PART 1: “Paradigm Challenge” start-up MEDTalk focused in inner city, rural healthcare
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a series spotlighting the East Knoxville start-ups that are pitching in the upcoming “Paradigm Challenge” competition set for Saturday, June 17, at the Eternal Harvest Life Center East Campus, 2410 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Festivities begin at 10 a.m., and the public is invited.)
The “Paradigm Challenge” is a Launch Tennessee-supported and Knoxville Area Urban League-led (KAUL) effort to bring new business starts into the East Knoxville community. As noted in this previous teknovation.biz article about the program, KAUL has been supported in the programming by a number of organizations including the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Knoxville Chamber and its Propel program, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, and Greater Knoxville SCORE chapter.
We asked the Entrepreneurs who will be pitching their ideas to answer a set of questions. Today, we feature Mitch Downey, Founder of MEDTalk.
- Tell us about yourself and, if applicable, your other team members . . . names(s), background(s), experience, etc. I am a technologist turned inventor. I have been working in a technical capacity for the past 25 years. I first worked as a Laser (Optical Systems) Repair Technician, then as a Commercial Computer Support Technician. I have worked as a Production Holographer and as Nuclear Weapons R & D Technician for the U.S. Department of Energy. I have worked as an Explosives Equipment Detection Technician for the Transportation Security Administration/Homeland Security. I also worked as a Laser Light Show Operator/Technician and as a Technical Support Scuba Diver. I helped in the launch of two Kickstarter Campaigns (one wearable technology and the other a 3D printer system). I will act as the technical and product development” Go to Person” for MEDTalk as well as the Interim Chief Technology Officer. The Principal Medical Advisor is Victor Wedel who started the first school of ultrasound for technologists and doctors and also started CIVCO.com, a medical device manufacturer. In 1993 Victor was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year and Business Person of the Year” by President Bill Clinton at a White House Rose Garden Celebration.
- Describe the focus of your start-up and the problem you are trying to address. Persons in rural areas with the need to see a medical professional usually have to commute some distance to see a physician or specialist. For persons with personal transportation and health insurance, this is merely an inconvenience. To someone without a vehicle, this process is a hardship. The person usually has to take-off work and arrange transportation to the physician’s location, usually in the inner city. MEDTalk is looking to alleviate this burden on the rural and inner city medically-underserved population. MEDTalk offers two solutions to this problem. First, MEDTalk allows the patient to consult with a licensed physician at a remote location (university hospital or HMO-managed facility). MEDTalk also offers a full diagnostics suite of patient vitals for the remote physician along with a life-size high definition and full body video image of the patient. Current visual collaboration systems (i.e., tele-conference/tele-presence systems) are restrictive in that they only show the upper portion of a person and not the whole person. While it may not seem restrictive to the collaboration process, it limits the collaboration session to mainly verbal communication, since the persons involved are limited to seeing the collaborator either close-up (head only) or at a distance (head and upper torso) and not allowing the physician to see the patient’s body image, posture, gestures, stance, gait, and other body language expressions. This is an unnatural way of speaking to a person in a medical collaborative setting. MEDTalk offers the life-size & full body video image for both the remote physician and patient. This allows a rapport and trust to be developed within the Consultation Session between the Patient and Physician to develop, not unlike a traditional in office clinical visit.
- How did the idea to start the company originate? What was the catalyst? The idea came about from my own need to exchange ideas for some online consulting I had with some clients and needed a life-size teleconference system to show concepts in both life-size and at a true to scale WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) image. This was/is not available with the current tele collaboration/teleconference systems on the market. I noticed that the telemedicine market was growing and that the current teleconference systems did not address the needs for this market. I also noticed that the current crop of Telemedicine/teleconference systems on the market were merely a “re-boxing” and re-branding of cameras and high definition TVs used for telemedicine systems. I thought I could introduce a truly innovative telemedicine system which would have a lower capital cost and yet offer the features and benefits needed by physicians and patients without re-boxing out of date existing technology.
- What was the impetus for applying to participate in the Paradigm Challenge? The combination of a restricted geographic area of the business setting and the challenge to bring healthcare, specifically access to primary and urgent care services, to the geographic location and its population was directly in-line with our core business strategy.
- What has been the greatest value the programming and mentoring have provided thus far? The greatest value to our start-up has been the feedback from various business-minded persons regarding our start-up and its core strategy to bring our MEDTalk systems to the forefront of the medical and business community.
- What do you expect to accomplish by the June 17 Demo Day? I expect to accomplish a streamlining of our business presence through mentorship, media presence, and diligence on our part. I further expect to strengthen the cohesiveness of the business/start-up goals (business plan, business pitch, social media presence, and community support) and finalization of the scope of the MEDTalk system itself, its tools, features and benefits.