Regular access to affordable, reliable, and quality healthcare is a major challenge that hundreds of millions of people around the world face every day (according to the Global Economic Symposium). When it comes to choosing healthcare over daily sustenance, shelter, and water, it is healthcare that often tends to take a back seat, with many people suffering severe economic setbacks when they eventually need healthcare (World Health Organization (WHO), 2013). If people have access to adequate healthcare options, they are able to stay as healthy as possible, maintain a better quality of life, and ultimately help negate the economic consequences that illness and injury bring to households, communities, and society (WHO, 2009).
Even for those fortunate enough to receive healthcare, communication errors and mistake-prone workflow processes in the industry means that millions of patients throughout the world do not receive the care they need (WHO, 2013). Tiatros Inc. (Tiatros) is a startup formed in 2010 that aims to change this through using information technologies that – if you are reading this – you likely already know how to use. While information technology impacts nearly every facet of the lives of billions of people every day (World Economic Forum (WEF), 2013), the impact it has had on the healthcare industry remains slow in many areas (Forbes, 2014). Doctors, researchers, and patients remain disconnected from each other even though the infrastructure to change this is available (ASCO Post, 2014).
This is where Tiatros comes in. With a unique, strong brand image and robust intellectual property (IP) portfolio, the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) aims to connect professionals health care practitioners, researchers, and patients with vital information through the use of a “health cloud” and other information technology products (according to a telephone interview with the company’s co-founder and CEO, Ms. Kimberlie Cerrone, and the WIPO Japan Office (WJO)).
The founders of Tiatros have an ambitious goal: to develop a solution to sharing medical information and make it easily and securely accessible (Koplovitz & Co., 2014). Hospitals and doctors in many countries tend to rely upon archaic process to coordinate patient care, such as mail, limited in-hospital visits, and painfully slow treatment processes (CNN, 2013). Despite the ubiquitous nature of information technology, in numerous instances throughout the world the healthcare industry has been slow to take full advantage of it (ASCO Post, 2014).
It is estimated that over one billion people in the world do not have access to regular healthcare (Population Reference Bureau (PRB), 2004). When a person does have healthcare access, in many cases they will see different doctors (WHO, 2008) over the course of many annual visits (over ten in some countries, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD), 2011). Medical records of a single patient are therefore often scattered and disorganized (PR NewsWire, 2010), tests tend to be repeated and medical errors can occur (PR NewsWire, 2010; and according to Tiatros), and patients are at risk of an actual decrease in life satisfaction due to numerous unnecessary doctor visits (American Psychosomatic Society, 2013).
Such problems are also common in clinical trials and medical research, which is valued at over US$1.4 trillion annually (R&D Magazine, 2013). Doctors and medical researchers around the world typically use many workflow processes to share information and coordinate their activities (WHO, 2011). Should there be a lack of effective communication and access to information, patients might be unaware of new clinical trials in which they could participate, and doctors could be unaware of new options resulting from the latest research (Rutgers University, 2004), which could be used to treat various medical conditions and emergencies.
Tiatros endeavors to solve such problems through innovating products and services that allow different physicians with different medical partners and in different parts of the world access the same data and information for a single patient, clinical trial, or medical research project, all stored securely in an online health cloud (a storage mechanism on the Internet) and accessible via any Internet-connected device (according to the company). Doing so would streamline the management of health data, eliminate inefficiencies, and enable better collaborative healthcare and more positive results for patients (according to the company).
Working with academics, IT, privacy, and security experts at major academic medical centers in the United Sates of America (USA), Tiatros developed an Internet-based means for health care providers, doctors, and researchers to merge their workflows and more easily communicate and collaborate (Open Forum, 2014). A specific way in which this was achieved was by adapting social networking technologies - which are used by billions of people every day (WEF, 2013) - for the healthcare industry (Bio Spectrum, 2013) to create a unique Patient Care Relationship Management system (PCRM) that supports relationships among all stakeholders in a patient’s care (according to an email interview between the company’s CEO Ms. Cerrone and the WJO).
According to the company’s CEO, Tiatros moves all of the clinic to clinic processes that doctors rely upon to coordinate patient care to a private, secure mobile health cloud where everyone involved has timely, reliable access to all of the information and people they need from anywhere in the world and on any Internet-connected device. On top of that, the company developed a collaboration layer that improves the efficiency of patient care services, allowing doctors to automate customized clinical workflows so they can provide suitable patient care.
Through this collaborative layer, treatment decisions are coordinated among all participants, and patients and families can actively participate in their own healthcare by self-reporting their own concerns or talking directly with their doctors (BioSpectrum, 2013). The company’s health cloud service allows patients and doctors to share their complete medical records securely - including records that are typically hard to share, such as MRIs and ultrasounds - and that can be accessed anywhere, anytime, in any healthcare system, and in any place with an Internet connection (CNBC, 2012). Additionally, the SME developed a solution to stream biometric information directly from a patient’s consumer medical device to the PCRM and doctors can quickly deliver their clinical assessments straight to a patient’s mobile device (according to Tiatros).
From the company’s start, it placed a great deal of importance on the protection of IP rights (IPRs). One of the company’s founders and current CEO is an IP attorney by trade and brought her knowledge with her to Tiatros. “Very early on we had intelligent, cohesive strategies for IP both in terms of patents and trademark strategy. We have a great trade secret policy and…we’re advancing our business model all because we started with an understanding of how IP works worldwide,” she said.
This understanding has allowed Tiatros to leverage its IP and use it to optimize its technologies and products. The company has filed a number of patent applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the USA, such as for securing data uploaded to the Tiatros cloud and the SME’s system that allows doctors to create treatment options for their patients. These applications aim to protect the SME’s products and processes and attract new investors and partners. “Tiatros is being approached by dozens of very large Fortune 500 companies who are pursuing the value of our published patents and anticipating that we will continue to do well,” said Ms. Cerrone. With a global approach, Tiatros also makes use of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system, such as its 2012 application for systems and methods used in its health cloud products.
Being a software company, the protection of know-how and trade secrets is an IP aspect that Tiatros uses to ensure its competitiveness. “We have a very evolved trade secret policy for our employees, contractors, customers, and potential and actual business partners. We take that part of our business very seriously,” said Ms. Cerrone. The entrepreneur pointed out that Tiatros cannot live on trade secrets alone but uses them to complement the company’s patent portfolio.
Rounding out Tiatros’ main IP efforts are its trademarks, which serve to protect and develop its branding strategy and corporate identity. Speaking with the WJO, Ms. Cerrone pointed out that given the cost it takes to build an identity for a company over time, registering trademarks is a relatively inexpensive IPR that can yield immense returns. Speaking candidly, the CEO asks, “Why would you not make a trademark application?” The company’s corporate name - Tiatros - was registered as a trademark with the USPTO in 2013.
Tiatros’ applications and registrations are not an afterthought, but part of a concrete overall branding strategy. “Building worldwide brands is expensive,” Ms. Cerrone pointed out, “and it really should be done with a lot of thought into business strategy.” Digitization and the movement of health care collaboration into the cloud is a relatively new industry, the CEO explained, and for a new set of products and services to be successful, the name behind it has to resonate with all stakeholders.
In building this new brand name, Ms. Cerrone took a unique approach. Explaining the process to the WJO, Ms. Cerrone said, “I told my team that our trademark had to be a made up term, because I knew that made up terms tend to be solid trademarks.” Building a mystique around the company’s identity was important to connecting with people and keep them remembering - and wondering - about the corporate name. At the same time, a unique name raises the chances that it has not already been registered as a trademark and that all major top-level Internet domain names are available. “It also had to be visually balanced,” said Ms. Cerrone. “We wanted to develop a logo that would look good.”
After eliminating round after round of suggestions, Ms. Cerrone and her team came up with Tiatros. According to the CEO, the name is based on the ancient Greek word iatros, which refers to the sanctity of the relationship between doctors and their patients. “We added the ‘t’ in front for ‘technology’ and the ’s’ at the end for social,” said Ms. Cerrone. “We had a completely made up, arbitrary name that did not exist in any language in the world.” However, this made up word conveys the company’s philosophy: using technology to enable efficient health care services with an emphasis on relationships.
Speaking to the WJO, Ms. Cerrone explained that since the company’s inception Tiatros has focused on commercializing products and services that it believed would be at the forefront of healthcare in ten years. Five years later, Ms. Cerrone told the WJO that she believes the company is well on track to meet this goal. Tiatros CarePod - the name of the company’s secure cloud and one of its flagship products - is one example. Universally and securely accessible to medical professionals, family members, and the patient themselves, Tiatros CarePod contains all patient information, treatment plans, high quality medical images, and complete medical records, allowing more time to be spent on personalized care and less on traditionally slow medical workflows (BioSpectrum, 2013).
Other offerings include a free digital collaborative tool for physicians and research systems worldwide, applications that allow secure and customized instant messaging and video conferencing among patients and doctors, and a means to deliver care to a patient without requiring a doctor visit. All of these, the company argues, allow healthcare to be brought into the digital age, reducing the likelihood of mistakes and providing a better, more personal level of health care.
In just a few short years, Tiatros has become one of the leading companies in the digital health sphere. As the CEO, Ms. Cerrone, said via email to the WJO, “Tiatros is already supporting innovative patient care services and groundbreaking clinical research at several large, prestigious medical centers across the United States. The company is scaling rapidly to meet demand from business partners and large care providers in the United States and around the world.” With expanded partnerships, new business, and a burgeoning client base, the company is poised to enter a period of profitability. By 2018, Tiatros expects to have an operating profit of over US$38 million (according to Tiatros).
Recent studies have suggested that the impact of cloud technologies in our lives has only barely begun (according to The Economist Intelligence Unit), and Tiatros has emerged as one of the foremost players in using these technologies in healthcare. As the company grows, patients receive more personalized care no matter where they are, medical professionals are able to collaborate more effectively, and the ill effects of ineffective treatment could continue to lessen.
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