With the highly appreciated support from your business partner, Tram Trinh (CEO VITAnLINK, A Health Tech Accelerator in Paris), we had the chance to look over the Swiss start-up border and follow some international companies engaged in the area of healthcare and the opportunities the blockchain technology can offer as a benefit for people and patients.
We’re proud that we can provide our HEALTHINAR followers with a glimpse of the exciting times and dynamic team spirit of Iryo, a very promising start-up. With a patient-driven approach, they are developing an open-sourced EHR platform giving patients, hospitals, and medical research institutions complete control over their healthcare data. Their goal is to create a global and participatory healthcare ecosystem, based on the values of data security, maximum interoperability, and privacy.
Enjoy this week’s read, an interview with Vasja Bočko, (CEO, Iryo) and Tjaša Zajc (Business developer and Communications Manager, Iryo).
“We take best practices learned in developed countries and bring it to the developing ones” – or: How Iryo is creating a global participatory healthcare ecosystem
Being from the world of IT, what urged you to tackle the highly regulated healthcare sector coming from the advanced IT world?
Tjaša: Compared to other industries, IT in healthcare is years behind in offering healthcare providers and patients a good user experience. Most IT providers provide vendor lock-in systems, making the exchange of data and interoperability extremely difficult. We are creating a system that is built on a standard that can increase interoperability (openEHR). Moreover, Iryo will be open-sourced, making sure there that vendor lock-in is non-existent. Blockchain adds a layer of transparency and immutability that will make the system more secure and trustworthy.
And so, why do you believe that Iryo will be able to outperform the big players in this space?
Vasja: I would say they all are facing the innovator’s dilemma, in reference to the book of The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen. Because these traditional players have always been successful in existing models, they can’t get out of this legacy mode easily and quickly.
The markets we believe we can have the fastest impact on are developing markets such as Africa and/or parts of the Middle East, where the markets and regulations are less developed, leaving space for new players.
How does Iryo turn this vision into reality?
Tjaša: We are currently working with a non-profit organization called, Walk with me, that is active in refugee camps in the Middle East. It was introduced to us by one of our advisors, Brian de Francesca. Facing a severe lack of resources, most needs are tended to before an EMR system in a refugee camp. On the other hand, patients with chronic conditions tend to spend many years in these camps. Offering a system, in which they will be able to have their medical data stored on their smartphones is a step forward to improving their continued care. When they leave a refugee camp, they will be able to take all their medical data with them. Blockchain technology will be the primary solution enabling them to become the decision makers around their data. They will be able to grant or revoke access to their medical records based on their needs.
Vasja: Refugees have minimal resources, but one thing that holds a significant amount of to them is their smartphones and having internet access. The turn over of healthcare professionals in refugee camps is high, as they come through various NGOs. We are building an IT system that will be user-friendly for healthcare professionals and patients alike, consequently helping with the accuracy of medical records.
Given the number of refugees, and the capacity of smartphones, how can they store all this data?
Vasja: Big files such as imagining diagnostics results, will not be stored on the phone directly. Iryo provides a cloud-based platform that can store the additional data from the patients free of charge. The refugee project is our pilot project to prove the concept and eventually design a model for scaling to other places with similar challenges regarding connectivity and infrastructure.
What are your target segments and business model?
Vasja: Our software will be available as a SaaS freemium service. If a healthcare provider has IT capabilities for maintenance, they can use it as such or pay us to service them. Additional revenue streams will be local customization, tailor-made solutions. The most prominent potential we see is for Iryo to become the global platform for researchers who would have to pay for the access to patient records by incentivizing patients to open their medical files in exchange for Iryo tokens.
What is your unique message that you would like to send to entrepreneurs, investors, healthcare providers, researchers, here and today?
Tjaša: We will need to ramp up our development team in the near future in order to further develop a robust and reliable product.
The core Iryo team with some of the advisors
What tenacity and long-term commitment! What drives you guys?
Vasja: We have all worked in IT which generally benefits from quick progress. A few of us initially worked in healthcare which is where we observed the inefficiencies concerning IT infrastructure across the board. The gap is massive, and unacceptable in this day and age. We want to bring the best practices and approach in IT to the healthcare world.
Tjaša: My personal interest in healthcare derives from being a chronic patient for more than 15 years now. As a former healthcare journalist, I follow closely where healthcare system inefficiencies are and what solutions could address them. We want to be the catalyst for change.
So this is what makes you wake up every day?
Tjaša: Yes, striving to create a meaningful social impact.
Kind of a Robin the Hood in healthcare?
Tjaša: I wouldn’t quite say Robin Hood as that would mean we would have to steal from the rich to give to the poor, but yes we attempt to take best practices learned in developed countries and bring them to the developing ones.
Learn more about Iryo and their projects: