Medchart is forging into uncharted territory

Watching helplessly as a relative undergoes treatment for cancer, or any other disease, is never easy, but James Bateman was struck by just how complicated the paperwork side of it was.

Helping co-ordinate his father-in-law’s care involved trips to four different hospitals for cardiac treatments, urology, and a clinical trial, while his community hospital was other.

Though his father-in-law died in 2013, lugging an accordion binder of medical records from appointment to appointment left a lasting impression on the former University of Toronto PhD student.

So, along with fellow engineering student Derrick Chow, Mr. Bateman founded MedChart in 2015 as a cloud-based, online portal to enable easy sharing of health records with the consent of patients.

However, while something like MedChart would have been a blessing for Mr. Bateman as his family member went through treatment, he quickly found that not everyone felt the same way.

“We released it to consumers, but we quickly realized, and I think this was one of the major turning points, was that concept of ‘if you build they will come’ is not true,” he says.

In 2017, the company entered into a partnership with Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont., which allowed Southlake patients to access the MedChart portal to retrieve medical records and share them.

The success of that partnership, which led to a Federal Development Ontario grant, was “really one of the launching pads to move us into the B2B [business-to-business] model,” Mr. Bateman says.

That shift in emphasis quickly resulted in interest from the others involved with requesting health records, such as medical researchers, insurance companies and law firms, as well as other health-care providers.

As someone who worked as a carpenter for nine years, before leaving that profession for quantum physics and several startups before pursuing his PhD and co-founding MedChart, Mr. Bateman was no stranger to a change in direction.

So the company overhauled the website, making it less consumer focused and more in tune with what law firms and others wanted. And though the company still attracts about 200 consumers a month wanting a comprehensive record of their bloodwork and other medical records, the company is more focused on a B2B approach, with a team of about 20 people across offices in both Toronto and Kitchener.

In addition, the startup has raised a total of $3.3-million in seed funding, and just launched its Series A funding.

The global trend to ditch paper and go digital is helping growth, too, with campaigns such as Britain’s National Health Service “Axe the Fax,” which has prohibited the use of fax machines.

“We’re seeing these major movements, which are really pushing health care globally to go completely paperless, that are just adding to our rate of growth,” Mr. Bateman says.

But while pivoting in the direction of a B2B model made perfect sense for a company such as MedChart, not every company finds that transition as appealing.