Melbourne startup HealthKit is a practice management system and directory collecting valuable health data

- January 28, 2016 4 MIN READ

Given Australians were behind the development of penicillin and the bionic ear, it is perhaps no surprise that innovation in the Australian HealthTech space is strong. From a number of platforms helping patients avoid hours in the waiting room by connecting them with doctors at home to recent DataStart winner CohortIQ looking to free up hospital beds by identifying which patients could have been treated in a community clinic, the sector is full of startups finding ways to lessen the burden on the Australian healthcare system.

Another startup making waves in the space is HealthKit, which targets both health practitioners and their patients through various products. Its main offering is a practice management system for private practices. All a practitioner needs to do to make use of the platform is confirm a booking, with HealthKit then automatically processing the reminder, the correct invoice – taking into account the various organisations this transaction incorporates, such as Medicare and health insurance providers – as well as the correct patient clinical report and payment.

On the patient side, HealthKit acts as a health management system. Users can find and book practitioners through the directory, keep track of past and upcoming appointments and invoices, and share patient records across their care team. The system also allows for users to track their health through its exercise and food diaries.

Cofounders Alison Hardacre and Lachlan Wheeler had originally built a health platform for the Australian system before they saw the need to tackle the problem globally. However, going global wasn’t as simple as using localising software to adapt the platform for different languages and markets, and so they started over a few years later, launching Health Kit in 2012.

“The issues faced in the Australian health system are the same globally: practitioners are doing far too much administration, the health system is very complex to navigate for practitioners let alone patients, and there is a major structural issue in the private practice sector in that most practitioners do not need more patients, they need more time, whereas many patients are not getting the treatment they need when they need it because they cannot get in to see a practitioner as the practitioner is too busy,” Hardacre explained.

“By building software that would remove practitioners’ administration – rather than merely computerise it – they can see more patients, making our directory and patient portal genuinely beneficial for patients and consumers. We therefore focused from day one on developing a platform that could handle any health system in the world so we used the processes and approaches from our previous business but completely rebuilt everything from the ground up.”

Building the platform, the cofounders came up against a significant challenge – not being able to test HealthKit against international beta practices; however, they managed to get around this in what could be considered an unorthodox way.

Said Hardacre, “We noticed that a lot of the backpackers travelling in Melbourne had a health background, so we got them to test HealthKit. We therefore tested HealthKit in-depth with actual practitioners and consumers from multiple health systems, all for the price of a beer!”

The startup now has 11,000 practitioners around the world using its practice management software, and 200,000 practitioners listed on its directory – a huge feat, achieved in under three years with a small amount of angel investment in the early days.

Hardacre said the team first targeted health and medical specialists before last year expanding its focus to include GPs last year, with practitioners dispersed “evenly” across the Australian states. Despite this growth, and the fact that practitioners were extremely time poor and in need of such a solution, Hardacre said it wasn’t an easy sell at first.

“In 2013 some practitioners were questioning the need for software, but we hear those questions less and less now, especially because the benefits of our software are proven and people have become more comfortable with using online software such as Xero and HealthKit,” she said.

Almost 45 percent of the startup’s customer base has come from direct marketing to practitioners, with the rest from word of mouth and in-app referrals to other practitioners. The team has high growth goals, aiming to grow its practitioner base between 2 and 5 percent each week.

HealthKit went global early on, with the founders promoting the platform at a global healthtech conference in San Francisco in 2012; it’s now active across North America, Europe, and Asia. The startup also gained worldwide notoriety after Apple announced its own Health Kit app in 2014, with Hardacre and Wheeler deciding to take on the tech giant and fight for their company’s name – lots of free publicity, however the legal battle is still ongoing.

Practice management software aside, perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the HealthKit platform is the data it collects through its booking system and the exercise and food diaries made available to patients, and the ways this data can be used.

“We built HealthKit as a data analytics hub right from inception. We knew that the anonymised health data would have benefits for governments, to show where there may be a shortage of practitioners or disease clusters; medical researchers, to analyse patient populations and health data metrics; and corporate partners, such as pharmaceutical companies for clinical trial participant recruitment,” Hardacre said.

The startup is currently in discussions with corporate partners and researchers, hoping to implement these partnerships in the year ahead as it also pushes for rapid growth internationally.

Image: Alison Hardacre. Source: Provided.