Globe and Mail: As pandemic wreaks economic havoc, two Toronto startups see a spike in demand

Rishi Nayyar and Harsh Nayyar, PocketHealth co-founders

On April 19, 2020, Globe and Mail business reporter Sean Silcoff wrote about PocketHealth’s first round of venture capital — and how the company was helping healthcare providers address challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“PocketHealth Inc. raised US$6.5-million this month from Toronto’s Radical Ventures as North American hospitals and clinics increasingly added its service that enables patients to obtain medical images online, instead of the standard method of getting copies burned on compact discs….

PocketHealth, founded in 2016 by brothers Rishi and Harsh Nayyar, had already signed up 500 health care institutions including St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital to replace their antiquated systems of providing medical images to patients. Instead of using staff time and resources to burn images onto CDs – which patients then have to retrieve – institutions install and link PocketHealth software to their image archiving and communications systems in a day, at no cost. Patients can then receive and perennially access their MRIs, CT scans and X-rays on PocketHealth’s internet-based storage system. It had 150,000 patient customers before the pandemic.

“The second I heard about it I thought, ‘This is so obvious,’ ” said Marc Ossip, medical director for radiology at the three-hospital William Osler Health System in Greater Toronto, which added PocketHealth last year and shut its CD-burning operation. Osler has averaged more than 15,000 burned CDs in each of the past three years. “It was one of those things you knew was going to be successful and we needed it because it was good for our patients and the hospital.”

Despite that, many institutions were reluctant or in no rush to modernize. That changed when they stopped non-essential visits in March to limit the virus’s spread. That left many with no virtual way to release patient records. “We said, ‘No, this can’t wait because we need this now, we need to make sure patients don’t have to come into the hospital,’” said Leon Goonaratne, senior director, digital, with Toronto’s University Health Network, which moved up its deployment date to April 1 from July.

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