Delivering Multi-Disciplinary Team-Based Patient Care
Saul Kornik has been hard at work within the healthcare industry for over 16 years. His varied background ranging from healthcare to technology, from finance to machine learning & culture change, has helped him carve a niche in the ever-evolving healthcare industry. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Healthforce, an augmentation of technology and doctors that turns nurse-led clinics into effective and specialist health centers. Saul has a postgraduate degree in machine learning and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. Excerpts from an interview:
Story Behind Healthforce
Saul’s drive in co-founding Healthforce stemmed from the time he was running an NGO in South Africa that recruited doctors from around the world to serve rural hospitals in Africa. The NGO placed over 4,200 doctors during his tenure – reaching over 34 million people. “Running a laborious 18-month process to move doctors to rural Africa for a year was unscalable operationally and financially (relying on donors). These doctors could only see max 25 patients per day” says Saul. At the same time, a small pharmacy group in South Africa, Medicare, was testing out a system for their nurses to call doctors via a telemedicine system. “I ultimately left the NGO and started Healthforce, taking over the MVP from Medicare.”
Healthforce is a user-friendly, scalable web-application built for nurses to run in thousands of existing private and public clinics. It was built with a vision to scale up the entire gamut of healthcare using the 3000+ pharmacy clinics, just like Medicare’s, around South Africa, observes Saul. “The idea was to turn this underutilized nurse-led infrastructure into centers for specialist care through technology and telemedicine. In this way, doctors could be as immediately available in the most far-flung areas as they are available in urban centers.”
Healthforce – The Application
Healthforce’s application facilitates nurses operating at top of scope. Healthforce’s clinic management and video telemedicine services bring specialist knowledge to primary care clinics. “Our carefully selected remote doctor network enables efficient, quality care for patients. The nurse can call a Healthforce doctor into the consult room with the patient immediately through a live video connection. The doctor and nurse together diagnose, and the doctor can provide sick notes, scripts and referral letters.” Clinical decision-support, shared clinical views of the patient and integrated digital devices facilitate the treatment delivered by these teams of doctors and nurses. Patient records are shared across all clinics that use Healthforce, irrespective of provider. Being rolled out to 450 clinics (rural and urban areas), across South Africa so far, the initiative has reached over 1 million nurse consultations.
Saul cites the difficulty of offering a tech solution to solve a problem in a narrow slice of the care delivery value chain as one of the major challenges healthtech innovations face. The notoriously slow technology adoption of new tech and the lack of full health system understanding on the part of people driving technology within the healthcare system are yet other challenges posed. “Healthcare is not a normal good. It is a highly complex system where health delivery is often a representation of the legacy of how a society has treated its various members. This means a pure tech expert is likely miss the boat on the practicalities of implementing and operating within the system,” he rues.
Tech Trends within Healthforce
Creating teams of healthcare workers with a single data view of the patient between them is one of the major tasks fulfilled by Healthforce. The single view of the patient prevents duplication of efforts and improves health outcomes by making all data available to each clinician. Telemedicine is obviously a commonly used tech since the start of the COVID pandemic.
A Piece of Advice
Hard work, constant learning, empathy, and perseverance would help young entrepreneurs go a long way in healthcare, notes Saul. “Trying to realize a big vision can be overwhelming. It should be overwhelming, as most big problems are not easy to solve. However, it needn’t cripple the leader, nor the team. Learning non-attachment to the fear is imperative. On a practical level, the leader should deeply understand the problem to be solved and what the desired solution looks like for the customer.”
Saul observes that Healthforce’s nurse-led telemedicine system is just in its first stage in a bigger play. “It allows Healthforce to provide a low-cost entry point into the healthcare system. From here, we can then add further care delivery elements – such as access to specialists or referral pathways into hospitals.” He also add that the platform will launch a few new products this year – one of which will be a direct-to-patient telemedicine and health engagement service on peoples’ phones that will allow health care workers to treat patients, refer them to clinics and maintain them back at home, outside of the clinic.