Alexa, find me something less daunting than Dr. Google!

Interview with  Kim Shah, founder of Boston-based healthcare app KnowYourMeds.

There is relentless marketing from the pharmaceutical industry on one side.  There is information overload, on the other.  Especially with social media and the internet, everyone has an opinion about every ailment and the best way to handle it. Unverified information floats around in the cyber world reaching phones and its’ users – causing anything from anxiety to alarm to confusion.  Physicians are stretched thin.  Their time with patients is reducing dramatically over the years.  Their responses will make those tweets seem too long!

One solution that is creating waves and increasing its wingspan — KnowYourMeds.  Led by Boston-based Kim Shah, KnowYourMeds is changing the way patients and laypeople understand the medications they use day in and day out.  The good, bad and the ugly – it is all laid out in this user-friendly app. Kim had an accomplished career in the high-tech industry and was in pursuit of his next big dream.  He wanted to apply his deep business, marketing, research and entrepreneurial skills to not just generate profits but have a lasting impact.  And so he has channeled all his energies towards KnowYourMeds to provide people a “journey to better health”.

Contributing Editor Venky Raghavendra tracked down Kim Shah in between his inter-continental travel for a conversation to demystify the purpose of KnowYourMeds and learn about its future path and what it means to each of our relationship with the drugs that inhabit our world.

Dr. Kim Shah
Kim Shah

Venky Raghavendra:  Most folks turn to “Dr. Google” when they need to know more about a particular health condition or details of a medication.  What gap will KnowYourMeds fill in this context?

Kim Shah:  Dr. Google is indeed the first place users might think of going to look for answers to their health related questions. Unfortunately Dr. Google responds with a firehose full of results, and the user has to search further for what is relevant to their profiles. For example, the query “what is diabetes 2?” returns 310,000,000 results! KnowYourMeds, on the other hand, knows the users age, gender and ethnicity and provides drug information that is more relevant.

KnowYourMeds is proactive, whereas Dr. Google is reactive. KYM sends in app messages as soon as we learn something of value to the user – which could be new drugs, FDA warnings, drug interactions, for example.

VR:  There is a proliferation of digital health tools and fitness apps.  I believe 200 new apps get added every day!  How are you trying to differentiate KnowYourMeds?  And what unique value is KnowYourMeds bringing to the ecosystem?

KS:  KnowYourMeds is working with the world’s largest database of drug adverse reactions, including drug information from multiple countries and is supported by a world renowned Medical Advisory Board.

KnowYourMeds is also positioning itself as a holistic digital assistant that will provide personalized advice and instructions to chronic condition patients on living with their diseases and having healthier outcomes.

VR:  What has been the reaction of the medical and healthcare community… doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical companies?

KS:  So far, we have very positive reactions, especially from the Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistants. These folks typically work in primary care organizations and often interact first with patients. We have not had any interactions with pharma companies so not sure what their reactions are

VR:  You mention that KnowYourMeds was launched about 12 months ago.  What has been the key lessons learned since the launch?  Any surprises?

KS:  First surprise was the proportion of users in the 25-35 age group. We had expected the biggest group to be in the 55+ category thinking of age-related conditions. Instead our largest group is 25-35 years old and they are mostly suffering from “mental” conditions such as ADHD, Anxiety and Depression.

VR:  And your biggest success so far? 

KS:  We have had over 150,000 downloads, and are currently averaging around 750 downloads per day.  Also we have a large self-insured company that will be rolling out KnowYourMeds to 10,000 employees.

VR:  What is your plan for 2020 and what key goals are you working towards?

KS:  Become the leading digital health assistant in the US, Canada, Mexico and India, with over 500,000 active users.  Secondly to build a network of synergistic services that will help our users lead healthy lifestyles – e.g., telemedicine, nutrition advice, genetic and diagnostic testing.

VR:  What is your personal motivation to embark on this venture? 

KS:  People all over the world are living longer (good news) but in many cases they are doing so with increasing amounts of drugs. Drugs alone are not the answer to healthier outcomes – I want to leverage the latest technologies to inform, motivate and enable users to develop and maintain healthy habits – which will lead to healthier outcomes.

(Venky Raghavendra is Senior Vice-President at Safe Water Network and frequently engages in conversations with founders of business and social enterprises.)

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