About Nigel Williams
He has a passion for telemedicine and digital health, having spent the past two years developing digital health solutions that could bridge the need gap in India and other countries for healthcare at an affordable price. He has initiated a tele-ICU robotic program in West Bengal and Odisha. He was Founding board member of Think LA. An association founded to promote Southern California as a network of creativity and innovation.
Nigel also worked in generating donations for Surgical Eye Expeditions International. Enlisting numerous A-list celebrities to give their talents for free to fund international expeditions to address blindness in third world countries through a simple surgery.
He was born in England and attended the London University of the Arts and Bournemouth University before moving to Silicon Valley in California.
About ELXR Smart Health
ELXR is focusing on problems where existing healthcare systems are under imminent burden of growing volumes of health episodes and increasing costs.
We are looking at already successful areas of healthcare that have emerged in recent years and are developing focused solutions that can power those behavior shifts through a combination of Remote Patient Monitoring, mHealth and home-based technologies, and complemented by thoughtful strategies to address the barriers to adoption and disruption.
We engage with healthcare providers and facilitators in multiple models and leverage our portfolio of products and services to provide the right solution. Visit www.elxrsmarthealth.com.
Medical Travel Today (MTT): Tell us a little bit about your company.
Nigel Williams (NW): I became fascinated with digital health about five years ago. It just seemed like all the technology was out there, but nobody was really using it.
If you compare the health industry to the music industry, the medical industry at that time was at the sheet music stage. Healthcare technology was not even at the recording stage or even 76 LPMs. It was still people taking notes.
This is changing, of course, but generally around the world people are still writing on pieces of paper the way Mozart wrote his music.
So, there was this big gap. We set about trying to put together solutions that would allow this technology to be used. When you look at the way telemedicine has been used it really is for diagnosis of simple things like coughs and colds.
The main reason it hadn’t been adopted sooner was the lack of a good business model. If it takes a doctor 15 minutes in his office, it takes a doctor 15 minutes on a telemedicine call, making it difficult to fully show huge savings.
Once we really looked at the medical travel industry, we started start seeing the absolute need that people have because of the lack of doctors. Sometimes medical travel is a way to combine having a medical procedure with an interesting trip, but in other parts of the world it can be an absolute necessity.
We saw that connecting patients to medical professionals in other parts of the world, whether it’s Thailand, India or Pakistan, and getting them great care was really a big opportunity.
People are really struggling in the United States now. A lot of our issues in this country are financially motivated and going to Mexico or Canada for health reasons is out of sheer necessity. When I get dental work, I go to Thailand or India. What would cost you $1,000 here is $20 over there for routine dental work.
We saw the immense opportunity to use medical travel as a great backbone for telemedicine. We found that there were plenty of people who had databases of doctors but having a consultation with one of these doctors was not available. Even one very large, famous hospital only used Skype or email with their medical travel platform.
This made me realize that we could build our platform to address this market and allow anybody in the world to talk to any other hospital. The way we do it involves an actual examination and not simply talking with a doctor. He or she can listen to your heartbeat, use a dermascope and insert intraoral cameras to look at your teeth.
MTT: Who are you working with currently? Who has access to your platform and your business model?
NW: We focus on international hospitals rather than the U.S. hospitals because of legal, Medicare and litigious issues. We have about 30 different hospitals everywhere from Pakistan to India, Thailand, Malaysia and China.
MTT: How did you choose them?
NW: I have a sales team over there that has very good relationships in these countries and we look for partners who are willing to push their doctors to participate. Sometimes doctor buy-in is a challenge.
With medical travel, doctors are more motivated because in those countries they get paid by the number of patients and are motivated to have more patients.
We changed our business model so that we share in the revenue. This completely changed the dynamic of trying to sell devices.
I tell hospitals I can bring them patients from Nigeria to a hospital in Hyderabad in India, for example, and they don’t need to send anybody to do a road show or health camps. These days we set up a conference, look at their medical records, do an examination and arrange travel for that person.
With our business model, we install equipment and get software. We’ve gotten very picky on who we partner with because if they don’t embrace all of this then it’s a big loss for us.
Certainly, in China and India people are very technology forward. We brought them access and now people are very willing to take advantage of it.
We often perform life-saving surgeries, not simply elective procedures, whether it’s for cancer or cardiac. We’ve recently pivoted to this new model and are rolling it out in Q1 of this year. It’s getting an amazing response in hospitals around the world.
Even within a country like India, traveling for medical needs is a must. We are looking at Singapore next and close to rolling out in Pakistan with one of the larger hospitals there.
Many of these countries see medical travel as a huge opportunity. By providing transparency to medical travel, we’re able to allow the doctor to really shine. If you look at the number one reason for choosing a destination it is the doctor.
The other part of all this is post-discharge. We arrange follow-up with the patient and have continuity of care.
MTT: How do you start these services? Do you get paid per referral from the hospitals?
NW: Yes. We set the equipment up and have a fee for covering our expenses.
Basically, we provide everything, including software and wireless devices for free, and then we get a referral. We take the fees and pay the hospitals.
My ultimate goal is to bring us back to the United States. Get it working in Afghanistan and then bring it to Bakersfield, so to speak.
MTT: Maybe you’re on the right path.
NW: One of the statistics on medical travel is that it’s only 10% of people research online and make a decision online internationally. The rest is through facilitators, referrals or word-of-mouth from a friend or relative.
Given the current global emergency, we are temporarily focusing on consultations and second opinion for international patients. This is done as a collaboration with the patients physician and a remote specialist. With the decrease of elective procedures here in the USA, many doctors are now really broadening their patient list by looking overseas. They like the self-paying patients who are really thrilled to have access to top level talent in the USA. We ask that these doctors once they get on our platform do 5-10% of pro bono consultations in emerging countries.