. The company doesn't employ any doctors or impart any medical knowledge. Instead, it's purely a means of connecting physicians, patients and the information they need.
Logging in for the first time Medeo users create an account, and fill in their provincial health care information. The service, which launched to the public last week in B.C., is so far only open to beneficiaries of the provincial Medical Services Plan . They enter a virtual waiting room where a "Medeo coordinator" – the telehealth equivalent of the clipboard-wielding receptionist – does an initial screening. Then the patient enters a "virtual exam room."
"When you're ready to go, the physician can see all the patients waiting in the queue," says Mr. Wilson. "Then you have a secure video chat with your doctor."
What passes between doctor and patient is between the two of them; Medeo leaves decisions about which conditions are appropriate for telehealth consultations at the physician's discretion. It does, however, offer tools to securely transmit photos, should the doctor want a closer view of whatever ails the patient. And, critically, Medeo offers a platform for storing and sharing medical records.
Medeo is intended to connect patients with their current primary care physicians, should they sign up. It offers doctors with the same services that clinics do, including scheduling, billing, and document storage; it charges a 30 per cent cut of the billings to the provincial health-care plan. A doctor might use Medeo's built-in scheduling tools to work telehealth patients into their daily schedule or hold online "office hours," where patients using Medeo can log in on a first-come, first-served basis.
In a country where 'e-health' has become a byword for expensive, contentious, and possibly doomed government projects, Medeo was built with a startup's agility. The privately-funded 30-person company got started a mere nine months ago, in September 2012, assembling a group of 60 physicians to work with the rapidly-evolving product.
"We built the minimum viable product – it barely worked – and we put it in front of doctors," says Mr. Wilson. And then, they iterated: The product evolved week over week, until it was finally ready to be launched last week.
At the same time, it was wrangling with the weighty legal, regulatory, and technical issues that face any company trading in patients' health-care information. Mr. Wilson came from the electronic-payments industry, where he spent six years at Versapay building an inter-bank network that moved billions of dollars, in the process giving him plenty of experience working with risk-conscious institutions. Medeo, he says, is built to banking security standards. Its data centre is a custom-built facility co-located in the same facility as the provincial government's servers; its communications encrypted; its employees background-checked.
Videoconferencing could just be the beginning. Its records are stored in a format based on a national standard and an open API enables records to be updated by other e-health products, like Internet-enabled glucose meters for diabetics. In building a health records-management system and giving doctors and patients a compelling reason to use it, Medeo is building a nimble competitor to state-run e-health projects, a competitor that can be adopted from physicians on up, not from the government on down. The more doctors and patients adopt the system, the more useful it becomes.
"We see ourselves as an e-Health platform," says Mr. Wilson. "We see it very much as a platform strategy – and the first app on it is to see your doctor online."
Special to The Globe and Mail