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Bettina Experton, Founder & CEO of Humetrix
This interview is one of a series of inspirational women leaders in health technology being profiled as part of the Women Entrepreneurs category of the AXA Health Tech & You Awards programme.
Tell us about your business?
My company Humetrix, which I founded in 1999, has pioneered the development of innovative consumer-centered mobile health platforms which have been deployed around the world. In the U.S, Humetrix is located in Del Mar, California, with a subsidiary in the UK headquartered in London. Humetrix's mobile health platforms have won multiple industry innovation awards in the US and in Europe. The company’s suite of interoperable m-health applications engages consumers in their healthcare with care coordination, chronic care and emergency care mobile health tools. iBlueButton is the mobile embodiment of the US federal Blue Button health initiative to give Americans easy access to their electronic health records and is available for use by over 70M Americans enrolled in federal health programs (individuals over the age of 65, veterans, and military personnel).
SOS QR, an emergency application which won the 2016 US Federal Communication Commission Chairman Award and was selected by the NHS Test Beds competition, lets users call for help and allows emergency responders to immediately access users’ emergency records anywhere in the world. TENSIO is a hypertension and chronic care coaching app that integrates data from self-monitoring devices and the user’s medical records with an on-board expert system to send personalized notifications and alerts directly from the user’s phone or Watch. Both SOS QR and TENSIO have been selected by Our Mobile Health and EMIS Health App Library program for e-prescription by 60% of GPs in England starting in Q1 2018, a revolutionary m-health initiative which serves Humetrix’ mission to give patients the mobile tools that empower them to partner with their healthcare providers to make the best healthcare choices. For the innovation we are bringing in healthcare, Humetrix was selected as one of one only five healthcare exhibitors at the 2018 CES, next to Fitbit, Nokia, Philipps and United Healthcare. Here is a 30-second CES video clip highlighting our technologies.
Would you describe your journey in health tech?
As a physician trained in Public Health, former State of California Public Health officer, health economist and health care Informaticist, I founded my company Humetrix to develop and offer health information technology solutions to tackle our big healthcare system challenges. Whether it is the lack of coordination between multiple healthcare providers in a very specialized and fragmented healthcare system – resulting in the high cost of care and medical errors, or the need for individuals to better manage their chronic conditions at home and overtime with information at their fingertips, this has driven my company’s R&D and business successes. Humetrix also invested itself in driving new healthcare government policies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia to emphasize the critical new role of the patient/citizen to help manage their own healthcare in having access to their health information and the use of mobile tools.
My ambition as an entrepreneur in healthcare IT has been to develop and bring innovative solutions to help solve our big healthcare challenges, especially when it comes to the high cost, inequality and the quality of healthcare. These innovative solutions have been centered around a disruptive principle – that of empowering patients with access and use of medical knowledge using software applications running on their own and ubiquitous mobile devices to best manage their own healthcare anytime and anywhere. This disruptive principle is now core to the transformation of healthcare systems around the world. It however took patience, persistence and stamina to fight and win over the status quo of healthcare provider systems, payers, legacy IT system suppliers, dated healthcare policies when it comes to technology, and a medical culture resisting changes!
What were the triggers and sources of inspiration that launched you on your journey? Did anyone particularly inspire you? (Man or woman)
As a young physician scientist who came to the U.S. for a post doc to further my training and scientific research, I was quickly stricken by the healthcare disparities and the fragmentation and lack of coordination in the U.S. healthcare system, both leading to big difference in healthcare access, costs and the quality of care provided. As a young woman physician born and educated in France, whose value system calls for universal access to healthcare, I was compelled to make a difference in the U.S. healthcare system and also around the world by empowering individuals with healthcare information and knowledge available at their fingertips with the use of mobile tools to address these inequalities and system inefficiencies.
After bootstrapping two successful small companies, I was encouraged to tackle these big healthcare challenges with my company Humetrix by three successive mentors. First, Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine and founder of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies who encourages me to have a worldwide public health view with my new enterprise; then Dr. Charles Mérieux founder of the largest vaccine company in the world Pasteur-Mérieux -now Sanofi- who believed in the IT innovation my company had built with the first US healthcare smart card application applied to child health and immunizations; and Dr. Roger Guillemin, Nobel Laureate in Medicine and member of the Board of Directors at Humetrix who has been my strongest support from the day I founded Humetrix. Last but not least, my mother has been all along a role model, teaching me that if you apply yourself and work hard you can succeed in anything you do. Growing up during World War II in occupied France, she didn’t have a chance to study music and singing - her passion- until after age 30 to become a performing opera singer at age 35! Today at 88 years of age, she still performs with the most beautiful voice ever for the enjoyment of her public!
Do you think being a woman made it harder or easier as an entrepreneur?
I do not believe it makes any difference. However, as I bootstrapped the four companies I founded, I did not have to face the funding challenges some women entrepreneurs have been experiencing in trying to seek VC funding. And in many instances, by being one of the very few woman CEO of an IT company, I have often been more noticed in a crowd of looked alike dark suit engineers or C-suite executives!
What is your ‘special power’ that you use when you need to get around a challenge?
Like any entrepreneur, clear thinking, honesty to recognize my limitations and seek the talent I don’t have, as well as patience and persistence.
How do you relax? What do you do to recharge?
I have the privilege to live in a wonderful part of the world on the southern California coast. Looking out the window or stepping out for a walk on the beach is all it takes to refresh and recharge.
What advice would you give a 14-year-old girl knowing what you know now? What would you say to your younger self when you first started to think about "what do I want to be when I grow up?
If you are curious, creative and want to change the world with a big idea you want to apply as an entrepreneur – you can do it! Being a young woman, is more likely a plus than a minus. You may at times be underestimated but can turn this to your advantage. As a young girl growing up in a small village in the French Alps, but very curious and inventive, I always had big ambitions and was driven to invent something useful which could help many around the world. This mind set has driven me all along my entrepreneur’s journey and helped me overcome all the bumps on the road!
Do you think the future looks good for women in health tech? Why? Why not? What you think is exciting ahead? What exciting projects/innovations do you have in the pipeline?
Like many entrepreneurs, it is exciting to break new grounds, and as a woman IT entrepreneur it may be even more satisfying. As an entrepreneur leading a small innovative IT company, I have to and am constantly trying to look ahead at what’s next –so that we can be one of the firsts to break new grounds in our field. We have broken new grounds and have innovated with the m-health platforms we have developed and are constantly upgrading them. One of the most exciting development now is about taking these technologies on a world scale and placing them in the hands of millions. One of the most immediate exciting new developments is happening in the UK where for the first time in the world, mobile applications are about to be electronically prescribed by physicians, like they prescribe medications, for millions of NHS patients who will truly partner with their physicians to receive safer, more cost-effective and higher quality healthcare. An exciting new development which I highlighted as a speaker at the recent CES Digital Health Summit in Las Vegas on January 11, 2018.
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