I’ve been a doctor in Sydney for more than 15 years. When I first started medical school, smartphones and apps didn’t even exist. It’s been incredible to see how improvements in technology have accelerated the medical space, yet some processes and aspects got left behind. That’s why I decided to build something to help streamline the healthcare process. The only problem? I had no idea where to start.
Last year I co-founded Rosemary Health, a digital health service giving patients access to real doctors and treatments from the comfort of their homes. We’ve helped over 16,000 Australians so far and I’m thrilled to see the impact we’re making in revolutionising healthcare in Australia.
I’m still not a techie person, but it’s been an exciting journey with many lessons learned. Here’s how I successfully built a health tech company without being a techie person – and how you can do it too.
Creating a health tech company
I first came up with the idea in 2016 when patients asked me why they had to come see me in person to get repeat prescriptions for long-term medications they were taking. It was a legitimate question. These were busy working professionals who I’d been seeing regularly for years. They were booking appointments with me in advance, taking time off work and waiting in the waiting room only to chat with me for a few minutes for their rescripts.
Together with my partner Joe (also a GP) and my sister Annie (a pharmacist), we realised there was potential to fill a real need for patients, but none of us knew where to find app developers. I had a friend from high school who worked for investment companies, so I reached out to her.
Leveraging connections to kickstart your startup
At the time, Hong was working for an investment firm. She guided us through our ideas and helped make sure that it was scalable. She brought a great amount of business expertise to the table that we as doctors and pharmacists simply didn’t have. Once we figured out the direction we wanted to go, Hong introduced us to an app development agency based in Melbourne that would ultimately build POPs, an app for patients to access their rescripts online and get the medication delivered to their homes.
Joe, Annie and I worked closely with the co-founder and project manager at the agency to share our vision. They created a Slack channel and shared designs via InVision and Overflow (I’d never heard of any of these tools before). While it was exciting to see our ideas come to life, it was also an incredibly slow and frustrating process.
Lesson #1: It’s better to have devs in house instead of at an agency
Having a team that is dedicated to your vision rather than split between a bunch of different projects at once is fundamental. Also, being able to talk directly to devs about your needs instead of having a project manager as a middleman speeds up the process and ensures that they’re building the correct functionality.
Building the right team for success
Shortly after we launched POPs, we were contacted by Romain, an entrepreneur with a passion for democratising healthcare and a sharp business sense. He and his co-founder Danielle were working on a project called Rosemary Health: a digital health service that offers convenient accessible care, from diagnosis to medication delivery to ongoing care – all from the comfort of your home. We realised POPs and Rosemary Health were perfectly aligned, so we joined forces and made Rosemary what it is today.
Working with Romain and Danielle made us realise that while we were providing clinical expertise and best practices for holistic healthcare, there are so many other key roles that are necessary to successfully build a startup.
Lesson #2: Finding experts in each department is essential to building the right team
Danielle is our product lead, overseeing UX design and user flows. Steven is a dev who used to work at a medical centre, so he understands both the healthcare side and the technical side. Amy is our head of marketing, bringing Rosemary Health to the masses. Each of our team members brings a special set of skills and fresh perspective to what we’re doing.
Being a woman in tech and healthcare
Throughout med school and my residency before becoming a GP, I was constantly faced with sexist challenges. I was told to wait outside operating rooms because surgeons “liked to see a pretty face” when they came out. I was advised by male colleagues not to pursue certain specialties because I might want to have children, and they’d have to cover for me if I did. Female doctors will try to prove themselves by going above and beyond – doing all of the on calls, public holidays and overtime.
It’s inspiring to work with women in strong leadership roles at Rosemary Health, especially ones that know their strengths and what they bring to the table. But it’s not enough to just be experts in your field – everybody needs to share the same vision and be excited about what we’re building together.
Lesson #3: Sharing the same vision is crucial in order to rely on and trust your team
I definitely don’t think that you need to have technical knowledge to found a tech company, but you do need depth and understanding of your industry and find people who share the same depth and culture to build your team, from engineering to marketing to product. You all really have to share the same vision to trust and rely on each other for your personal areas of expertise.
So there you have it – it all started with us wanting to just plug a hole with an app to building a full-fledged health tech company. It’s been a wild ride so far and I’m so grateful for the incredible team we’ve created. If I can co-found a tech startup, then you can too. You just need the right team and support to make it all happen.
Dr Ai Nhi Bui is a registered GP and medical director at Rosemary Health, a digital service connecting Australians to quality healthcare online. With over 15 years of experience, Dr Bui has an interest in women’s health issues ranging from sexual health to chronic conditions.
(Photo credit: Rosemary Health)