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This Telehealth And Patient Monitoring Platform Is Improving Healthcare In Underserved Areas

This Telehealth And Patient Monitoring Platform Is Improving Healthcare In Underserved Areas

telehealth
Amin Holmes and Theodore Harvey, co-founders of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients. Photo provided

Amin Holmes was frustrated that he couldn’t do more to help his mom, who had a progressive lung disease that took her breath away. Often sick, she would have to call 911 and be admitted to the hospital — a frustrating process.

She lives in a remote area and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Holmes was convinced there had to be a better way — a tech solution to check in remotely and find out what’s going on with his mom. With a background in technology and engineering, he and a friend dug deeper into telehealth and location monitoring.

That search evolved into SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform focused exclusively on managing COPD. By providing a patient’s oxygen flow rate and answering questions for a monitoring physician, SynsorMed is helping solve an issue that personally affected Holmes’ family.

The SynsorMed app is a digital solution that enables COPD patients to take charge of their care and helps them remain healthy and avoid hospitalization. It also allows care coordinators to connect with patients and intervene before a hospital or emergency room visit becomes necessary.

We have a clear opportunity to be a leader in this space. It is very custody winner-take-all kind of space. It’s not going to be like search or anything like that, like Google, who has 90% of the market. I think our space is going to be little pockets of winners.


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Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.

Holmes, the president of SynsorMed, and Theodore Harvey, the company’s CEO and co-founder, are betting big on the rise of the telehealth industry.

Their platform is now used by Macon, Georgia-based Navicent Health, Rural Health Network of Oklahoma and others.

Seventy-six percent of U.S. hospitals connect with patients and consulting practitioners at a distance using video and other technology, according to the American Hospital Association’s Telehealth fact sheet. However, the rise in popularity of the telehealth services did not enjoy immediate adoption. 

“People were saying, ‘Hey, these folks just don’t use smartphones and mobile devices’ when they first started a few years ago,” Harvey said in an interview with Moguldom.

This did not stop the two friends, who both earned undergrad and graduate degrees in engineering from the Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU) and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Moguldom spoke with Theodore Harvey about fundraising, pivoting with a changing industry, and looking for a quick “no” instead of a slow “yes”.

Medicare and Medicaid services have recognized that this is where things have gone. They are starting to shift in our direction of telehealth services which are becoming reimbursable. This is something that we banked on a couple of years back. It was hard initially, but we’ve been proven right. We’re just trying to ride the tiger now.

Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.
telehealth
Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.

Moguldom: Why did you start SynsorMed?

Theodore Harvey: Yeah, so it happened several years ago. My co-founder’s mother suffers from a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and she struggled mightily. She was constantly in the hospital because it’s a disease that affects your breathing patterns. Any time she had an issue with trying to breathe, she called 911 and was back in the hospital. He was frustrated because she lived in a remote area of town, and he was very frustrated with this whole process. We’ve both been in technology forever, and healthcare technology for several years as well.

We said, “Hey, there’s got to be a better way. Is there a remote way to check in and find out what’s going on with her?” We dug deeper into telehealth and location monitoring. For us, this is really about having a doctor and staff have better communication and a better line of sight with their patients when they’re at home, and making patients feel better about taking care of their health at home. This is especially important for older patients like his mother, and the ones who suffer from these chronic conditions that unfortunately just never go away. There’s no cure for COPD or hypertension or diabetes. You just have to manage it. This was an eye-opener for us, and obviously, we did further research. Healthcare and patient at-home care is a huge market and it’s just going to get larger in the future.

Moguldom: Do you find it to be a challenge to sell the older generation on using your product, or are they adapting?

A friends-and-family round basically (got us) started. Luckily we were able to have a license agreement with the software during the early stages. This allowed us to be revenue-positive. Now, we are in the process of fundraising.

Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.

Theodore Harvey: We found initially there was some hesitation but quite frankly people were saying, “Hey, these folks just don’t use smartphones and mobile devices.” Obviously, that was four or five years ago, as that has changed drastically. Users of mobile technology are individuals 50 and above, so I think we’ve been pretty right once again that this is going to be across all demographics and especially with the baby boomer generation. And obviously, the older population is just going to get larger and larger. We all live in a mobile world now so optimizing our mobile solution with our platform from day one helped us kind of remember and be at the forefront of this space. Initially, telehealth didn’t have the respect it does now. I would say initially, yes, it was a hard but lately, not as much, and for the underserved community, there are definitely still some areas that we’re working on to help them as well.

Moguldom: What have been some other challenges since launching?

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Theodore Harvey: We’ve been established for about four years now. We started down this path of looking at telehealth with a few pivots along the way as the market has changed. One of the big things around our space is, “Do you have a solution that doctors can get paid for using?” And initially, we did not. It was an enhancement. It was a cost-saving mechanism, which is OK from a selling standpoint, but if you’re selling through permission, that is not the most compelling reason because they’re looking for patient efficacy. How well does it help the patient? Also, how can a doctor get compensated for using the solution? We kind of went down a path innovating with different types of ecosystem partners into our platform. We started to see we were on the right train. Medicare and Medicaid services have recognized that this is where things have gone. They are starting to shift in our direction of telehealth services which are becoming reimbursable. And this is something that we kind of banked on a couple of years back. It was hard initially, but we’ve been kind of proven right. We’re just trying to ride the tiger now.

Moguldom: According to CrunchBase, SynsorMed raised about $100,000 funding at one point. Is that still the correct number, and do you mind sharing with who that round was done with?

We all live in a mobile world now so optimizing our mobile solution with our platform from day one helped us be at the forefront of this space.

Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.

Theodore Harvey: Yes. It was a friends-and-family round to basically get started initially with building the product. We don’t have any institutional funding currently. Luckily we were able to have a license agreement with the software during the early stages about a couple of years ago. This allowed us to be revenue-positive for the last couple of years. But now, we are in the process of fundraising.

Moguldom: Now that you are seeking out funds, what has your experience been like trying to raise capital as a Black founder?

Theodore Harvey: There are challenges. One of the things I think is the biggest challenge is access. Cold emails and cold calling just doesn’t work. I’m a sales guy from training so I’m used to cold-calling folks but that typically is not effective. Getting the right contact to get you an introduction is the challenge of all of it. Unfortunately, as a Black founder, you may not have a lot of access. It takes really leveraging every contact I ever had. I’m going back to elementary school to try to get in front of the right person. Literally, I have reached out to elementary school friends to talk to them about what we’re doing. But I think that’s always going to be a challenge, just being a minority in a majority country. Access is something to think about. But as far as everything else, I think the same challenges most founders have such as making sure to refine your pitch deck, understanding what resonates with the right individuals. One thing I would advise is making sure that you have a clear and quick understanding of if the VC is going to pass or not. What are the things I need to do to make them not pass? I’ve learned, if they say “Hey, well if you do X, Y, and Z.” Well, now I know these are my next targets. These are my next milestones to meet, so when I go back to them again in three-to-six months, I’m like, “Hey, I met X, Y, and Z. What are the steps now?” Or, “Are you ready to move forward?” I think this is a typical challenge all founders face and they need to focus on when fundraising. Get a fast no, not a slow yes, and make sure you’re clear on the next steps in order to move forward in the process.

A typical challenge all founders need to focus on when fundraising is to get a fast “no”, not a slow “yes”. And make sure you’re clear on the next steps in order to move forward in the process.

Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.

Moguldom: What do the next five years look like for SynsorMed?

Theodore Harvey: I think we have a clear opportunity to be a leader in this space. You hear from investors there’s a lot of focus in this space, and that’s true, but I think healthcare is one of those markets. It is very custody winner-take-all kind of space. It’s not going to be like search or anything like that, like Google, who has like 90 percent of the market. I think our space is definitely going to be little pockets of winners. Even Amazon, Google, Microsoft have to break into this market considering there’s a huge market opportunity. But even they are not going to just be winner-take-all.

So, I think our goal is to kind of really kind of focus on patient monitoring for underserved communities and older patients. Really providing them with a complete solution, not just a device connection or the medical information back to their doctor, but also a suite of services that can provide them with medication services, transportation, food, security issues, if needed. So, basically kind of medical and non-medical needs for patients so that they can have anything at the drop of their hand. So, they [inaudible] more comfortable and living and aging in place at home as opposed to constantly going back and forth to the hospital. So, that’s our long-term vision, to provide that for our patients, and also that patients like my co-founder’s mother can feel at ease with that and ensure that they don’t have to go to the hospital every time they’re having difficulties.

Raising capital as a Black founder, the biggest challenge is access. Cold calling just doesn’t work. It takes really leveraging every contact I ever had. I’m going back to elementary school to try to get in front of the right person.

Theodore Harvey, CEO and co-founder of SynsorMed, the first telehealth and patient monitoring platform exclusively for managing COPD in underserved communities and older patients.