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Difficulty Navigating Health Care System Sparks MedTech Startup

Trigger warning: this post mentions stillbirth. If this isn’t something that helps you at this time, feel free to bypass reading and take care of yourself.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed navigating the healthcare system while ill or helping someone who is? 

Was it difficult understanding the forms and medical terms, keeping track of medications and the specialist appointments, or knowing what you had to do next?

Mpho’s story:
Mpho Begin (pronounced Muh-poh Bay-gin), the founder of Cassidy e-Care Solutions Inc., experienced this after she had a stillborn child in 2014. “I had complications after the loss of my baby. I was in and out of the hospital seeing doctors and specialists, filling out forms, and being prescribed medications. During this time, no one was able to give me an answer about what was wrong with me. After two weeks of being admitted to the hospital multiple times without a diagnosis and being prescribed medications that didn’t seem to work, I finally said that I wasn’t leaving the hospital until they told me what was wrong with me. That is when they finally diagnosed me with postpartum preeclampsia.

Shortly afterwards, I was scheduled for an appointment with a blood pressure specialist in the same building as the emergency room. I was given a long yellow sheet of paper with instructions and was told the specialist would contact me within one week. 

The appointment was to be a quick and easy process. ‘What could go wrong,’ I thought.

I waited at home expecting to get a call from the specialist, but I heard nothing,” Mpho remembers.

Four weeks after being discharged from the hospital, she called the specialist’s office, “I spoke with the receptionist who let me know that because I wasn’t the doctor’s regular patient, he hadn’t looked at my chart yet. At this point, I am at home dealing with the emotional turmoil of losing a child, my blood pressure is erratic, and I am taking five medications that did not seem to be helping me get better,” Mpho shared. “I told the receptionist that this is not reasonable as I need help right now.”

Frustration with the health care system made her feel she needed to fend for herself. “While I was waiting for the specialist appointment, I was given no directions on what to do next. I felt like I was forgotten. I ended up weaning myself off of some of the medications through trial and error to help myself feel better.

Through this diagnosis and healing process, I uncovered the lack of communication that happens in the healthcare system that is supposed to take care of you after you leave the hospital. 

The care I received while in the hospital and emergency room was exemplary. I also found out afterwards that my family doctor was not notified about any of my hospital admissions which meant he didn’t know anything about my new complications. The specialist I was scheduled to see took no responsibility as I was not his regular patient even though I was referred to him by the emergency room doctor.

I felt like I was in limbo by myself waiting at home,” sighed Mpho.

Mpho Begin Founder of Cassidy e-Care Solutions
Mpho Begin Founder of Cassidy e-Care Solutions

The lightbulb moment:
“This is when I thought that there needed to be a better way. The flow of information should be up-to-date at all times across all areas in the healthcare system,” she explained. “I wanted to turn my experience into something positive for somebody else, so they did not have to experience what I went through.”

Learning about entrepreneurship:
Joining an incubator accelerator program to help bring this innovative MedTech solution to life was the direction Mpho wanted to take. The accelerator she joined was a great experience, but they didn’t have the one-on-one support she was looking for and only had two mentors available for 40 participants. “The program was educational, extremely demanding, and helped prepare me for what an entrepreneur’s life would be like,” Mpho shared. “I excelled and was a part of the 25% of founders who graduated from that cohort.”

Mpho’s North Forge experience:
Shortly after finishing her first incubator, startup mom Joelle Foster came onboard as North Forge’s CEO in early 2020. Mpho’s interest was piqued when she saw a newspaper article about how Joelle was actively promoting female entrepreneurship. Then Mpho learned that North Forge launched the new Founders Program in June of 2020, and at that point she became interested in applying.

Mpho was accepted to start in the Base Camp stage in the Founders Program in September 2021. One of the first tasks was talking to the specialists she hoped would use her platform. “Originally, I wanted to target the specialists, but after joining North Forge and doing discovery research, I found that the specialists were stuck in their ways, wanted to maintain the status quo, and wouldn’t consider adopting my innovative solution.

Mpho pivots her target market
Mpho pivoted her target market from specialists to people living with diabetes.

The pivot:
With this new knowledge, I pivoted my research to target patients instead. I wanted to see if they would be interested in managing their own medical information. I overwhelmingly found that the patients would be open to adopting my solution.

The health care professionals I spoke with were exceptionally supportive of this pivot and let me use their medical expertise to help get started,” Mpho said. “I also have MedTech device automation experience in the pharmaceutical industry. My background means I understand how to organize a patient’s information and the security and privacy regulations that are needed to keep their information safe.”

Mpho was familiar with people living with diabetes through her day job in MedTech, so she decided to start there. During her in-depth research, Mpho found that those who live with diabetes were overwhelmed with the same issues she faced in 2014:

  • managing their illness at home, 
  • organizing specialists, 
  • keeping track of their medications,
  • and collecting, filing, and organizing their blood sugar testing results.

“I wanted to make the most impact with my platform. After learning what patients who live with diabetes were experiencing, what this market needs, and how many there were in our province, I felt that they were a solid segment to start my focus,” Mpho explained.

The innovation:
“The solution I came up with is called eCare Smart, which is a platform that allows patients who live with diabetes better manage their care at home, collect information about their condition, track the specialist’s instructions, and be able to share that information with any healthcare professional that they see. This platform helps patients understand what they need to do and helps the specialists understand instructions that other specialists have given the patient. It is even possible to share their healthcare information with specialists before their appointments so that the specialist can remain up to speed with what is going on,” Mpho said. “It’s a healthcare project management solution that works alongside our universal health care system.”

Mpho pushes herself to reach her goals in the North Forge Founders Program
Mpho pushes herself to reach her goals in the North Forge Founders Program

Startup goals:
Currently, Mpho is in the incubation stage of the North Forge Founders Program, called Ascent. “I am really pushing myself and am excited to find my first customer,” Mpho said, smiling from ear to ear. “I can’t wait until the day where I can say that someone is actually using my product!” Her short-term goals for her startup are to bring her product to life by finishing the customer discovery phase and then test pilot the platform with customers before the end of 2022.

A long-term goal is to find a co-founder. “Being a solo entrepreneur is a lonely path. I want to find someone who shares my passion for MedTech and for helping patients help themselves.

Mpho’s mentorship experience:
Guiding Mpho towards her goals are industry experts, mentors, and EIRs. “I’ve been working with Demetre Balaktsis, Mike Simpson, Jerome Conaty, Rosalie Harms, and Peter Moreira. They answer all my questions, help me see the clear picture of my goals, and what I need to do to accomplish that.” beamed Mpho. “I now have a plan and am executing that plan.”

_____

Next Steps:

Are you interested in learning more about this innovative MedTech platform or becoming a co-founder of Cassidy e-Care Solutions? Send Mpho an email, and she would be happy to talk about the opportunities.

Has a life experience caused you to identify a sector that requires an innovative solution?

Are you a professional who has identified a gap in your industry?

Do you have an idea that would solve a problem but need help with starting a business?

We would love to hear from you! Tell us about your idea (don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to all the questions yet), and Krista Kowaluk, North Forge’s Program and Communications Manager, will contact you to set up a meeting to chat about it.

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