Business & Tech, Features

Women InBusiness: Jacqueline Thong of Klio Health digitizes healthcare

This is part of a bi-weekly series of profiles about women in business.

Although it may seem like there’s no limit to what one can do with an iPhone nowadays, there are still holes in the technology world to be filled, such as that of health care. Enter Klio Health. Jacqueline Thong, co-founder and CEO of the new web and mobile healthcare platform, aims to combine healthcare and tech in a way that will make it easier for patients to navigate the increasingly complicated world of doctors, hospital visits and specialists. Currently in its pilot phase, Klio Health is gearing up for a commercial release in early 2015.

The Daily Free Press: What is Klio Health?
Jacqueline Thong: Klio Health is a web-and-mobile-based platform that helps health care providers, which are doctors and nurses, communicate more effectively with their patients between office visits. We do that through engaging patients with easy-to-use tools to self-report on their symptoms and treatments and lifestyle factors. Our system can generate automated feedback to both doctors and nurses and patients based on what the patient’s care plan is.

FreeP: What was the motivation behind designing this platform?
JT: The overall motivation was really my recognition as a founder that health care is broken in this country and there are a lot of people struggling with chronic conditions. But the thing that really struck me was in our daily lives, there are so many useful technology-based tools that make our lives better and more convenient. All the things that are easy for me to do, like book a flight or check my [bank] account balance, those things are still really hard to do in health care. So we saw a really big opportunity for bringing similar technologies that are successfully used in other industries into health care. I was in graduate school about five years ago and started really thinking about it and doing research and testing out ideas and started to put together what eventually became Klio Health. I have been working on this problem for a long time and I’ve been involved in health care [information technology] since 2003, so I have just seen lots of changes in the industry … [that] motivated me to take a crack at this.

FreeP: The company was previously called Ubiqi Health. Why the rebrand?
JT: We raised a round of funding last spring in May [2014]. [At] that point, we looked back at all the learnings we had and gradually what we did was little tweaks to how we were approaching the problem to physician and patient communication. And when we looked back, we saw we were really different than [when] we started a few years ago. We decided there were enough Internet exhaust and articles and blog posts we did that were confusing to our new audience. With Ubiqi Health, we were serving pharmaceutical companies. While that was interesting, we realized that the immediate people we are serving are doctors and patients. And with health care reform and all the changes that were happening, our real customers today are the hospitals and health care systems who are trying to improve the quality of care by reducing readmissions [and] preventing people from using unnecessary expensive procedures and tests and treatments.

FreeP: What’s the meaning behind the name?
JT: Klio Health is one of the names of the nine Greek Muses. Klio is the muse of history and we like that linkage because when you think about it, what we’re really doing is doing a better job of collecting patient history. There was some thought toward a word that’s easier to pronounce [than Ubiqi] and that’s really important today with social media.

FreeP: What kind of challenges do you face as an entrepreneur?
JT: Being an entrepreneur, at a personal level, one of the biggest challenges is conquering self-doubt. We all have it, but you really have to believe strongly in what you are doing and believe in yourself. It also takes being a little crazy. You need to be optimistic and convince yourself there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

FreeP: Do you think being a woman in business has had any effect on you through this whole process of coming up with the platform?
JT: There is a lot of talk about the lack of women in tech and the lack of women-led startups and there’s still a lot of work for the industry to do. Part of that is the historically women-led companies are funded less frequently, but there are also fewer of us. Even in a diverse environment, like the MassChallenge [Startup] Accelerator, only about 30 percent of the companies have a woman in a management position, but there are even fewer where the woman is a CEO. One of the challenges the startup industry has is the funding environment. So if you are a company that requires venture capital to be funded, there are few women working in venture capital, and data shows that most of the investors invest in people [who are] like them. If it’s men making those decisions, the likelihood they will back a female-led company is less.

Those are challenges. But in terms of the business, being a woman gives a unique perspective on health care. Over the course of this process, I became a mother. My daughter is now nearly 2 years old and that was an interesting dimension to my journey. As a healthy, relatively young person, I had limited exposure to the health care industry. But of course, with a child, I had to see the doctor more frequently and I got to see how the health care system operates in terms of ensuring that care and risk is reduced to improve the likelihood of a healthy delivery.

FreeP: What would you say to young women wanting to break into businesses that are male-dominated?
JT: Don’t be afraid. I’m trying to make change in health care, which is a difficult industry to innovate especially with the adoption of new technology. But we shouldn’t shy away because there are few [women] role models. It is up to us to become role models for the next generation and we’ve had trailblazers ahead of us. There’s a first woman everything. First woman doctor, first woman candidates for presidential nomination, those are all firsts and there’s no reason why you can’t be yourself. Women bring a unique perspective to products and services and women are 50 percent of the consumer base, so if tech is being developed for a global population and it is not addressing 50 percent of the world’s needs or perspectives, that’s a problem.

Comments are closed.