SeamlessMD: helping patients prep for surgery and recover faster
New tech from alumni startup at hospital in the GTA
A mobile app and web platform from U of T medical and engineering grads is improving readiness and recovery for surgery patients at Toronto East General Hospital.
“SeamlessMD supports patients through surgery preparation and recovery with timely reminders, interactive care plans and self-management tools on tablets, smartphones and computers,” said Philip Chen, an engineering science alumnus and co-founder of SeamlessMD. “Our app pushes patient-generated data to healthcare providers in real time to monitor patient recovery remotely, which improves outcomes and lowers costs.” (Read more about SeamlessMD)
Chen met co-founders Joshua Liu, a Faculty of Medicine alumnus, and Willie Kwok, a University of British Columbia grad, as part of The Next 36 entrepreneurship program founded by Ajay Agrawal, professor of entrepreneurship and academic director at U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab accelerator.(Hear Liu talk about Seamless and The Next 36 on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.) (Read more about U of T's growing network of accelerators and entrepreneurship support, part of the Banting & Best Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto)
Launched in 2012, SeamlessMD put co-founder Liu on the Forbes list 30 Under 30 in health care. The Financial Post headlined the startup as one that that “could save lives and tax dollars.”
Patients and healthcare teams are already using SeamlessMD – and seeing results. A pilot program at the Toronto East General Hospital, launched in December 2013, saw SeamlessMD support 70 patients through lung cancer surgery. The hospital says the platform resulted in fewer surgery cancellations and reduced patient anxiety.
“Our patients feel they’re continuing their relationship with their surgeons,” Mari Iromoto, director of improvement and innovation at Toronto East General, told Canadian Healthcare Technology. “And they’re absorbing the information better in this way.” (Read more from Canadian Healthcare Technology)
Brianna Goldberg writes about entrepreneurship for U of T News. She spoke with Chen about the startup's success.
You’re a few years in after launching your startup. How has the journey been?
It has been an exciting and humbling journey. We started as three students still in university and within four months we had convinced the chief medical officer of a top 20 U.S. academic medical centre to pilot our solution.
We started with the idea to create an app to help with patients recover after surgery. Since then we have expanded from an app to a cross-platform solution which supports the whole surgical pathway from preparation to recovery. We have also increased accessibility by building the first surgical patient engagement solution available on smartphones, tablets and computers.
Along our journey, we have been fortunate to be named as one of the top 20 most innovative companies in Canada by CIX and one of the Top 25 Up and Coming ICT Companies in Canada by Branham300. Now we are working with some of the leading hospitals and health systems in Canada and the U.S.
What motivates you to work with this startup?
Surgery is one of the most vulnerable experiences that a person can go through. We find it scary that in the 21st century, we still rely on paper instructions and human memory to get patients through this complicated journey.
At SeamlessMD, we want to improve the surgical journey to give every patient the best health outcomes for surgery. Together with healthcare providers, we want to leverage design, data and technology to enhance the patient experience, improve outcomes and lower costs.
What keeps us motivated is seeing the impact that we are making. Personally, I have interviewed many patients. They have said things like, “I had surgery before, and you walk in and you don’t know what is happening. Seamless told me what to do, and what not to do. It would be helpful for a lot of patients because you feel alone during surgery.”
They talked about their likelihood to miss pre-operative appointments without reminders from SeamlessMD and how they benefitted from the app's daily check-ins. One user said, “I liked the reminders every day to ensure recovery is going smoothly. It was like having someone check on you every day and made me feel more comfortable with the post op.”
We are extremely passionate about our mission. We believe it is inevitable that surgical care will be transformed with technology. For us, it’s just not happening soon enough.
How did U of T help you start SeamlessMD?
The University of Toronto has been a huge part of my own and SeamlessMD’s success.
Personally, I learned about entrepreneurship through Professor Emeritus Joseph Paradi’s entrepreneurship courses APS234 and APS432. It was the first time I found out a way for people to create the value that they wanted to see. Taking these learnings, I started Social Spark at the University of Toronto and Western University to cultivate a socially conscious and entrepreneurial spirit in youth through the creation of social ventures.
I then created SeamlessMD through the Next 36 with my co-founders Joshua Liu and Willie Kwok. The original idea was incubated at U of T’s Innis College, where we worked from for the first eight months of our company. We have also got tremendous support from U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab. Their advisors, called the G7 Fellows, and especially our mentor John Francis – chair of the board of directors of the SickKids Foundation – shared their wealth of knowledge from building successful companies and helped us focus on the important metrics for us to grow.
What’s next for your startup?
In 2014, we spent a lot of time building an amazing product and developing case studies which demonstrate we are improving patient engagement, satisfaction and outcomes. In 2015, we are focused on supporting an even wider range of surgeries, generating even better outcomes for our customers, and growing our company in Canada and in the U.S.