How COVID-19 transformed the landscape for growing MedTech startups: Interview with BrainQ CEO & Co-founder, Yotam Drechsler

By: BrainQ team

How COVID-19 transformed the landscape for growing MedTech startups: Interview with BrainQ CEO & Co-founder, Yotam Drechsler

In the wake of a global pandemic, companies large and small need to rethink their business models and company goals. While teams moved from working in offices with daily face to face interaction, to working from their couches and meeting over Zoom, a switch that has very mixed feedback, there was one transformation that may have been for the best. Due to the changes in societal health and welfare triggered by COVID-19, regulatory bodies have streamlined some of their approval processes, making it easier for companies looking to pursue certain pathways. The implications of this shift on MedTech startups in particular is still unknown, however we do know that the landscape is looking very different than it was a year ago.

BrainQ’s CEO and Co-founder, Yotam Drechsler, shares how he navigated the dangerous waters during a worldwide pandemic to keep a small startup afloat, in addition to his outlook on the future of the healthcare landscape. 

  1. What was the biggest challenge you faced during the pandemic at BrainQ?

As a clinical-stage company overseeing clinical trials around the world, we are seeing that COVID-19 has created additional roadblocks for companies looking to move forward with their clinical work. From the inability to visit sites, to challenges across the board with patient recruitment, clinical trials have seen a significant setback around the world. This has posed a remarkable roadblock in the healthcare industry, as innovative trials and developments had to completely stop following the worldwide shutdowns, and if they were able to restart, they had to do so under additional regulations and guidelines. The good news is that we’ve seen very open-minded and fast reactions from regulatory bodies worldwide such as the International Review Board (IRB) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which have allowed for creative solutions to be implemented to adapt to this unstable reality.

  1. What was the most important step you took as CEO during the pandemic to ensure the security of your company?

During this time the most important element to staying afloat was utilizing the agility of our team. Just like many other startups we were forced to pressure-test all our original business assumptions and restructure our plans due to vendor shutdowns, site closures etc. It’s because our team maintained a dynamic and flexible mindset that we were able to restructure ourselves to continue powering forward, and even accommodate new opportunities.

Internally, we implemented new strategies among the team to ensure that our processes continued as seamlessly as possible. One of the most important management steps we took was realizing the need for frequent communication during remote work. We scheduled bi-weekly meetings and organized leisure events over Zoom such as games and yoga classes. The team maintained a solid relationship, and even grew stronger during this time.

Agility and constant communication helped us maintain a sense of stability for all stakeholders involved. 

  1. In the long run, do you feel that the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the MedTech industry? 

Due to the implications caused by the shift in the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for adopting a remote digital healthcare approach has grown to be stronger than ever. There have been many new technologies and treatments popping up with the alternative regulatory guidelines on Telehealth and Telemedicine, so it’s a good time to be in this field. We’re entering a new era, and if you’re not adapting your healthcare technology for remote access you’ll essentially become obsolete.

The reality is that we won’t go back to how things were. We’ll see a hybrid model implemented in the future that consists of a combination of healthcare services that offer the options for both face to face interactions but also have the remote option when relevant. The pandemic has caused a significant leap within the healthcare industry, accelerating this process at a high-speed rate, whether we were prepared or not, there’s no going back.

  1. What does the future look like for Telemedicine? Do you think that people will actually make the shift to digital healthcare? 

In reality, people have already made the shift. Most people around the world are now utilizing Telemedicine tools for doctors appointments, and this was not a widespread trend prior to the pandemic. Patients, healthcare providers, insurance companies, doctors, nurses etc. must adapt to Telemedicine during these times. If they fail to adapt, patients will not receive the care they need, and healthcare providers won’t receive the turnover they need to remain in business. 

Healthcare system has long awaited this shift. Making it to the hospital is costly, difficult for patients who live in remote locations, and medical facilities have a limited capacity for treating people. Remote healthcare is the prime solution. It’s already been recorded that patients who have moved home with their treatments have shared very positive feedback, along with the medical team.  

It doesn't mean there won't be any face to face interaction in the future, rather a hybrid model that better fits the patient pathway is required to accommodate this new reality.

Additionally, with all the innovative Telemedicine apps and services, traditional doctors must transition to offer their services remotely in order to retain their patients. 

I’ll admit, it’s a tough transition to make. We were once a society modeled around face to face interactions, so it’s challenging to completely remove that element from our day-to-day, however there is no other option due to the new reality caused by the pandemic.