Health Innovators
Health Innovators

Episode · 2 years 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 how health innovators maximize their success. I'm your host, Dr Roxy, founder of Legacy DNA and international bestselling author of how health innovators maximize market success. Through candid conversations with health innovators, earlier, doctors and influencers, you'll learn how to bring your innovation from idea to start up to market domination. And now let's jump into the latest episode of Coiq. Welcome back toiq listeners. On today's episode we have ideal Melic with us. He's the CEO of clear step. Welcome to the show. Thank you, happy to be here. Yeah, so a deal. If you don't mind if we just get started. For our listeners who aren't familiar with you or the work that you're doing, give us a little bit about your background and what you're doing with clear step. Sure. So what we're doing with clear step is we are, and to put it very briefly, trying to bring the consumer experience from every other industry to to the experience of accessing healthcare, making it really easy for people to understand what care they need, who exactly they should go to, who's in network, how much things my cost and when they can go being able to access virtual care at you's. We are being able to access online scheduling easily. So really, you know, consumers about experience, making it really easy to have all the data information you need to make an informed decision, same way you do when you shop for a car, you book an airline ticket. Obviously there's a lot more nuance and healthcare, but it's really bad experience that were trying to bring to the fold, and to my experience, is coming from healthcare consulting that did for a number of years and that, before that, medical research at John Hopkins. It's great. That's great. So you know, What's interesting is is we were supposed to meet at hymns just a few weeks ago and of course didn't happen. And you know, the conversation that we would have had a couple of weeks ago is going to be very different than we were going to talk about today. It's kind of like yeah, but in the midst of the covid chaos. Right. So you have some exciting news. What's new? Yeah, yeah, no, just found out we were featured on the front page of a tech crunch this morning, so super exciting. I've been in meetings since the morning, so I haven't even been able to read the article yet, but really exciting news for us and and we're happy to you know, being a care routing solution at our core, it's kind of made a lot of sense for us to prop up an extension of our core products that specific to covid and and help make sure that people who are anxious or truly at risk know exactly what their next steption be. That's incredible. Congratulations. I think that that is just absolutely wonderful and that's part of what I want to talk about today. As you know, health innovators like yourself are faced with all of the changes that have resulted from the covid crisis. You know, I will really strongly that for many, if not all, businesses, you know, we're at this cross road of pivoting and deciding that we you know, we don't have a solution now that meets an UNMIT need or priority that's relevant right now. Like that, you know that previous business models not going to work, or like what you just mentioned, that it does and it works really well. We just meet we have an opportunity to reframe our business around the now that need right now so let's talk about that a little bit. Yeah, you know, I'm not sure it's about reframing...

...for US entirely. I think it's almost doubling down on what, and this is specific to us right being, you know again, care routing. Now there is somewhat of a reframing, because it's not we aren't shipping queer step as it is as the whole product, worshipping kind of this extension of it as specific for Covid but at the same time it's underscoring the same value problem that we were driving forward anyways, which is that right now in general and healthcare, there's a lot of confusion that results in a lot of wasted spend and a lot of inefficiencies and missed opportunities to deliver the right care at the right time, because people just don't know what to do. They don't know whether they should go to the Ar, you tell, a medicine, or go to a minute clinic or use, you know, go to an urgent care and they don't know which one to network and they don't know how much things are going to cost and they don't know when they can go right. So that's the same problem that we're experiencing right now. It's just dramatically exacerbated because of what is kind of projected to be the case, you know, in US healthcare, where we won't have enough resources to meet the demand of people that will, that may need to be hospitalized, and that's that. It's really horrible, it's really dramatic, it's really sad, but this is where kind of we're hoping to play a very small part in just making sure that in that context where we may not even have enough best to service of people that will need it, that people who really don't need to go to the hospital are not going to the hospital, even people who don't need to use virtual care and just need to self isolate and stay at home. That's what they're doing. They're not taking out kind of necessary bandwidth with doc on the man until a doct m dolve and these other tell medicine companies that are to their neck and work so, you know, getting people to the right point and then, on the counterside, people who do need to go in, people really should go in and shouldn't just stay at home and self lif slate. But now it's time they need to get specific instructions on how to safely get to the Y are but they need to go not also needs to happen right. So you know, it's the same function of what we're doing doing with our core product. It's just now there's there's a there's such an important use case for it in the very, very, like the immediate term. So I think that that's really important to point out that. I think that our listeners have what I would call, I refer to it as like and it's not to say that they need to pivot at each one of these areas, but it's something to do. I need to pivot my business model? Do I need to pivot my marketing? Do I need to pivot most right, and so I think the example that you just gave is you don't need to pivot your business model. It's still very valid in the midst of covid. What about, to hear you saying, is the messagings changing. Right. So, like a month ago you wouldn't have had covid on your website, you would have had your your elevator pitch, and now it makes it more tweaking that messaging allows or timely and relevant and eliminating any guesswork of how your solution could fit the need that people are experiencing ring. Yeah, I think that's something that's a really fair way to put it and you know, I'm not sure how this will apply to other digital health companies. Right. We just, you know, got lucky, I don't know what the word is, and that we're actually positioned to, with the technology you already have, do something that's so directly relevant. I do agree, though, with your kind of previous comment or observation that now is a good time to try to take a step back and try to think. It's what we're trying to do, to think really hard about what's the world going to be like... six to eight weeks and beyond, and how will we need to change as a result of that? We're not we're not immune to that either, right. So we're trying to think really hard about and it's hard because we're just all in the weeds every day with covid but we're trying to sometimes take a step back and think about how how do we strategize two or three months from now to kind of come out of this, whether that's repositioned or double down, or how is our messaging going to change and how are we going to go after our target market? Like all the same questions, right. So I do think now it's an important time for for everyone to take a step back and try to think about that, because it is likely the case that things won't things won't be the same in terms of how healthcare is to w ward. So so you know, it's interesting. So for someone like you, the solution that you're bringing to market is where you described earlier, where it's it's really bringing a highly digital, consumer centric experience to the healthcare industry. So I imagine for you being able to work virtual is is not a stretch. Probably being able to conduct business meetings via zoom right, is not a stretch. But's for some of these healthcare organizations, for some of these entrepreneurs, you know, they were really just boots on the ground that we're knocking on door and is completely different skill set. So their business model might still be intact, even maybe some of their marketing might still be intact, but talk about an immediate sales pivot because you know, one those doors are closed to you can't fly to reach them and a lot of instances they're just overwhelmed and inundated with putting out the fires of the day that they don't really want to hear about the solution that you have. So like, let's just kind of talk about what you're doing in that regards and how that may be the same or di different as far as getting in front of that would be the your customers. So it's interesting and I have a lot of sympathy for artups that are kind of going through in all businesses, small businesses are. It's just it's hard times and it's really tough. I've of course, don't have answers us to how how to approach and even navigated. I mean, for us we are again kind of lucky, you know, the same stakeholders that we typically fell to. Now, what we can offer them is like number one or number two on their on their priority list, right. And so you know, we we went through a eight day sales cycle last week with a major health system. is absolutely history in the making. Yeah, I mean it's unreal right from the from the point of picking up the phone and then asking, Hey, can you do this, and as being like hey, we're already working on it. It's like two days away from being ready, but starting a contracting process, getting things signed, getting getting things configured and customized and implemented and live for users to use in literally like eight days. I mean, yeah, absolute record speeds. Because, because what we're talking about, it's a problem. Health Systems need to make sure that people are getting the right level of care and not coming in or they are coming in when, when they really do youtube. So for us, our stakeholders have have an acute attention on what we can what we can offer right now. So one of the things that you said that I think is really interesting is it almost sounded like you said they reached out to you. Yeah, so this was a you. This was somewhat of a US interesting... Right. So we are already in communication with this group, which is why, and they knew what our core solution was. So their media question was taking you do this as well, and we had that happen, you know, two more times as well, and we're trying to it is true. We're trying to do a bit more proactive outreach, which is which is harder, because now even we actually maybe this is relevant to your point, before even we with a solution that is relevant, maybe feel like to people who are just kind of putting out fires, like they don't want to think about something new when there's when there's an existing relationship or we were already engaged in conversations with them and they kind of had US filed the way in their head. Now we can kind of be surfaced back up to the top, but making the initial touch point is is actually still very difficult for us right now, okay, versus just talking to people where we've already been engaged with. Yep, Yep. So I can see that that that would play out as well that, you know, I've got some contacts in our database where we're nurturing them. We're trying to get in front of this. We've maybe done some demos or some presentations. You know, it's still, you know, competing with all the other priorities and then, like you said, priorities change and now all of a sudden it the door opens wide. Yeah, quickly. Yeah, yeah. So what are some other strategies that? And it's okay if you haven't have it all figured out, because all of us are just trying to figure this out in meal time, even myself, you know. So we as an organization, when I was supposed to speak at hymns at a couple of sessions. And so when conference was canceled, you know, we had an understanding of the situation to be one thing and I said, okay, well, let's just take that material and go virtual, and then we started to develop that, the virtual experience of that, and and then basically all held were blows and in so like that, even that material just wasn't even going to be relevant anymore. And so we've worted. We've shifted twice just in the last two weeks, because it's such a d make evolving situation. That so so anyway. So I think that we're all trying to figure this out. And so you know, what are some strategies 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 is directly related to the question, because of I think the direct answers the question is like we didn't you have that much time to strategize. We just started building the extension and then we were getting demander. Then we're like in implementation phase right so even taking a step back to like strategize has been a little difficult. But in the moments where we do like what we're trying to think about is how can we make sure that that your stuff being implemented in this way specific for covid still grows to the broader use case right beyond. So right now we are just focusing implementations on the covid screen and making sure that we're doing very robust triage for people concerned about covid. But obviously the direction is well, now let's just enable queer stuff which can handle any symptom that that comes that the patient presents with, and get them routed to the best resource within your healthcare ecosystem. So that's how we're trying to set up our infrastructure, with these relationships, with these quick deployment so that in two or three months, hopefully, when we're on the other side of this, it just makes a lot of sense to say well, this one super well, this underscored the need and highlighted why this kind of technology is really...

...important. So all you have to do is split the switch and we disenable more functionality within our existing contract and within our existing relationship. It's like if we don't have to go back to regal paper where we already went through that, just what the switch and we can, we can do, we can, you know, employ the more robust use case. So that's what we're trying to think about. Yeah, yeah, and I think that that makes a sense, makes a lot of sense, and I think that's some that's definitely, you know, wisdom for our listeners to take heat is that it would be really easy for us to think about just the immediate business opportunity and not think about the longer term commercialization of the full solution, if it's still relevant, right it but making part, making planning for that to be part of the process from the very beginning, so that way you can eliminate 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 sales cycle only to get through this to then go back to another twelve month sales cycle left end. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Oh yeah, Hey, it's Dr Roxy here with a quick break from the conversation. Do you want your innovation to succeed, to change lives, to shape the future of healthcare? I want that for every health innovator, which is why I invented Coyq and evidence based framework to take your innovation from an idea to start aret up to full market adoption. If you're not sure where you are in the commercialization process, take the free assessment now at Dr Roxycom. backslash score. Don't miss out on impacting more lives just because you have a low coiq score. The free assessment is at Dr Roxycom. backslash score. That's Dr Roxiecom. backslash score. And now let's jump back into the conversation. You know. So, since I think that digital health innovators have a lot of changes to face, there a lot of challenges that are taking place, but I think that you are an incredible opportunity, I mean an incredible example of the opportunities that are peppered into crisis that we are facing. And what how do you think that this is going to transform adoption of digital health and connected health and all of the innovations that we have been trying so hard for for several years now to penetrate in the healthcare industry? You know, what's your perspective on how this might change that going forward? Yeah, it's a good question, one we think on everyone's mind and for everyone it's pure speculation at this point, right but you know, it seems like we was just tell medicine as an example. Historically, before two weeks ago or three weeks ago, tell a medicine was still struggling with just a low utilization, low adoption, and the big thing for tell medicine companies was, you know, despite the fact that you know we're offering a clearly more convenient, cheaper, you know, consumer centric and friendly way to access care that is actually just as often, just as clinically relevant as as going into see a provider, people are reluctant, to hesitant to give it a try and to just try using it in largely because of that, the question around that lasting. Is this as clinically relevant does as going... and see my provider? Can I get what I need at this yeah, and now we're there's just been a two to three x surge, potentially more, in daily tell medicine utilization and perhaps, and what people are thinking is now this is going to change the paradigm of consumer behavior with in relationship to tell medicine and get people more comfortable with it, because now, you know, in a situation where people are being forced to use it because they don't want to go out of the care there's no the choice right, and maybe now it's like Oh, hey, this, this works, this was the convenience covered by my insurance, which a lot of people don't know is often the case. Actually. You know, now people might be a lot more inclined towards just using tell of medicine, which might really pave the way towards, you know, try what virtual primary care right so, which is what you know, companies like Dr on demand are really driving forwards this concept of your primary care doc is a virtual medicine provider and it'll be the same person on the phone every time that you face time with or have a session with, but it's all virtual and you'll never go see a primary care doctor in person. And that seems very logical that it could could very well start to happen, especially since now there are these federal mandates like to cover tell a medicine, make sure it is free for people. It's going to be hard to rip that out actually in a few months to say, okay, now covid's not a concern, but now we're going to change how these things are covered. It's going to be it's going to be sticky there. So I think they're really paved the way for tell a health and I think, going to an earlier question, healthcare, digital health innovators should really think hard about that shifting landscape and how their solution can play a part in that. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean it's again, you know, nobody want like it's terrible that this crisis is happening. I mean it's just absolutely hard, of course, experience and I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. There's, you know, like most crises, there's there can be silver linings, and I think this is one of those silver linings in the situation and and so I just I think that it's going to be a game changer for us in so many different ways. Yeah, yeah, so, you know, as as a digital health innovator, what are some what's in your mind right now? So we talked about, you know, some of the questions of stepping back and kind of trying to figure out what's going to happen sx to eight weeks. But you know, what are some of the questions and challenges that you're facing right now? Yeah, I think the biggest, probably the biggest one is around fundraising. It's on it's on everyone's mind. You know what, how is this going to affect effect being able to raise capital effectively? I think, you know, we're seeing some some hurdles in that regard, but at the same time, I think the opportunities are still there. What funds are really concerned about looking for, like fund still have the capital, they can still deploy them or deploy yeah, deploy capital. But you know what they're super concerned about or thinking hard about and want really crystal clear answers towards or for in order to be comfortable around making an investment is, you know, how one if things are bad for you right now, how are you going to survive this and and how are you going to how is this going to what is the world going to look like in three months and how are you going to start still grow as a... It's a really hard question to answer. If, if you are in a difficult position, but it is answerable right and then even in even in our case, it's okay, if this is a tailwind for you, how how are you how are you going to kind of bring it back to your core? How are you going to you know, if this is an extension of your court product, how how are you going to make sure that you know, you aren't just, you know, a short lived, while useful solution for for COVID. How are you going to continue growing thereafter? And those are those are fair questions, right. So I think that's where a lot of the challenges are right now and they're just new questions that we have to address. There's there's always a milion questions you got to address when you're raising money, but this kind of adds that you spin to it. So as read an article the other day and it was kind of like what's happening with investors in health care and healthcare inovasion, obviously, and I came across this term that I thought was really interesting and it said that one of the things that investors are looking for is they want to know is your business covid proof? And I mean I think that there's probably no guarantees right, yeah, by any means, but at the same time I thought, wow, you know, they're they're kind of given US insights into what they're looking for. And so if I'm creating or helping a client create their their pitch deck, you know, whatever they were pitching before, that deck needs to be revised. Right. Yeah, LEA's applied probably it needs to be addressed. Yeah, and you know what better way to grab their attention and hold their attention of, you know, being able to present that you've got a covid proof business and here's why and how. What do you think about that? Well, I think I just I think it's bought on right. I think it's I think, kind of a brief or a more sustinct way of of describing what I was mentioning before, of like kind of what what ventor what puns are looking for really, whether whether it is a tailwind or a head winds, they want to know that your covid proof. Yeah, YEP, exactly. So this is, then, absolutely fantastic. I look to see you on more covers of more business magazine and and healthcare media. I mean, I think that you have an incredible story and you know, I think you know, beyond all the business 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 we want to make money, but most of us go into business because we want to change the world, we want to be able to make a difference in some kind of way. And what better opportunity to leave your thumb print, your fingerprint on the world by being able to say, like you started with this conversation, I we helped in some small way, we made a difference through the covid crisis. That's really exciting. Yeah, absolutely, and I think that's we feel very grateful that we are in a position to feel like, you know, to not feel helpless and feel like, you know, we just talk kind of in our hands and wait for this to flow through, like I mean, I think a lot of people are feeling right now, like we would feel very grateful that we're even in a position to be able to deliver something, but that it's helpful right now. And I want to kind of give credit to to my team, like it's we, the team, has been putting in a ton of hours, working really, really hard... make this all a reality and and so you know, this is that's that's another thing. As a message to just other innovators right the absolute best thing you can do, if nothing else right now, is focus on your team and team building. And because they'll know, the only reason we've been able to whether the storm right now is because we had put in so much time and effort and thoughtfulness leading up to this point and making sure that we have the right and the best people working working together on clear stuff, and now, you know, it's great to kind of feel to fall back on that. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, and I mean, you know, with so many millions of people out of work right now again, kind of that's that. Other contribution is, you know, being able to serve the industry in the community, but you know, being able to pivot and pivot well well around this crisis and be able to you know, no matter how big the team is, to be able to create sustainability financially for for the team is incredible rewarding. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It's been a great conversation. I've definitely enjoyed it. Before we wrap up, can you just give our listeners a way to be able to get ahold of you it just in case anybody has questions? Yeah, absolutely, easiest ways to just go go online, go on our website, clear step dot hell. If you you know, fill out of formsubmission there and if you reference be it, it'll make its way over over to me and happy to get in touch with with anyone who's interested in talking more, whether you know your fellow entrepreneur, health system or hospital that's looking for this kind of care outing solution. Happy, happy to engage and thank you so much for having me on. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening. I know you're busy working to bring your life changing innovation to market and I value your time and your attention. To save time and get the latest episodes on your mobile device, automatically subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast APP like apple podcast, spotify and stitcher. Thank you for listening and I appreciate everyone who's been sharing the show with friends and colleagues. See You on the next episode of Coiq.

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