“Snapchat for doctors”: Coviu partners with Swinburne Uni to offer student-friendly mental health services

Dr Silvia Pfeiffer Coviu

Coviu chief executive Dr Silvia Pfeiffer. Source: Supplied.

Medtech startup Coviu has partnered with Swinburne University’s National eTherapy Centre to provide an encrypted real-time chat service for accessing mental health services.

Coviu is a telehealth startup specialising in connecting health practitioners with patients remotely, often making healthcare more accessible to people in remote and hard-to-reach locations.

In January this year, the startup secured $1.2 million in grant funding to commercialise its remote physiotherapy technology, allowing users to get back to their homes sooner.

It also secured $1 million from Main Sequence Ventures in April 2018, and won Brisbane’s HealthHack competition soon after.

Now, the startup is seeing month-on-month revenue growth of between 10% and 18%, founder Silvia Pfeiffer tells StartupSmart.

“It’s doing pretty well,” she says.

Through the partnership with Swinburne, Coviu has developed technology allowing mental health clinicians to interact with clients via encrypted, real-time text chat sessions.

According to Pfeiffer, Swinburne had been looking for a video solution for its mental health services for a while, and approached Coviu to provide its interactive video link technology.

However, the team soon realised video chat wasn’t always the best solution ⁠— especially when the users were students.

“Students are often very busy, attending lectures, or with a lot of people around,” Pfeiffer explains.

“So, when they have mental health consultations it’s almost impossible to find a quiet space for it with video.”

While the video service is still available on the platform, the team pivoted to focus on the text service, developing a new, encrypted and self-deleting chat service.

“It’s almost like Snapchat, but for doctors,” Pfeiffer says.

“It’s a secure way of texting with the clinician, where there’s no history kept of it.”

This texting-for-mental-health solution wasn’t really a use case Pfeiffer had ever considered for Coviu.

“It was a bit of a left-field request from Swinburne,” she says.

That said, the startup had all of the capabilities in place, it just had to make the chat aspect “front and centre”, she adds.

“It’s just a different type of interface.”

Now, Pfeiffer will make the solution available to other users, as an add-on to their existing Coviu products.

“It’s helping us cover a broader use case, a broader range of users of our platform.”

“Be on the ball”

Now, Coviu is in the process of raising capital, which Pfeiffer says will be used to expand the business, both in Australia and internationally.

“We were looking to extend Coviu into the US, and we’re also looking to make more functionality, more clinical tools available to the doctors in the calls,” she says.

The founder is also looking into additional healthcare use cases for the Coviu platform, and developing technology to make it easier for GPs to integrate the technology into their everyday workflow.

Pfeiffer has a vision of what she calls a “hyper clinic”, where video consultations are as common as face-to-face appointments, allowing doctors to offer broader services to more people.

“My goal is to make video consultations or telehealth a standard service that everyone takes for granted … Something that everyone, including the doctors, just assumes is something that they’re going to provide, and it’s just part of the services delivery mechanisms.”

For digital health opportunities to really take off, however, they need buy-in from the doctors that will be using them.

While new doctors tend to be more open to tech solutions, it’s also imperative to properly train existing ones.

“Education is a really big part of what we need to do in healthcare,” Pfeiffer says.

“It’s all about the experts, the clinicians,” she adds.

“If they take it up, and it becomes second nature to them, then they will just tell their patients and patients will pick it up as well.”

With this in mind, Pfeiffer warns other medtech startups that developing working partnerships with your clients, or with partners like Swinburne University, can take time.

“Be on the ball,” she advises.

“Find your key targets⁠ — key companies that you think should be using your technology, and then just never give up.”

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