The Future of Medicine Podcast: Episode 2 - Ahmad Al-Hidiq CEO & Co-Founder of Kayan Health
Kayan Health is an enterprise Virtual Care Management solutions provider that delivers a suite of products which empower healthcare organizations, etc.
COO and Co-Founder of Predictiv, Alex Rochegude 🇺🇸🇫🇷, interviewed fellow entrepreneur Ahmad Al-Hidiq, CEO and Co-Founder of Kayan Health. Kayan Health is an enterprise Virtual Care Management solutions provider that delivers a suite of products which empower healthcare organisations, Governments and NGOs with innovative communications technologies and Artificially Intelligent solutions.
Alex: Hi, everyone. And welcome to The Future of Medicine. In this podcast, we explore how technology and science are shaping the medicine of the future from genomics to wearable devices and artificial intelligence to at home diagnoses and treatments. Our guests, we share how they foresee the future and how they contribute to it.
Today, I have the chance to have my friend, Ahmad Al-Hidiq. Ahmad is a serial entrepreneur and technology enthusiast and has been launching products and advising businesses for over 17 years. He is the co-founder and CEO of Kayan Health, the Virtual Care Management platform. He is also the co-founder of LabEight, a venture studio and firm that works with startups in bringing their products to market and helping them lift-off. In addition, Ahmad is an angel investor and advisor and sits on the board of multiple startups globally as part of the LabEight portfolio of startups.
I invited Ahmad today to talk about Kayan Health, an enterprise Virtual Care Management solutions provider that delivers a suite of products which empowers healthcare organizations, governments, and NGOs with innovative communication technologies and artificially intelligent solutions.
Ahmad, welcome to The Future of Medicine. Can you tell us more about you, about your background, and what is Kayan Health?
Ahmad: Absolutely. It's an honor to be here, thanks for the invite. We're excited to chat. I ventured into technology around 17, 18-years ago. I started out in engineering and slowly kind of moved into business development and product management. I found myself always excited to build new products and to be involved in kind of trying to solve problems, trying to look at gaps in the market and the challenges, and figuring out ways to do that. And I launched a few businesses over my career and a few startups. Last of which, around 7 or 8-years ago, it was in healthcare and health tech. We were building solutions for clinics, hospitals, doctors, both from enterprise electronic medical records to other enterprise type solutions. And that's when I kind of got into telemedicine. I used to live in Dubai back then, and we launched the region's first telemedicine platform called Heydoc. And over the years we grew the platform, raised funds, scaled globally, but we always knew that telemedicine was really one solution to the problem. Healthcare organizations, clinics, providers are all very unique and they're all trying to solve different problems. And we realized that what we need to do is look at the ecosystem, look at all the different innovations around us, and bring them all together for these connects, providers, and healthcare providers. We shut down Heydoc. We launched Kayan Health, which is a Virtual Care Management platform and spent the last two years building products for healthcare providers. So, we built a suite of products that we implement for our clients. It has been a fun journey.
Alex: That’s exciting and that’s a long journey. How did COVID-19 or the market evolve from telemedicine? And how did that impact you?
Ahmad: Two and a half years ago we had to sell the idea of telemedicine. We had to sell the idea of digital health and we had to try to showcase what innovations were out there and how we could use AI and wearable technologies to help benefit clinics. And then COVID hit, we didn’t need to sell anymore. Everyone understood and saw the value of it. And over the past 18-months, most clinics and hospitals that we talked to have rushed to buy different products and different solutions to solve problems in different areas. And now, almost two years in, they have the space or the time to sit and think, “Okay, now we’ve kind of plugged in a few holes. How can we now plan for the future?” And this is what we are doing right now and where most of our time is spent. It's running these different discovery or innovation workshops and sessions with our clients to try to see how we can use all these different technologies to solve these problems. We saw a rise in remote monitoring. Now everyone is looking into all the wearables, smart devices, smart scales, biosensors, and other types of mobile devices that can provide a lot of insight when it comes to your health. Everyone is trying to figure out how to benefit from these. As many clients have Apple Watch or have a Fitbit, how do we benefit from this information? And now, they’re open to this. So, were looking at how can we link this, take this data, how to use the information that we have from their medical records, and then how do we make sense of this? We saw a big push into that.
We saw a push into automation. A lot of things that used to happen physically and manually are being automated. And now they're looking into ways where they can automate certain things and make it more of a seamless experience for the patients.
In the end, patient experiences haven't changed for not even decades, for centuries. When you are sick, you go see a doctor, they prescribe medicine, you go back home, and then if you need to see them again, you go back, and so on and so forth. Now we are looking at how can we change the patient experience too? How can we make their life easier? How can we make use of all these innovations around us to make their healthcare journey better? And that's the kind of change we are seeing in patient experiences rather than innovation in the backend for clinics and doctors has always been there. And it's always been amazing. But when it comes to the patient, we haven't seen much change. And that's the main thing that's been kind of changing recently. The hit hat COVID had caused that innovation to happen. So, it’s exciting times for us, especially enthusiasts in the health tech space and we are looking forward to the future.
Alex: I saw that the bulk of your solution is about the triage, when the patient arrives to the hospital, to know where to direct them. I saw that you use artificial intelligence to check the symptoms through a set of questions, receive a preliminary diagnosis, and guides patients to the appropriate medical services. Can you tell us more about how it works? How did you validate the research you provide? And apart from that question, do you use or plan to use additional information like patient medical records, wearables (i.e. Apple watch), do you plan to use that kind of information to improve the triage even better?
Ahmad: Absolutely. So, we're using AI to help with triage because your first interaction with a physician is the triage session. They ask you a few questions, they check your vitals, and then they take this information and share it with the physician. When they speak to you, they have a better understanding of who you are. This does not need to be a manual process, and this could be automated. And the way we're implementing it is we ask a few questions based on our solution. Based on the result we will either let you know that you need to access 911, imagine you are feeling unwell. You open up the app, you go and kick off a triage session. It will let you know if you need to call 911, it’s an emergency, and you need to see someone now, or if you need to speak to someone, or if it’s not very serious you should check back later. And then if you need to speak someone, we'll direct you to the right person, and then this information will be stored so that when you speak to that person, they don't need to ask you these questions again.
And what we've been focused on is the patient experience, to make it really easy to answer these questions, make it really quick, make it really fast. And we're looking at different channels. At this stage, obviously input through the app or through the web portal, but we have also built a voice enabled solution. What happens is you can speak to your Google Assistant or Alexa, it'll ask a few questions, and then that will direct you towards the result that you are intending, whether it's speaking to a doctor or calling 911. And we take this information and store it into the patient’s records.
This has been something that a lot of physicians are asking for just to save time and to automate. It's part of the things that they'd like to automate. And if AI can do it, then let's use AI to do it. If it something that is always best to have a human do it, then we are focusing on that. We don't try not to tell you what the problem is, we don't want to freak people out. We don't trust the technology today that much. Maybe in a few years’ time it will be a lot more efficient, and we have more data that we can learn from. At this stage, we take this data, give it to the doctor, and just tell the patient that they need to speak to this doctor or that doctor, let's facilitate the appointment booking.
Alex: What type of diseases or problems do you cover? Do you have a list of categories depending on what doctor to meet? How does that work?
Ahmad: Yeah, it could be anything. We cover the whole spectrum. The only area that we are working on next, which will take a little bit of time is mental health. Mental health triage is still at its early days, at least for us, and for the technologies that we are using. But that’s something that we are looking into moving forward. We believe that it will add extreme and immense value when it comes to someone's mental health, able to ask a few questions, and then let you know now who you need to speak to, or what your current situation is, and give you some advice on what to do next. So, we’re looking at mental health and where to implement it. But when it comes to physical health, we cover everything.
Eventually, as you mentioned, wearable data will affect this triage. Genomics, as you well know, will affect this triage. All this data that is around us will help make the triage session a lot better. We're at the beginning where it's just basically input, asking you questions, responding, and based on healthcare data available to us, we're able to analyze and let the patient know. But our goal is to plus in your wearables, plus in genomics, plus in medical records, and to make the assistant faster and smarter to give you a better result.
Alex: That sounds really, really exciting. Today, can you tell us more about your clients? Where are they located? And what is your target? You mentioned clinics, hospitals. Are they large hospitals or smaller structures? Because there is a lot of competition on that market. I mean, there are many telemedicine companies’ software. How do you differentiate and who are your clients? Why would they use this solution rather than so many alternatives on the market?
Ahmad: First, we are focused on concierge medicine. That's our main kind of area focus, at least at this stage. The reason is concierge medicine is providing a concierge service. It's all about the patient. It's all about the patient experiences. We feel that our solution would fit best there. And what we're trying to do is we bring triage, we bring communication, we bring appointment booking, we bring forms and onboarding, and prescription refilling forms, all of these different types of forms, and wearable integration obviously into one place. And the way we do it is we white label our platform for our clients. Each clinic or each concierge clinic will have their own app that they can use or client portal that they can use with their own patient. That is our key differentiator. We don't have a cookie cutter solution that anyone can sign up to and use. We realize that each clinic operates differently. They all maybe need the same functionality or the same services, but each of them operates differently and they all want to have internal control of how the solution is implemented and how it's used with their patients. Our key differentiator is we white label our suite of products for each and every client that they can use internally, we customize it for them, and we help them scale. We lead the technology, and we help them scale.
Another area we're focusing a lot on is innovation. We treat it like the startup way basically. We look at what their gaps are, what their problems are, and then we try to build something accordingly, and we kind of plan it over a period of time. We make sure that we work with the right people internally. There is an internal buy in that they need to kind of innovate and transform their clinic into this new area of digital health. And we work on building the right solutions for them. What we've done is we've built the building blocks, the suite of products that are there, and we take it and set it up for each and everyone. Each one uses a different EMR. Each one has a different audience of focus. Some could be focused on the elderly, some could be focused on people in certain conditions, some need a FitBit Sense, some need a medial grade device. Each one is very different. We kind of tweak and tailor it according.
In addition to that, sometimes conditions like tech literacy, Wi-Fi availability, internet, and type of device being used can affect the solution. If it's someone that has fast speed internet, the latest phone, the latest smartwatch, then their tech literacy is on a very different level than an elderly person living in a rural area who struggles to access the internet. The implementation for them could be a lot different. The experience is different. It's a little bit more intuitive. It's more we try to guide them towards getting the data and getting the information versus something with another audience.
Alex: Because using your solution can be also a big organizational change for hospitals and clinics. Having all that change, what is their reaction when you first them Kayan Health? When you first tell me, “We can help you of course and this would be the changes?” Because apart from the technology, their processes also all change.
Ahmad: Correct. They usually see the platform and they're like, this is amazing. We do need this. Or we have part of this platform through three, four other kinds of solutions. And we love that you're bringing it all into one place. They have 200-doctors and 30,000-patients, and it is not something that they can do overnight. Our usual answer and strategy is, let’s start small. Let’s start with 5-doctors and 100-patients. And then we increase the 100 to 500. And then increase that to 1,000. And the same thing with the doctors. And we slowly launch internal pilots and then we start scaling from there until we reach. It is never a three-month project, it’s almost a 1 to 2 year engagement for the larger organizations. And we plan the roll out. The first thing we tell them is, we are treating this as a startup within your organization. Because if we don’t do that, this will fail.
We have experienced in enterprise solutions. I've been launching and delivering enterprise solutions all my life. And I know when it comes to a big company or a big organization, this type of change, it will fail if you don't do it properly and you don't do it slowly and cautiously. And that's kind of what we're following. Even with the smaller clinics, if they have 1,000-patients and 10-doctors, let’s start with 1-doctor and 100-patients. And then we can scale it slowly.
Alex: I really like that approach. What is your biggest challenge today to get more hospitals, more clinics, more concierge medicine doctors to use your solution? What are the challenges that you are facing today?
Ahmad: Time. It's a long sales cycle. It's a very, very, very long sales cycle when it comes to hospitals and clinics. Because it's really serious, it’s very time consuming and not something that you can just jump into and do. The good thing is they want to do it. The bad thing for us as a provider is it takes time. That's our biggest challenge. But we're able to wait it out, take our time, and support them with whatever they need. That's why we invest a lot of time in these workshops. We invest a lot of time in the user experience, patient experience, educational sessions, and into the product itself. And for us as a company and a startup, our strategy was start with the smaller organizations and then slowly start scaling up. And that's the reason why we were very interested in concierge, and it actually just fell into our laps. We met a few people that deliver concierge services and we realized what we've done is perfect fit. It's a perfect solution for them. They are a little bit faster when it comes to execution. And at the same time, they know that they want it. It is an easier rollout than when it comes to a larger organization with multiple systems or complicated solutions that we need to integrate with. We're starting there because it's an easier and a better fit. And then as we progress, we're going to start looking at other areas where this platform could be a great fit. We're very happy just starting with concierge. It's a lot of fun. I think we'll be able to help them immensely as they are transforming healthcare in their own way. Helping them in their journey is exciting.
Alex: Talking about that, what are your plans for the future? We have talked about what you have today and the success and challenges you are having. Are you working on any new features or products?
Ahmad: We have a few things in the pipeline. Our current product is split into four modules. It's the communication, wearable integration, and remote monitoring. It's the triage. And it's the integration and automation. These are the building blocks of our product. This is how we started our journey to solve those four challenges. As we perform and as we run these different workshops with clinics and startups, because working with startups is another area that is growing for us, companies that want to destruct a certain healthcare system, and they want to use our suite of products to build their solution that they can provide. In addition to clinics, both of them we are spending a lot of time doing those workshops. We are looking into addition to clinics, both of them setting up innovation labs across North America. We're focused on the US and Canada. We're looking at setting up innovation labs where we can work more closely with providers and with startups and helping them solve key problems. We've got experience in health tech. We've got a solid team and a lot of resources that can help. We've met a lot of amazing people, advisors, mentors, investors that can come in and add value to a clinic or to a startup. We are looking to set up and launch our first innovation lab in the next few months. We are currently talking to a few partners and sponsors that want to be a part of this initiative. We're looking at building innovation hubs across multiple cities, multiple locations across North America. It is tied really closely to what we are already doing. We have been doing all of that, but we want to position it and add more resources to make sure that these projects we are involved in are even more successful by adding mentors, advisors, and experts in the industry. We want to bring them to our clients as we are doing these innovation workshops. I think the value that we would be able to bring is going to grow.
And then the second thing that we're also excited about is, and this is kind of a little bit different. It’s more B2C focused. We had a group of interns that we worked with earlier this year, they're all University students. And as we were kind of working together, they were telling us that they were struggling to get access to mental health services. It is really difficult to find a therapist. Universities and Wellness Centers are overwhelmed. People are all over the world today. We're still doing online and virtual classes. Some people go back home or some people are local, it's been a challenge. We started looking into the market and we realized there isn't really a platform or a player that is connecting University students, in specific, helping them connect with therapists the way they want to do it. They're more into texting. They all have smart health devices. They are very into their own health, monitoring their vitals. We thought, “Okay, let’s take of this and pilot it.” We wanted to see if students were interested. We launched a small pilot with a group of students, and they loved it. They are very interested in it. We started talking to therapists who thought this would solve a big problem for them, especially when it comes to student interaction. Students are not interested in the way that they are doing things and those that are interested in the students don’t have the tools. It came in and fit. We are growing our platform now, Grain of Health. It’s B2C focused and run by a partner of ours, one of our colleagues. So far, we are in 4-states in the U.S. and 2-providences Canada, we've got therapist there. We're looking to scale across North America. It is only a couple of months ago and we are looking to scale that with classes coming back and people are back to school. We hope that we can add value to that space and scale over the next couple of years.
Alex: You were talking about the new generation that is taking care of their health and tech savvy. You have a solution today that enable patients to stay home, to be monitored remotely in the future, to receive preliminary diagnosis, is this how you envision the future of medicine and healthcare?
Ahmad: For me, the future of health care is all about the patients. It's all about predictive care, mind the pun. It's all about predictive care, it's all about preventative medicine, it's all about how we use technologies to make sure that I know what's going on or my physician is able to detect and know what's going on before it even happens. The past decade, we've got innovation and the tools. The next decade is going to be innovation, bringing these tools together, and making sense of all this data that we've collected in the past. I see in 10-years where I wouldn’t need to book an appointment with my physician. I would already know in advance what is going on because of all these difference devices. My records are all integrated across multiple systems, and I wouldn't need to book 15-minutes to speak to someone unless I absolutely need to. But I will be constantly monitored by my physician or by my healthcare professionals. I’d be notified if something's out of the ordinary. Instead of me kind of trying to check my heart rate, blood pressure, heart rate variability, and all the basic vitals. This will know what my resting heart rate and knows what is out of the border of normal and it'll let me know if something's wrong versus me having to check, “Oh, it's actually my resting heart rate is lower, it's higher than it should be.” Whatever this information or this vital data is, we will be able to predict and know what it is on a personalized case. It's not just preventative medicine, but it's also personalized medicine. And these are the two kind of general topics that we believe are the future of healthcare and kind of making it more intelligent. We are making use of all the data that we've had and making it even more seamless for us to access and get better healthcare.
Alex: Predicting, preventing, making more personalized medicine, and a big part of it that you're working on is also the monitoring side. How do you think the role of physicians will change? Will it be mainly to only treat the patient at the end of the chain? Removing all the spots before about preventing? Do they play a role in this?
Ahmad: I think they're going to spend less time treating things that they don't need to treat. And they're going to spend more time treating things they need to treat and everything. One statistic that we found fascinating, which was actually the reason why we got into our first platform, between 68 and 78% of consultations are unnecessary. People end up going back home, no medication needed, there's nothing going on. They just needed to kind of feel better, they weren’t sure, so they spoke to someone. We'll be able to eliminate all of that using technology. And then, the physician will be able to focus on the real problems. Instead of spending their eight-hour day in 15-minutes intervals with patients, and them not remembering your name because they are seeing so many people, they will be able to remember your name because they can spend an hour with you to help, guide, and treat you. And everything else that doesn’t require a physician’s attention will be handled by technology. This is how I feel it is going to be. The nature, the way that physicians do things today is going to change completely. I feel that the way the whole system is going to change over time, slowly. Maybe not in the 10-years, maybe 20 to 30-years. The whole system will change because the fundamentals of the system are going to change. For us, it’s all about the patient experience. That is what we are looking at and trying to innovate.
Alex: Predicting, preventing, monitoring, treating, and a physician that will be really patient centric and focus on what he brings the most value. Ahmad, thank you so much for joining us today. Kayan Health is a very exciting solution. And essentially, wish all physicians would use a solution like that. Best of luck for this amazing venture for that new mental health solution that you released on the market.
And thank you everyone for joining this podcast on The Future of Medicine. See you next week.
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