Q: How do you define Youmedico’s mission overall, especially in the light of the pandemic and the push for telehealth in the world?
We do a lot of staffing for hospitals in Sweden. Both Government and non-government. We know pretty much what is the kind of push at the moment and we know there is a shortage of nurses. A lot of hospital staff are burned out, especially after the various Covid waves. You have a situation where the pandemic has put stress on healthcare personnel, in that they have to spread themselves thin but were also getting sick.
But what happens post-Covid? We are thinking along those terms. Our solution isn’t about the need of the moment, but also the longer-term requirements. For instance, I thought of what Covid brought to the surface: healthcare to people in remote areas.
I watched a documentary recently which really touched me in the heart. Politics can sometimes be the scapegoat for why a lot of people don’t have access to medicine and sanitation, but bottom-line is, it’s people that suffer, in particular children. I get very emotional when I think about this. There’s no one who’s more fragile than a mother who carries a child in her womb. There was one paternity clinic for the whole city in this documentary. I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people live there. They didn’t even have a doctor. I think there were 3 midwives and 1 nurse. If they wanted to do anything which was remotely on a doctor’s level, they had a book. That’s it.
But what if they could have talked to a doctor who lived far away. Someone from their native place, who spoke their language and could have done a consultation over a telecall? I am sure there are a handful of those people who would gladly support this with their time and knowledge for free if they had the technical solution.
I am one of those people. I have the means to provide a technical solution. I can make the demand meet the supply, that is bring the doctors remotely to meet their patients through my telemedicine application. This is what Youmedico is about. It’s not only about staffing for physical, active places, but also the ones that aren’t currently on the map… the places no one thinks about.
Q: Is there any particular region that you primarily focus on where you want to bring this?
No, I wouldn’t say that I am going to focus on particular region. In Sweden, telemedicine is already a thing, so for me, it is already a crowded space here. Some other parts of Europe are also picking up on telehealth. From a commercial perspective, that may be the right move to make. But I am more interested in North Africa and the Middle East at the moment, because they have the right infrastructure, right focus and I think they can actually be the right spot to develop the next-generation telemedicine. Then, we can just make that adaptable to any part of the world.
I also see this as a big opportunity for East Asia where you have a lot of skilful, educated people that could serve other parts of the world where there is more economic affluence, for example. Let’s compare with education, for example. If someone from South Asia goes to the UK for higher studies, they go to the same university as someone from England. However, one of them has the right to live and work in the country, but the other doesn’t if they cannot secure a workplace.
It is not about a difference in their competencies; the education is the same. But they will not have the same kind of working conditions in the end.
The idea for me is to see if I can open up a job market for Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, as long as it creates a possibility for people to work. I am happy that my partners James Baker-Duly (Youpal Group COO) and Ruben Teijeiro (Youpal Group CTO) are joining me on that path. In that sense, we don’t really have a focus but we are investing in relationships and efforts in the Middle East and North Africa at the moment.
Q: How does the Youmedico solution differ from comparators in the market?
It is two things – the ability to look from within to out and from out to within, which we have and the competitors do not. Some of these Swedish companies are beginning to make ground in Europe, but they are more likely to work on the governmental level. This means that they are trying to solve all compliance and legal parts themselves.
If we give the technical solutions, we don’t need to worry about regional compliance. The people using it need to do that. The more people use it, the more information we will receive in terms of both quantity and variety, which our competitors cannot. They will receive country-by-country information which makes it hard to get into the country where they want to implant.
Youmedico can do that quicker. Let’s take a case scenario. Let’s pretend a lot of mom-and-pop stores in India begin to our solutions since they are affordable, secure and give the right service. We just offer our technical solution as a white-label app and how they want to use it is up to them. They can build upon the baseline service.
We have two cornerstones: speed and data. We need to be careful with collecting data in face of all the regulations which we have on patient care, as well as data laws such as GDPR. We also need to adapt the solutions to the countries where we operate to meet their regulations. However, we can still collect trends and anonymise the data.
So, just imagine that we had a widespread solution that anonymises the data but you can see that more and more people are having consultations with regards to their respiratory health. One of the big problems, when Covid came, is that people who went to the hospital who were not sick got into contact with people who had the virus. Imagine we had been able to see this remotely and prevented it because we had the data in gross form.
Speed and how you collect data – you need to be very careful and I will emphasize on it again. You take snippets of this anonymised data. Let’s say we can see that there is a cluster of a disease in a particular region… you can get an understanding of how it will impact business, society, the patients going to the hospital. If you have just 3 hospitals in the region, you can go out and direct people to take consultations somewhere else. So, if you have the possibility to do that based on quick access to the data, that gives you the advantage.
The solutions which exist in Sweden don’t carry that type of thinking. They are more dependent on companies like Doktorsjouren, which is like doctors on call. What it means it that they have a certain number of doctors and nurses working for them, but when they experience a strong demand like during Covid, they need to turn to us.
Instead, imagine if more people could have consulted from the comfort of their home, this could have actually reduced the strain on the Covid frontline workers. Many people didn’t actually need to go to a physical space. They were just panicking. Had they been sitting at their kitchen table, speaking to a doctor, they would have known that.
When you have similar solutions in a crowded marketplace, you need to look at what are the missing links. We have been working on an IT solution for a long time. We focused on building a semi-automated process (because it still needs some human interaction where you can find people, vet people get the correct information from them and then you can get either direct them online or to the requested destination pretty quickly.
We have invested a lot of effort and money in building that system. So that gives us the opportunity to also compete in this market. But we are not going to compete or try to provide same services they have. We are going to complement them and hopefully, they are also going to use the solution we offer.
In other markets, we are giving the opportunity to anybody to use the virtual hospital. Buy the solution, find the staff that you want, spin up the hospital that you want. Maybe it is going to be open four hours today, but you might be very niche. Perhaps a doctor can focus to provide second opinions… or other unique services that address pain points in the local context.
Therefore, our advantage is that we are multi-pronged. We have several objectives and we approach them in parallel. We don’t have all of our eggs in one same basket. What we are going to do is take what we have and adapt it to markets where we see it is promising. For instance, let’s say we see we can address some pain points in South Africa or Brazil. Because of the variety in the solution we have developed, we can serve these two places differently, with our unique versatile offer.
Q: What about compliance?
We need to worry about compliance in the sense that how do you store data, how do you secure data, how do you host the solutions?
This is why we have our Youcloud, which is part of that kind of infrastructure. However, it is by choice. Other companies can choose to host their apps and solutions on local servers. For us, Youcloud is part of that infrastructure anyhow. Youmedico isn’t a solution which is hosted on some random server where it is sharing space and there can be access to data such as patient information, credit card information etc. We are focused on security and this is how we address compliance.
However, the kind of healthcare regulations that you have that are mainly built on compliance – those we don’t need to fight in those markets because those companies are already compliant in their individual markets. But then we also are making sure that we are compliant from different angles such as data storage, licenses that we hold and keep, on the European level at least. This is so that we have the right provide a consultation service, for example. And a lot of countries don’t really have this.
If you look at Sweden only a few years ago, there were only licenses to give care in the physical form. But now, there are digital healthcare licenses. A lot of countries, however, don’t have that kind of regulation, whether it’s for a physical or digital facility. What they might do is look at the type of licensing that we operate under and decide to adapt it to their local situation.
Compliance is a focus for us, but we can enter markets without having them as our biggest obstacle. We could face resistance from local regulations. The only thing that could stop us would be if the internet were to be shut down. In any other scenario, people would be able to have a telehealth consultation if they wanted to. This would be Youmedico’s service offer to them, anyway.