Health Innovators
Health Innovators

Episode · 1 year ago

How a Quick COVID Pivot Got Clearstep Featured on TechCrunch w/ Adeel Malik


We’re living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has closed borders and shuttered businesses. And for many startups, cancelled events means vanished opportunities to build critical networking relationships, showcase their innovations, and secure funding they need for their next steps.


That’s why it’s so important for businesses to be able to take a step back, re-evaluate where they are and where they’re going, and try to figure out how they can fit into the new COVID economy.


On today’s episode, we talk with Adeel Malik, CEO of Clearstep. He was able to create an extension of his care routing tool, helping health systems with their urgent need to quickly and effectively triage COVID-19 patients and ensure that scarce resources are spent wisely. He shares:


  • How his team quickly pivoted Clearstep’s messaging to cater to their audience’s new, urgent needs — and how they had a record-breaking 8-day sales cycle with a new health system customer
  • Why it’s critical to reassess how your business can fit in with today’s new market needs, while still making sure that you don’t lose sight of your core product in the long-term
  • How you can raise capital in a time where it’s more important than ever to prove your relevance, usefulness, and longevity to investors
  • The importance of having the right team — and the best team — to weather the storm and grow together


Guest Bio

Adeel Malik is the CEO of Clearstep, a care routing tool that aims to create the new consumer experience for accessing healthcare. The tool “consumerizes” the healthcare experience, giving patients all the data they need to make informed choices about their care.


Adeel came to Clearstep after spending several years working in healthcare consulting. Before that, he was a medical researcher for Johns Hopkins.


To learn more about Adeel and Clearstep, check out the company’s feature on TechCrunch or visit To chat with Adeel, fill out the website’s contact form and mention that you’d like to connect with him.

Welcome to Coiq, where you learn howhealth innovators maximize their success. I'm your host, Dr Roxy,founder of Legacy DNA and international feth selling author of how healthinnovators to maximize market success through candid conversations withhealth innovators earlier doctors and influencers you'll learn how to bringyour innovation from idea to start up to market domination, and now, let'sjump into the latest episode of Coiq, welcome back to OUYC wisteer. Ontoday's episode we have a Deo melot with us Hes, the CEO of clear step.Welcome to the show! Thank you happy to be here, yeah, so adeal, if you don't mind, if we just get started for our listeners, who aren'tfamiliar with you or the work that you're doing, give us a little bitabout your background and what you're doing with clear step sure. So what we're doing with Queer step is weare Y N, to put it very briefly, trying to bring the consumer experience fromevery other industry to to the experience of access andhealthcare, making it really easy for people to understand what care theyneed, who exactly they should go to WHO's in network. How much things mightcost and when they can go being able to access virtual charates? We are beingable to access online scheduling easily. So really, you know consumerizing thatexperience making it really easy to have all the data information you needto make an informed decision same way. You do when you shop for a car you bookan airline ticket, obviously there's a lot more nuance and healthcare, butit's really bad experience. I were trying to bring to the fold and to myexperiences coming from you know: Health Care Consulting t did for anumber of years and then, before that medical research at Jon Hopkins- that's Great, that's great! So you knowwhat's interesting is: is we were supposed to meet at hyms just a fewweeks ago and of cous didn't happen? And- and you know, the conversationthat we would have had a couple of weeks ago is going to be very differentthan we were going to talk about today. It's kind of like what, in the midst ofthe covid chaos right, so you have some exciting news. What'snew yeah yeah no just found out, we were featured on the front page of atech crunch this morning, so super exciting I've been in meetingssince the morning, so I haven't even been able to read the article yet butreally exciting news for us and and we're happy to you know being acarerouting solution at our core. It kind of made a lot of sense for usto prop up an extension of our core products that specific to covid and andhelp make sure that people who are anxious or truly at risk know exactlywhat their next Ceptioun be. That's incredible! Congratulations. I thinkthat that is just absolutely wonderful andthat's part of what I want to talk about today. Is You know healthinnovators, like yourself, are faced with all of the changes that haveresulted from the covid crisis. You know, I will really strongly that formany, if not all businesses, you know we're at this cross road of pivoting and deciding that we, you know we don'thave a solution now that meets an UNMIT need or priority. That's relevant rightnow, like that. You know that previous business modelis not going to work or,like I yo justmentioned, that it does and it works really well, we just needwe had an opportunity to reframe our business around the note at need rightnow. So let's talk about that a little bit yeah. You know, I'm not sure it's about reframing forUS entirely.

I think it's almost doubling down onwhat and thit's a specific to us right being. You know again carerouting. Nowthere is somewhat of a reframing, because it's not we aren't shippingqueer step as it is as the whole product wereshipping kindof this extension of it that specific for Covid. But at the same time it's underscoringthe same value prop that we were driving forward anyways, which is that, right now in general and health care,there's a lot of confusion that results in a lot of wasted, spend and a lot ofinefficiencies and MISSD opportunities to deliver the right care at the righttime, because people just don't know what to do. They don't know whetherthey should go to the r you tell medicine or go to a minute clinic oruse. You know, go to an urging care and they don't know which ones ti networkand they don't know how much thing thayre going to cost and they don'tknow when they can go right. So that's the same problem that we'reexperiencing right now, it's just dramatically exascterbated because ofwhat is kind of prodected to be the case. You know in US health care wherewe won't have enough resources to meet the demand of people that will that mayneed to be hospitalized, and that's t it's really horrible. It's reallydramatic. It's really sad, but this is where kind of we're hopingto play a very small part in just making sure that, in that context,where we may not even have enough betes Te Service of people that will need itthat people who really don't need to go to the hospital or not going to thehospital e, even people who don't need to use virtual care and just need toself isolate and stay at home. That's what they're doing they're, not takingat kind of necessary band with with Dr on Deman, an Toladocg andnb live, andthese other tall medicine companies that are to their neck and work. So youknow getting people to the right point a and then he on the counterside peoplewho do need to go it peope really should go in and shouldn't just stay athome and self Icelat. But now it's time they need to get specific instructionbon how to Safewe get to the R, but they need to go. That also needs to happen right. So you know it's the same function of whatwe're doing doing with our core product. It's just now, there's there's a there's such an important usecase forit in the very very like te imediate term. So so I think that that's reallyimportant to point out that I think that our listeners have what I wouldcall I refer to it as like, and it's not to say that they need toPisot at each one of these areas. But it's something to do. I need to pivot my business model.Do I need a Piy, my parketing Doi ne to pivot Moi right, and so I think theexample that you just gave. Is You don't need o Pivit Your Business Model?It's still very valid in the midst of covid. What I nare, you saying is themessagings changing right so like go, you wouldn't have had covid on yourwebsite. You wouldn have hecker in your elevator pitch and now it makes it more.You know tweaking that messaging allows ou or timely inrelevant and eliminatingany guest work of how your solution could fit the meed that people areexperiencing brain yeah. I think that's imn, that's a really fair way to put it,and you know, I'm not sure how this will apply toother digital health companies right. We just you know, got lucky. I don't know w what tour it isand that we're actually positioned to with the technology o'e already have dosomething that's so directly relevant. I do agree, though, with your kind ofprevious comment or observation that now is a good time to try to take astep back and try to think it's. What we're trying to do to think really hardabout? What's the worlds going to be like andsix to weeks and beyond,...

...and how will we need to change as aresult of that? We're not we're not immune to that either right, so we'retrying to think really hard about and it's hard because we're just al in theweeds every day with Covid, but we're trying to sometimes take a step backand think about how? How do we strategize two or threemonths from now to kind of come out of this, whether that's repositioned or doubledown, or how is our messaging going to change, and how are we going to goafter our target market like all the same questions right, so I do think now it's an important timeor for everyone to take a step back and try to think about that, because it islikely the case that things won't things won't be the same in terms of how health cares deivered.So so you know it's interesting. So for someone like you, the solution thatyou're bringing to market is where you described earlier, where it's it'sreally bringing a highly digital consumer centric experience to thehealthcare industry, so I imagine, for you being able to work virtual is, isnot a stretch probably being able to conduct business meetings via zoomright is not a stretch, but for some of these healthcare organizations for someof these entrepreneurs, you know they were really just boots on the groundthat we're knocking on door and is completely different skill set, sotheir business model might still be intact. Even maybe some of theirmarketing might still be intact, but talk about an immediate sales pivotbecause you know, on those doors, are closed to you. Cana fly to reach them an lot of instances, they're justoverwhelmed and inudated, with putting out the fires of the day that theydon't really want to hear about the solution that you have so like, let'sjust kind of talk about what you're doing in that regards and how that maybe the same or different as far as getting in front of that would be yourcustomers. So it's interesting and I have a lot of sympathy for startups that arekind of going through in all businesses. Small businesses are it's just it'shard times and it's really tough. I, of course don't have answers as tohow how to approach and even navigated Imean for us. We are again kind of lucky evet. Youknow the same stakeholders that we typically sell to now. What we canoffer them is like number one or number two on their on their priority. Wis,and so you know we went through a Eigt Day, sale cycle last week with a amajor health system. That is absolutely history in the making yeah, I mean it'sunreal right from from the point of picking up the phone and thenm askinghey: can you do this and us being like hey we're already working on it? It'slike two days away from being ready, but starting a contracting processgetting things signed, getting getting things cust, configured and customizeand implemented and lie for users to oute. In literally like a day, I meanyeah absolute record speeds, because, because what we're talking about it's aproblem, howlth systems need to make sure that people are getting the rightlevel of care and not coming in or they are coming in, but when they really doneed to so. For us, our stakeholders have havean acute attention on what we can. What we can offer right now. So one of the things that you said thatI think is really interesting. Is it almost sounded like you said theyreached out to you yeah. So this was a you. This wassomewhat o Aso we're Aleady in...

...communcation with this group, which iswhy, and they knew what our core slution was. So their abedient questionwas taking you do this as well, and we had that happen. You know two moretimes as well and we're trying to it is true we're trying to do a bitmore proactive outreach, which is which is harder because now even we actually,maybe this is relevanto point befor. Even we with a solution that isrelevant, maybe feel like to people who are just kind of putting out fires likethey don't want to think about something new when there's when there'san existing relationship or we are already engaged in conversations withthem and they kind of had us file away in their head now we can kind of besurface back up to the top, but making the initial touchpoint is actuallystill very difficult for us right now. Okay, eversus just talking to peoplewher we've already been engaged with Yeap Yep. So I can see that that thatwould play out as well that you know I've got some contact in our database,W we're nurturing them we're trying to get in front of it, who we've maybedone some demos or some presentations, or you know it's still. You knowcompeting with all the other priorities and then, like you, said, priorities,change and then all of a sudden it the door opens wide noquick yeah yeah. So what are some other strategies that? And it's? Okay, if you don't have itall figured out, because all of us are just trying to figure this out in Meaaltime, even myself, you know so we as anorganization when I was supposed to speak at Hims at a couple of sessions,and so when conference was canceled. You know we had an understanding of thesituation to be one thing, and I said: Okay well, let's just take thatmaterial and go virtual, and then we started to develop that the virtualexperience of that aand then, basically all held wer, blose and and so likethat, even that material just wasn't even going to be relevant anymore, andso we wrote and we've shifted twice just in the last two weeks, becauseit's such a dynamic, evolving situation that so so anyway. So I think thatwe're all trying to figure this out, and so you know what are somestrategies and tactics that you are deploying or considering right now in the new new normal that we're living yeah, I mean- I don't know if this isdirectly related to the question, because I think the direct answers. Thequestion is like we didn't even have that much time to strategize. We juststarted building this extension, and then we were getting the manner thenWewere like in implementation phase right so even taking a step back tolike strategize ive been a little diffifult, but in the moment where wedo like what we're trying to think about is how can we make sure that that pes step being implemented in this way specificfor covid still grows the broader use case right beyond so right now we are justfocusing implementations on the covid screener and making sure that we'redoing very robust tree eys for people concerned about Covid, but obviously the direction is well now,let's just enable queer step which can handle any symtom that that comes thatthe ocasion presents with and get them routed to the best resource within yourhealth care ego system. So that's how we're trying to set up ourinfrastructure with these relationships with these quick depoinments, so thatin two or three months, hopefully we we're on the other side of this. It just makes a lot of sense to saywell, this went super well. This...

...underscored the need and highlightedwhy this kind of technology is really important. So all you have to do isflip the switch and we just enable more functionality within our existingcontract within our existing relationship. It's like ite. We don'thave to go back to legal paper where we already went through. That's just flipthe switch, and we can we can do we we can, you know, employ the more robustuse case. So that's what we're trying to think about yeah yeah, and I think that that makes a sensemakes a lot of sense, and I think that's some that's definitely. You know.Wisdom for our listeners to take Hart is that it would be really easy for usto think about just the immediate business opportunity and not thinkabout the longer term commercialization of the full solution if it's stillrelevant right it, but making part making planning forthat to be part of the process from the very beginning. So that way you caneliminate any work. Like you said, we don't have to go through contracting.We don't have to go through a really quick, eight day sale cycle only to getthrough this to then go back to another twelvemonth Sal igoet, Indo yeah,exactly exactly yeah, Hey! It's Dr Roxy. Here with aquick break from the conversation. Do you want your innovation to succeed tochange lives to shake the future of healthcare? I want that for everyhealth innovator, which is why I invented Coi Q, an evidence basedframework to take your innovation from an idea to start up to hfull marketadoption, if you're, not sure where you are in the commercialization process.Take the free assessment now at Dr Roxycom Backslash, four: don't miss outon impacting more lives just because you have a low coiq score. The freeassessment is that Dr Roxycom Xflash, four, that's Dr Rox IECOM backslashscore, and now, let's jump back into the conversation you know so S. I thinkthat digital health innovators have a lot of changes to face theyre a lot of challenges that are takingplace, but I think that you are an incredible opportunity. I mean anincredible example of the opportunities that are peppered into Dur crisis thatwe are facing, and you know what: How do you think that this is going totransform adoption of digital health and connected health and all of theinnovations that we have been trying so hard for for several years now topenetrate in the health care industry? You know, what's your perspective onhow this might change that going forward yeah to good question one Maksothink on on everyone's mind and for everyone. It's Pierespeculation at this point right, but you know it seems like when les you tell medicine as anexample. Historically, before two weeks ago orthree weeks ago, tell hem medicine was still struggling where just a lowutitation, low adoption and the big thing for tell medicine companies was.You know, despite the fact that you know we're, offering a clearly moreconvenient cheaper. You know consumer centric and friendlyway to access care that is actually just as often just as clinicallyrelevant as as going in to see a provider. People are reluctant andhesitant to give it a trial and to just try using it and largely because of that. Thequestion around that last ye is this: That's quinically relepant does asgoing in and see my provider Cani get...

...what I need out of this yeah and now there's just been a two to threex Surgh,potentially more in daily, tell medicine, utalization and perhaps at what people are thinkingis now. This is going to change the paradigm ofconsumer behavior, Witein relationship to to tell medicine and get people morecomfortable with it, because now you know in a situation where people arebeing forced to use it because they don't want to go outtotecan, there'snothe choice right and maybe now it's like. Oh Hey this. This works. This waseasy convenience covered by my insurance, which a lot of people don'tknow. I is oft in the case. Actually, you know now people might be a lot moreinclined toward just using tell medicine which might really pave theway towards you know: TDID Bhat I virtual primary care rightso, which is what you know. Companies like doctr on demand are really drivingforward. This concept of your primary care dog is a virtual medicine.PROVIVER and it'll be the same person on the phone every time that youfacetime with or how o session with, but it's all virtual and you'll nevergo see a primary care doctor in person, and that seems very logical that itcould could very well start to happen, especially since now there are thesefederal mandates like to cover, tell a medicine, make sure it is free forpeople. It's gonna be hard to rip that out actually in a few months to say: Okay nowcovidts not a concern, but now we're going to change how these things arecovered. It's going. No, it's going to be sticky there, so I think it reallypaved the way for tell health and I think, going to an earlier question. Health Care, digital health. Innovatorsshould really think hard about that shifting landscape and how theirsolution can play apart in that yeah yeah. Absolutely I mean it's again.You know nobody want like it's terrible that this crisis is happening. I meanit's just absolutely hor. FCOR experience and I think it's going toget worse before t gets better S. there's you know like most crises,there's there can be silver linings, and I think this is one of those silverlinings in the situation and- and so I just I think- that it's goingto be a game changer for us in so many different ways: Yeah Yeah, so you knowa as a digital health innovator. What are some whats on your mind rightnow, so we talked about you know some of the questions of stepping back andkind of trying to figure out, what's going to happen, xtto eight weeks, butyou know what are some of the the questions and challenges that you'refacing right now. Yeah, I think the biggest probably thebiggest one is around funraising. It's on it's on everyone's mind. You knowwhat how is this going to affect affect being able to raise capital effectively? I think you know we're seeing some somehurdles in that regard, but at the same time, I think the opportunities are still there. Whatfunds are really concerned about, looking for, like fun, still have thecapital, they can still deploy them or deploy yeah tepoy capital, but you know what their super concerned about, or thinking hard aboutand want really crystal quear answers towards, or for in order to becomfortable around making an investment. Is You know how one if things are bad foryou right now? How are you going to survive this, and and how are you going to you know?How is this going to? What is the world...

Goin t wikh like in three months andhow are you boing to start still grow as a company? It's a really hardquestion to answer. If, if you are in a difficult position, but it isanswerable right and then even in even in our case, it's okay. If this is a tail win for you, how how are you how e you going to kindof bring it back to your core? How are you going to you know if this is anextension of your port product? How are you going to make sure that you know you aren't justyou know a short lived while useful dolution for for Covid? How are yougoing to continue growing thereafter and then those are. Thoseare fair questions right. So I think that's where a lot of thechallenges are right now and they're, just newquestions that we have to address there'sthere's, always a millionquessions. You got to address when you're raising money, but this kind of Addtat you spin to it so iwas reading the article the otherday and it was kind of like what's happening with investors in health careand Healthar invation. Obviously- and I came across this term that I thoughtwas really interesting and it said that one of the things that investors arelooking for is they want to know. Is Your Business covid proof, and I mean I think that there'sprobably no guarantees right yeah by any means, but at the same time Ithought wow. You know tthey're kind of Giveng US insights, andto, what they'relooking for, and so, if I'm creating or helping a client create their theirpitch deck, you know whatever they were pitching before that deck needs to berevised, yeah at least aplied. Probably it needs tobe address yeah and you know what better way to grab their attention andhold their attention of you know being able to present that you've got a covidproof, business and heres. Why and how? What do you think about that? No, I think I just I think it's pot onright. I think it's, I think, kind of a brief or more sustinct way ofdescribing what else mentioning before of what kind of what Wat ventor, whatfuns a are looking for, really, whether whether it is a tail wind or a headwind,they want to know that you're covid proof yea y YEP, exactly SOSO. This has been absolutelyfantastic. I look to see you on more covers of more business, magazineandand healthcare media. I mean, I think, that you have an incredible story, andyou know I think you know beyond all thebusiness stuff that we've talked about here. The real opportunity- and I think,what's so exciting- is that you know all of us. I think you know go into business because wewant to make money, but most of us go into business because we want to changethe world. We want to be able to make a difference in some kind of way and whatbetter opportunity to leave your thumb. Brint your fingerprint on the world bybeing able to say, like you started with this conversation, we helped insome small way. We made a difference through the COVID crisis. That's reallyexciton yeah, absolutely and I think that's. We feel very grateful that we are in a position to feel like youknow, to not feel helpless and feel. Like you know, we just haveto kind of sit on our hands and wait for this to float well through. Like Imean, I think, a lot of people are feeling right now, like Wewe, feel verygrateful that were even in a position to be able to deliver something at that.It's helpful right now and- and I want to kind of give credit to to my teamlike it's- We, the team, has been...

...putting in a ton of hours workingreally really hard to make this all a reality. And- and so you know this is that's- that'sanother thing as a message o to just other innervators right. The theabsolute best thing you can do if nothing else right now, is focus onyour team and team building and because theonly, u, the the only reason we'vebeen able to weather the storm right now is because we had put in so muchtime and an effort and thoughtfulness leading up to this point and makingsure that now we have the right and the best people working working together onon clear step, and now you know it's great t kind of be able to fall back onthat yeah yeah absolutely, and I mean you know with so many millions ofpeople out of work right now again kind of that that other contribution is, youknow, being able to serve the industry in the community, but you know beingable to pivot and pivot well around this crisis and be able to youknow, no matter how big the team is to be able to create sustainability financially for for the team isincredibly rewarding yeah. Absolutely absolutely well. Thankyou! So much for your time. Today it's been a great conversation. I'vedefinitely enjoyed it before we wrap up. Can you just give our listeners a wayto be able to get aphold of you just in case anybody has questions yeah, absolutely easiest ways to justgo: Go Online, go on our website, clear, step, dot, help if you, you know, fillout a form submission there and if you referec to me, it'll make its way overover to me a and happy to get in touch with with anyone who's interested intalking more whether you know your feonpnor Hoult Systemor Hospital,that's looking for this kind of careoutingslution, happy hapduring good,and en thank you so much for having you on than you. Thank you so much forlistening. I know you're busy working to bring your life changing innovationto market, and I vowue your time and your attention to save kind and get thelatest episodes on your mobile device automatically subscribe to the show onyour favorite podcast APP like apple podcasts, spotify and stitcher. Thankyou for listening, and I appreciate everyone. WHO's been sharing. The showwith friends and colleagues, see you on the next episode of coiq.

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