Most disruptors tell the stories of their “A-ha!” moment. Less of them relay the twists, turns, dead-ends and pivots between that moment and achieving success. Or the real secret – that it’s never really over.
In 2016, Michael Demetriou was working on an early version of his app “Opear” (read: Au Pair). At the time, his goal was to help families managing pediatric conditions or postpartum depression by finding safe and specialized childcare or visiting nurses. He was working around the clock and flying back and forth between New York and San Francisco, but as is often the case for young startups, things weren’t clicking yet. So Michael did a simple thing that founders of any stage still struggle with – put work aside, shut off his phone, and spent the day at a Globetrotter’s game with his 4-year-old son.
While one day off is rarely an instant cure for professional roadblocks, the presence and lack of pressure gave Michael the clarity he needed to see a streamlined path forward: Opear MD, for pediatric house calls. The proverbial “A-ha” moment.
Over the course of the next 2 years, the company went through a substantial transformation until it was nearly unrecognizable, expanding from New York across the country, offering healthcare to patients of all ages, launching telemedicine services, and opening up the platform to a host of new specialities like chiropractic, psychiatry, and even functional medicine. New partnerships have brought medical rideshare, EHR integration, and in-app prescription writing and delivery to the company’s network.
When a company undergoes such significant changes, how exactly do you hold onto your identity? Your true north should be your vision, and not your product.
“Opear’s vision is to enhance the existing healthcare system by blending the best elements of online and in-person medicine,” says Demetriou. “As both of those fields advance, it’s not just natural, but necessary we do the same.”
Demetriou explained that Opear is an extension of brick-and-mortar medicine, not a replacement. There are times when virtual care or a house call are the fastest, safest, or most convenient way to get care. But certain tests and treatments require specialized equipment or a fully stocked and staffed facility. There’s no getting around it. One of the most unique things about Opear is that traditional practices can actually use the app to offer certain services online or in a patient’s home. So patients and providers can maintain those relationships and still enjoy the convenience of telehealth.
One of the biggest limitations of telehealth is the random pairing of patients and providers because even “one-off” illnesses can be part of a bigger picture. A rash could be due to an unknown allergy. A stomachache, if recurring, might point to food intolerance. It just can’t fall on patients to share their entire health history or know the specialized medical insights that their provider would need to know. A provider that’s familiar with your medical history – coupled with an app that offers EMR integration – allows doctors to connect the dots and see patterns that could otherwise be missed.
The app also helps offset the epidemic of burnout among medical professionals. There’s this trend of “assembly line medicine” where providers are taking half a dozen appointments in an hour, and it’s as frustrating for them as it is for patients. For brick and mortar practices, adding a telehealth option can dramatically reduce the in-office clutter. For independent practitioners, apps like Opear can help doctors spread out their appointments, spend more time with the patients who need it, and work on their own terms.
“Opear has gone through nonstop growth and transformation since launching the app,” said Demetriou. “But then again, so has healthcare. We’re not working towards a final product, but the solution to a problem, and we’ll continue to evolve to meet any new opportunities or challenges that we face.”