By Arna Ionescu Stoll, CEO of Wavely Diagnostics
I love leading a company that couldn’t have existed two years ago.
Wavely Diagnostics is building a platform of smartphone-based medical diagnostics for pediatric care, starting with an app that helps a doctor diagnose and treat an ear infection during a virtual visit.
Three seismic shifts had to occur so that I could even type that sentence:
Advances in smartphone technology
First, technology had to get there. Smartphone-based medical diagnostics are dependent on the quality of our phones’ sensors. While smartphones have had microphones, speakers, and cameras since their inception, these components only evolved over the past few years to meet and often surpass the sensitivity and sophistication of standalone technologies like digital cameras. And we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of possibilities from new hardware additions like LiDAR scanning that leverages lasers to determine distance. These precise and highly powerful onboard sensors hold potential for far more than generating more creative social media posts. Thankfully, they’re increasingly being used in new sectors, such as medical diagnostics that you might need immediately on hand at 2am when your sick child wakes you up.
Transformation of care delivery
Second, healthcare delivery had to get there. The pandemic accelerated an enormous migration of care towards virtual platforms. During the height of the lockdowns, most doctor visits were virtual, and most people reported liking the virtual care they received. In a relatively short period of time, we achieved a transformation that would have taken years: the alignment of infrastructure, billing pathways, and culture-of-use to shift care virtually.
While the rate of telehealth visits is reducing, there are clear signs of lasting change. Some payers now offer more cost-effective health plans that require a “virtual front door” to care, meaning that you start every encounter on your device. Traditional physician groups are actively looking for ways to make care convenient for their patients to avoid losing them. And most importantly, strong subpopulations are asking for it. Parents, in particular, stand to benefit from better access to virtual care, given the complexity and logistics of caring for young children. These issues are exacerbated in families managing care for multiple young children or those in rural areas that have, on average, a 34-minute drive than those in urban settings, just to arrive at a clinic waiting room.
Our new relationship to medicine
Finally, we had to get there. The relationship most Americans have with medicine today is distinctly different from the one we had even ten years ago. People used to have allegiance to “their doctor” and expected a single person to be their medical guide. Now, however, the role of the primary care physician has shifted, and, particularly in younger populations, we rarely see a strong one-to-one relationship between a patient and a doctor. Instead, people look to a variety of sources for their primary care, spanning both physical and virtual sources.
The past two years witnessed a surge in companies that are experimenting with new models of delivering care. I’m thinking about companies such as Brave Care, offering virtual and physical urgent care for kids, and Blueberry Pediatrics, offering a subscription to ongoing pediatric telehealth care. The success of these companies add further support to what we frequently heard in our market research with parents, which was that parents didn’t want to see their pediatrician but a pediatrician for most needs.
Wavely Diagnostics emerged from the convergence of these three forces: 1) Phones had to evolve in their sophistication; 2) virtual health had to come into its own, and; 3) people had to take ownership of their own care. These trends hold the potential to transform healthcare from hours in a germ-infested waiting room, to near-instant access from your child’s bedroom, and I’m proud that Wavely is helping to pave the way.