Question: What was your core idea behind Youmedico?
Karl: I think it is on the basis of me having entered the healthcare market in Sweden. I saw the development that was there in Sweden. I also saw the kind of possibilities that opened based on the maturity of digital infrastructure in Sweden.
To make a long story short, in Sweden you have the three biggest telemedicine companies in Europe. A lot of people in Sweden are used to using telemedicine solutions to meet with their doctors and nurses. A lot of my own experience has been adapting to that kind of environment in Sweden.
When I spoke to people abroad, I spoke under the assumption that people were familiar with telehealth and also used it. But, prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t really the case. I started to think that we had a possibility in the market to do something where we could differentiate ourselves from the rest.
My idea was not to compete with what’s already out there but to build technical solutions. I realised that, in a lot of countries, states, cities, private healthcare companies were warming up to the idea and were working with telemedicine solutions.
Given that I already have a lot of experience in medical staffing in Sweden, the idea began to take shape. My idea was to take the concept which exists in Sweden, take it at the international level and turn it into something which wouldn’t be impacted by geographical boundaries or political agendas.
The idea for us now is to adapt the technical solution that Youmedico provides to different countries. We also looked at the healthcare industry in general and realised there would be the same shift as in other industries. For example, daily-paid labour has been around for hundreds of years. We realised this is becoming the norm – that is people do a job, get paid and move on to their next assignment.
We therefore believed this was something that could be mapped on healthcare. The service industry is clearly not the only one that is going to have daily-wagers. We’re not only going to see taxis or food delivery executives being the only ones to be paid only for their service. This is going to also be the case for highly qualified workers and professions.
The shift is also going to be global. We do not see this trend being limited to one central place. Once you have the global capacity, then you can also share competencies across regions, across geographical points that you have.
This means that a nurse with the right education in the Philippines could actually serve someone who is in the US. Before telemedicine was introduced, people had to physically get to a place to visit a doctor or nurse.
There are some countries that share core regulations around educational qualifications required to work in the health system. For instance, if you are a nurse from Australia or something like that, you can actually go to New Zealand and work there. But what happens to those who don’t have the same opportunity? Does that mean they are less qualified or even able to serve someone in a country different to their own?
What I am getting at is that, if people can work via a digital device, without having to worry about work permits and visa requirements, or relocating their family… then we will see this trend develop and rise sharply in a short amount of time.
That means people in the health sector won’t have to migrate. They can use the resources they have at hand to provide their service in any country of their choosing, from their country of origin. It’s with that understanding that we saw the kind of merge of telemedicine solutions with the staffing platform.
The health industry is one of the industries in the world where you have people who are available to work in some places, while in other countries they are completely understaffed. But that changed with the pandemic where you see that healthcare staff are spreading themselves thin.
With the toll COVID-19 has taken on the medical industry, is there going to be the same motivation to work? Will people sign up for the available jobs?
Let’s look at the philosophy behind for a minute. There is a kind of science, which is based on science we are building societies on. A lot of the science we are using in healthcare was not meant for healthcare in the beginning. CT scans, for example, developed from scientific research.
So those are used in that kind of circumstances. And you have religion. Religion is another system that is putting opportunities or restrictions based on where you live. And then you have philosophy which is one of those systems which has been contributing to politics, culture. How people build their lives, what kind of things they think they should encounter with and so on. And then you have technology which is the last kind of system that has been introduced. And when you start looking at all these components, technology is actually one of those which enhanced the rest of the things.
Technology is something that is globally spread. Nobody really predicted what would happen in 2021. Communication or access to communication was not what people were thinking about. They were thinking about technology to just make sure we went faster, quicker.
However, information has become key, the thing that is changing the world. Internet is information. If you have this as a foundation and all the other things are getting accelerated. The kind of culture of philosophy you have can be spread throughout the global perspective in an instant. Medical and scientific research can spread in an instant.
What this means to me is that I see the potential for shifts and I also see the gaps. You are able to transmit information on culture, beliefs and systems to anyone in around the globe. One of these systems was what was happening in Sweden with telemedicine.
Nordic countries are big on sharing of resources in healthcare. That means that people can move around the country to service the area in need at any time. A doctor can spend 6 months, weeks or even days in one location depending on the requirement.
So, I saw this local pattern having the potential to develop into a global one. In combination with our telemedicine solution, I thought to myself that we could use technology to support people in areas where there was scarcity. For example, if there was a requirement in the U.S. and there were people available to support them from the Philippines, for example, then, why not?
Now, let’s say you’re a doctor or a nurse in the Philippines. You have worked your shift in your local time zone, but can extend your day by four hours. During this time, you can actually serve someone on the U.S. market for their needs.
If you divide the world in three 8-hour blocs, you have people in each bloc which can service the other two. So that gives you the kind of possibility to have a global product that could be used by many people literally round-the-clock.
Once you have done that kind of hustle, then you see that there is a possibility for people. I’ve been talking about the Philippines but it could be South Africa it could be India, or anywhere, that could actually serve those who have a shortage of what they need and have the capacity to pay for it. That’s when you have a global market.
If you’re looking at the world the way that I do, you’ll see, at least from my side, that there is a possibility to create job opportunities for people in other parts of the world. So that was kind of the baseline and, of course, we needed to tweak it a lot. But, Youmedico is the only collective expression of several different things.
So it is really a staffing platform for the future digital need of nurses and doctors. It is a telemedicine solution that can be widely used because we built it as a SaaS solution from the beginning. Meaning that we don’t need to take our name and bring it out to the world. We can give any private organisation, government or country, whatever it is, we can give them access to the technical solution and then they can brand it however they want.
Once they have chosen our solution, we can help them with service and staffing. We can match supply and demand in the industry via the telemedicine app. That was kind of the foundation and then we have added a lot of things on top of it.
Telemedicine has been used in Sweden over several generations already, so it’s part of people’s norms and habits. So, they are already looking for the next step, which happening here with Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) for example. This means that with sensors and with the possibility offered through the Internet of Things, you can basically check your temperature, BP and heart rate from where you are, like in a virtual doctor’s office.
So, combining these components you get a real kind of virtual hospital experience and that can be transferred to the international market instantly. This also becomes an opportunity for different countries to develop this service.
Q.You’re from a part of the world that is very innovative and the culture itself lends itself to telemedicine, as you see there are people that have been doing this for a long time. But in some parts of the world, medicine is done at home with house visits by the family doctor. In other parts, there’s e even medical tourism. How do you tell these people to shift to telehealth?
This is just about adapting technology. This is why I talked about all the five systems from the beginning because e they are building the foundation of where you are operating from. If you add technology to this system, you can be in a country where you have a completely different political system or cultural norms. It doesn’t matter what kind of healthcare is the central part of, its going to always be the central part.
Where technology comes in is that you can shift around traditional behaviour that you actually have.
If I go to a country and tell the people there they can no longer see a doctor at home because of some international company bringing it all online, I will be on thin ice. This isn’t what it’s about.
Instead, it’s about giving a doctor who does house calls the possibility to also sit in his or her office and do teleconsultations with other, perhaps less regular patients. Or perhaps with the same patients, but instead they can call on him or her more often or don’t need to wait for them to be available to come to your home.
We know about spending in the healthcare industry from a business perspective. Most cases aren’t emergency cases. A lot of them are consultation-based. If you want to have a consultation from an expert and let’s say I am your doctor. You know me, I have been treating your family for 20 years. Would you have less trust in me if I was seeing you via a screen? I don’t think so. It would actually be an advantage for us both.
This is the possibility we provide with our SaaS solution. We can enhance it and make it even better over the course of time. It’s not about taking away from what already exists, but adding to it. To me, it doesn’t really shift it, it only gives a new opportunity and I think this is clear especially now with the pandemic. I think more people are seeing this than they did before.
Youpal looks at education, we are looking at healthcare, we are just trying to find a way where it becomes more accessible. If you make it more accessible people are going to behave a little differently. Now maybe let’s say if someone meets with a doctor. I’m saying this as an example. You go out, it’s crowded, you meet someone who sneezes and you catch something. But with this technical solution, you might have prevented that because the only thing you needed was a consultation.
But that doesn’t mean the technical solution doesn’t offer consultation. If you need those, then you have remote patient monitoring. This solution can, of course, only serve in situations where the physical examination or a doctor’s intervention is not really required. If a patient is having heart failure or other more complicated issues, then they need to go in and see a doctor. But in the meantime, we’ve helped to eliminate a lot of the unnecessary in-person calls that currently exist.