The chronically ill often have so many prescribed medicines, so keeping track can get complicated quickly. The medications have to be taken regularly, and different medications have varying intake times during the day, some with a single dose and some with multiple. They may be for different conditions and prescribed by more than one physician. Since prescriptions are usually long-term, medicines also have to be refilled routinely and may not always run out at the same time. In addition to complex medication management, patients must track their symptoms and watch for possible side effects. All of this while living their regular life. It’s no wonder that patients quickly lose control of their medication routine. “It’s well known that 50% of the chronically ill patients are not adherent to their medication, and one of the major reasons is because it’s too overwhelming,” says Stephan Gath, Co-founder and CEO, DoryHealth . The startup’s service solves these problems and more.
Improving Medication Management and Treatment
Presently, DoryHealth offers a pre-sorted medication delivery service, a compact medication box named DoryGo Box and an app that reminds the patients to take their medication. On how DoryHealth can better solve patients’ problems, Gath describes DoryHealth’s future proposition as a four-part solution that consists of an app, a smart pill box, medication delivery service and data analytics. The app gives the patients timely medication reminders and allows them to log and track their symptoms. The app-enabled smart pill box will detect whether the patient has taken the medication on time. Patients can track their intake behaviour and share it with their caregivers or physician. The medication delivery service delivers their prescription in pre-sorted medication blisters, sorted by intake time, that fit into the smart pill box. Finally, the gathered data equips the patient’s physician with insights on symptoms and intake behaviour. “It gives the physician a better understanding of the treatment’s progress,” says Gath.
Often patients may stop taking a medicine because of a certain symptom and miss mentioning it to their physician. DoryHealth’s solution eliminates such a situation. “It can improve communication between the patient and physician and enable more data-driven treatment,” adds Gath. It helps patients with all-around medication management and adherence, equips physicians to offer better care, and enables pharmaceutical companies to improve their drugs. “Pharmaceutical companies can use that data to conduct real-world evidence studies to analyse the effectiveness and safety of their drugs,” explains Gath.
The potential of personalised data-driven healthcare excites Gath the most about working in HealthTech. Referring to all the data generated in healthcare, he says, “The patient’s health data like symptoms, treatment outcome and clinical records is the key to personalised healthcare. It’s the hidden power of patients to drive healthcare more towards value-based healthcare.” The entrepreneur believes in the value of health data and its potential to help people with personalised care. “People are receiving the same medication, but they live different lives and may have other co-morbidities. All of this has an impact on the treatment’s progress. We can use data to improve treatment on a personal level,” says Gath.
While the founders started working on DoryHealth two years ago, they founded the company in July 2020 and had a beta launch for their product in Germany and Switzerland in June 2021. Within a few months of entering the market, the young Zurich-based company has received interest from all quarters, leaving the founders pleasantly surprised. “Customers are responding to our advertisements, and some patients have even taken our advertisements to pharmacies asking whether they’re offering this as well,” says Gath. The pharmacies contacted DoryHealth to know how they could partner. “We didn’t expect pharmacies to be so willing to connect with us,” confesses Gath.
Private hospitals in Switzerland are interested as well. “We are planning a workshop with a hospital to incorporate our solution in their offering. In future, their patients could leave the hospital with our box of pre-sorted medication.,” says Gath. The startup is also in discussions to work with a well-known software producer for physicians in Switzerland. “13,000 physicians use their software. Once the partnership is final, most of the physicians in Switzerland will have access to us,” says Gath. The founders decided to launch their product with a B2C model to validate patient interest since it was a pre-requisite for B2B models and partnerships. “We were able to validate that customers are interested in our solution, and it is important for us to create partnerships,” says Gath.
Taking the Path of HealthTech Entrepreneur
Born in Germany, Gath moved to Zurich, Switzerland, to study Biochemistry. During his master’s thesis, Gath met DoryHealth’s Co-founder and COO Luca Isenmann, who was pursuing his PhD at the time. After completing their studies, the duo took up full-time jobs. Gath worked in strategy and technology consultancy for the pharmaceutical industry at EY, and Isenmann worked on the production of medical devices and pharma at Roche Diagnostics. After about two years, Isenmann took a business idea to Gath. “We were trying to create a modular, flexible and user-focused robot which took over all the pipetting work for research,” says Gath.
As they were working on it, a similar product launched on the market, and they realised they were three years late with the idea. “We enjoyed working on our own business, so we decided to brainstorm for other ideas,” recounts Gath. With a team already in place and a resource who could produce machines, the co-founders decided to use their expertise in the health industry to focus on building a machine. They began with a machine for the elderly that dispensed pre-sorted medicines at the intake time. “We submitted the business plan to Innosuisse, a startup support programme by the Swiss government, and got accepted,” says Gath. They got access to a coach with industry experience who gave the startup direction. “We changed the concept, target group and product. From that moment on, we were on the right track,” says Gath.
Applying the lean startup method was one of Gath’s early challenges as a HealthTech entrepreneur. “You have little money with which you need to create your MVP that is interesting enough for the consumer to buy,” he explains. Prioritizing helped to navigate the challenge. “You have to be clear about the customer’s biggest pain points and work on solving those,” he adds. Gath also found it tricky to manage the different types of communication that the entrepreneur’s role demands. “You have to communicate a certain way with a freelancer when you’re outsourcing work. Talking to pharmacies is also vastly different from how you would pitch to an investor.” Once the product entered the market, balancing management and operations was the new challenge. “Juggling both the progress of the company and its operation is quite challenging at the beginning,” shares Gath.
His advice to aspiring HealthTech entrepreneurs is to be the biggest believer in your idea while being your biggest critic. “You need to play both sides. You have to self-reflect on your decisions while still believing that you’re doing the right thing,” explains Gath. He also recommends focusing on the user experience and putting the patient at the centre. “If you create a product that the patients want, everything else will follow,” says Gath. Drawing from his experience, he adds, “When we talked to B2B partners early on, all of them asked whether the patient wants it. That’s the biggest question you need to answer. If you have great feedback from the real customer, it resonates a long way.”
Focusing on Strengths and Drawing Inspiration From Big Risks
Gath received his best piece of advice from his friend’s parents in school. “They said you should focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses,” he recollects. It stayed with him because it was contrary to what one is told at that age: to work on weaknesses. “If you focus on what you can do best and improve on it, you come to greatness. You enjoy doing what you’re good at,” he explains. If there’s anything he would do differently, it would be to work on his capabilities sooner. “Your capability is one of the biggest assets you can have. It would have been great if I’d worked on developing mine earlier by reading books and learning from accomplished people.”
He finds his inspiration in the great risks that entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have taken. “If you consider the kind of resistance you experience and how difficult it is to create something, they took a lot of risks. They believed in their idea very strongly to go through with it. This is the true entrepreneurial spirit,” says Gath. The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger is the book Gath recommends to fellow entrepreneurs. Written by the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, it is packed with principles on strategy and leadership. “One of my favourites is that you shouldn’t be in the business of playing it safe. You should be in the business of creating opportunities for greatness. I think this is the principle most successful entrepreneurs follow.”
For Gath, the most significant benefit of being a part of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort is access to the network of startups and industry partners. Calling it a doorway to investors, he says the Cohort has helped attract interest in DoryHealth’s solution from other regions. “All healthcare systems are different, and the door openers helped us to understand how we could make our solution work in other countries with other healthcare systems,” says Gath. It also lends credibility to the startup. “Investors and other business relations take you more seriously, and the validation is great,” he adds.
About Galen Growth’s 2021 HealthTech Cohort
DoryHealth is part of the Galen Growth 2021 HealthTech Cohort, the only acceleration programme built to scale digital health startups to be the next generation powering healthcare innovation across the globe. For more information, visit Galen Growth’s HealthTech Cohort webpage or read this article on the launch of the Galen Growth’s 2021 HealthTech Cohort.