We talked to Jay Fajardo of MEDIFI telehealth on how their platform that enables patients to remotely connect with their doctors and conduct secure and meaningful medical consultations on their mobile phone and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jay Fajardo: We’ve been able to adapt well to the quarantine conditions and avoiding unnecessary outside exposure. My daughter had to defer starting college, but we’re happy that we have this extraordinary opportunity to spend plenty of time together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MEDIFI.
Jay Fajardo: I’ve always been a tech entrepreneur, starting back in the ’80s when, even as a high school student, I started making money from developing software. My roots have always been in software coding, and I still try to code from time to time, even today. Being able to architect a technology project, coupled with an aptitude in business management, is a very useful combination when starting and running startup ventures. I’m very lucky to have acquired both disciplines.
After a series of technology-based ventures over the years, I founded a company in 2002 called Airborne Access. This was a WiFi hotspot network in the Philippines that grew to have the largest footprint around the country. It was acquired in 2008 by the incumbent telco. I moved on to found an agile software development company called Proudcloud that focused on Ruby on Rails development but now includes Node.js and React as its development stack.
Around the same time, I made attempts to goad the local engineering, design, and business community into participating in Silicon Valley-style meetups called Roofcamp, which would hopefully acquire the collaborative innovation DNA that was the hallmark of the technology startup phenomenon. As this evolved, and as I was tapped to introduce Startup Weekend in Manila, these early efforts helped create what would be today’s Philippine startup ecosystem.
In 2014, I was invited by my MEDIFI co-founder to start what has become the largest telehealth company in the Philippines. My co-founder, Freddy Gonzalez, had a sports injury acquired from years of playing professional and national team football (soccer). His experience of having to fly abroad for highly specialized medical treatment spends his eyes on the potential of being able to consult with a doctor online without having to travel long distances. Being a footy player myself, this idea resonated with me, and I helped build the platform over the years as its CTO.
In January of 2020, I was tapped by Freddy to take over as CEO of the company, and I’ve been steering the direction and operations of MEDIFI since then, though the current COVID-19 crisis.
How does MEDIFI innovate?
Jay Fajardo: Being an advocate of the Lean Startup approach over the years, we adhere to the iterative cycle of product development, user measurement, and validation. Aside from being able to test our assumptions in a live environment, we also take advantage of the process to discover new features and technologies we can introduce into the product development, based on how our customers have been using MEDIFI. Because of this dynamic environment, we regularly release new versions almost weekly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jay Fajardo: Being a health tech startup and quite literally having a value proposition that addresses unique pain points the pandemic has created, MEDIFI has actually grown exponentially since our quarantine was announced in mid-March. In fact, we were going through a closed beta when doctors and started asking us if we were publicly live. Apparently, MEDIFI offered physicians that have had their clinic practice interrupted a way for them to continue their occupation. Likewise, we also provided an alternative way for patients to engage in medical consultation without the dangers of exposure.
As a typical startup founder, I naturally said that we were alive. This led to a frenzied few months of taking feedback, tweaking the product in real-time, and having to re-architecture our infrastructure to handle the deluge of users that came on-board.
From a work process perspective, we were able to adapt well to total work-from-home mode. We’ve even grown our team without having to run a physical office.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jay Fajardo: Aside from the high-velocity product iteration experience we went through and didn’t have much difficulty with the situation we were in. However, one of the key learnings is that the digital economy will more significantly dictate how we live, work, and play from hereon. The old ways of marketing a product, hiring people, and taking payments, will be forever replaced by digital ways of doing things.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and MEDIFI in the future?
Jay Fajardo: Our HR team checks on our staff from time to time, just to get the individual moods of each team member. So far, everyone seems to be handling things pretty well. We try to make sure that we stay in touch as often as possible over Slack and Zoom to try to emulate that regular human interaction. We also encourage everyone to keep fit. I personally do strength training with a remote trainer since it’s still quite dangerous to go to the gym. Also, computer games seem to be the common denominator as far as our team’s go-to for stress release.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jay Fajardo: Aside from old school telehealth facilities operated by clinics/hospitals, some competitors that work in the B2C space are HealthNow, NowServing, and AIDE. However, unlike these startups, we do not hire or manage our own doctors. Remaining as a real two-sided marketplace allows us to scale fast and scale far.
Your final thoughts?
Jay Fajardo: Globally, COVID-19 has accelerated society’s adoption of digitalization and has rendered the status quo almost obsolete. After being introduced to its benefits, both patients and doctors will now be hard-pressed to rely solely on physical consultations and will instead accept telehealth and teleconsultation as a serious option of accessing healthcare.
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