June 10, 2020
Chances are, you’ve been there— waiting for updates on your loved one’s status – especially when you have no idea what is truly going on or what to expect.
At times, especially in the COVID-19 era when hospitals are not allowing any visitors, it can feel confusing, and even maddening, while going back and forth to get those updates. Unfortunately, it’s not any easier for the healthcare professionals working to provide you with updates.
In fact, according to NotiCare, a Philadelphia-based health-technology startup, nurses spend about 20 percent of their time away from patients focusing on logistics. From that, 84 minutes of a 12-hour shift are spent updating families on patient conditions, where they’re oftentimes fielding calls from multiple family members requesting the same information.
In an effort to enhance that communication gap for both family members and healthcare professionals, Atisha Patel and Christina Flory co-founded NotiCare.
The concept, designed with technology in mind, is an app-driven solution where patients designate a care group, who then receive real-time and high-level updates on their loved ones without taking time away from family members’ or healthcare providers’ schedules.
Atisha and Christina shared how they got to where they are now, as well as what it takes to start a first-of-its-kind company. Here’s what they had to say:
LEXI HILL: Tell me a little bit about your backgrounds.
CHRISTINA FLORY: I graduated from Drexel University with an MBA in Accounting and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting. I spent my early career as a senior accountant, and then went on to work as a private client advisor for two of the top financial services firms.
Now, I focus my energy on strategic endeavors and how to best deploy new, innovative capabilities within the financial services space. Agnostic from industry, digital connectivity is the future for enhancing the customer experience and generating new revenue sources. Financial services and healthcare are no different.
ATISHA PATEL: I’m a biomedical engineer with experience in R&D of biosystems, strategic consulting, nonprofits and early-stage startups since 2007. My thirst to understand how organizations operate led me to dabble in the start-up world learning the ins and outs of the intricacy that’s involved in starting a business.
After graduating from Drexel University with my Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering, I spent time working at a few start-ups.
I’m a blockchain enthusiast, who serves as an advisor to local start-ups and nonprofits, and as a mentor for Yale University’s Center of Innovative Thinking, Venture For America, and the Society of Women Engineers at Drexel University.
LH: How does Philadelphia impact your work-- why did you choose to launch NotiCare here?
CF & AP: The Philadelphia entrepreneurship ecosystem is a very tight-knit community. It's an incredibly welcoming metropolis with overwhelming support for start-ups.
LH: It looks like you both went to Drexel. How did your undergrad (and graduate) experience help prepare you for the work you're doing now?
CF: Drexel University breeds a certain level of professional across its students. The entrepreneurial mindset is strong across the university regardless of your area of study. The university embraces academic prowess as well as professional experience. We both wish the Close School of Entrepreneurship existed when we were students so that we could have taken advantage of their incubator space, and the mentorship along the way. We are advocates for the entirety of the student population to have access to entrepreneurship skill-building.
AP: During my time at Drexel, biomedical engineers had the opportunity to take a class that involved doing rotations in the operating room to better understand how we could help bridge the gap between doctors, medicine and the technology that is used in a hospital setting. This truly gives engineers firsthand experience at understanding what exactly goes on in these settings that you normally are not exposed to.
LH: How did you get started with NotiCare?
CF: As an NICU volunteer at a local hospital, I identified the need for proactive outreach of hospital staff to patient's loved ones while improving their work flow. We identified an opportunity that was unmet and upon further conversation and collaboration with major hospitals in the area, started to explore what the possibilities were.
LH: Your backgrounds seem to complement each other, one in science/healthcare and another in finance. What are the best (and most challenging) things about working together as co-founders?
CF: We have been best friends since college, so a delicate approach was required to start a business together. From a business standpoint, I couldn't ask for a better business partner. Our vision is always aligned. Atisha brings the intricacy of the finite details, where I bring the big-picture and how to incorporate the next step.
AP: Working with your best friend isn’t always as easy as our experience has been. You have to make sure your goals, vision and mission are always aligned. We had very open conversations early on and agreed that whatever happens with the business won’t affect our friendship. The best thing about having a co-founder with a very different background is that my weaknesses are Christinas’s strengths and vice versa. The challenging part of working with your best friend is that it’s very easy to turn our hangouts into business meetings since we see each other so often. We had to actively remind ourselves to avoid business talk and have fun.
LH: Tell me a little bit about your startup experience. Were there any lessons learned the hard way or surprising obstacles along the way that you’d like to share?
CF & AP: It will feel as if you are never making headway. You will feel like a failure more often than not. It's important to remind yourself that this is what entrepreneurship is supposed to feel like. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It's a constant grind, but if you are truly passionate about something – at some point – you will gain the momentum.
LH: Speaking of obstacles, how has COVID-19 impacted your day-to-day? Are more healthcare systems reaching out for demo requests?
CF & AP: Yes! We have gotten so much attention recently – particularly from many hospitals we haven't pitched to before. They are reaching out asking for demos and pricing. Although we have a demo, we are still in development in terms of the integration into an EMR, which is our biggest hurdle currently.
LH: If you could tell your 22-year-old self anything, what would it be?
CF: Ask for help. People are always willing to help. Believe in yourself. Don't be afraid to think big. When someone questions you or provides a different perspective, don't be defensive. Open your mind and consider all of the possibilities. Hard work always pays off.
AP: Focus on the 3 P’s — passion, purpose and patterns. Find your passion for your short-term goals. Use that to figure out your purpose and how to monetize it. Those will be your long-term goals. Lastly, self-reflect often and learn to follow patterns. We’ve all succeeded and failed in our lives, so follow the patterns of your successes and capitalize on your failures. Lastly, find a mentor. Mentors and role models are very different. Mentors will be your cheerleaders on your off days and your sounding board on your on-days.