HealthKit co-founder and managing director Alison Hardacre GAICD grapples with growth challenges.

    With growth nudging 10 per cent each month and a network that spans more than 50 countries, it’s vital to get the right people with the right skills on the job. For managing director of medical technology platform HealthKit, Alison Hardacre GAICD, the team is the most important thing — and Australia doesn’t have a background in startup culture to make finding that talent easy.

    “The number-one challenge is finding the right staff,” Hardacre says. “Running a high-growth venture, the critical thing is to recruit people who can deliver at pace. Most businesses in Australia are aiming to grow 10 per cent a year — we’re aiming to grow 10 per cent a month. People who can handle that level of growth are like gold, whether it’s developers, customer service or project management.”

    In recruitment, the company targets people who are keen to learn and possess a logical mind, so they can grow as the company grows, with the ideal trait being a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. “By bringing [people] together with the same values and ethos, we have built a diverse, high-performing team that can deliver our goal of making healthcare better for everyone. Because Australia hasn’t had a high-growth startup culture, we have had to coach people and support them through that. We know how to build that growth,” Hardacre says.

    We saw the opportunity to go global — to basically improve healthcare for everybody, everywhere.

    HealthKit was founded in 2012 by Hardacre and colleague Lachlan Wheeler, to provide a service platform for patients and medical practitioners. The two, colleagues for more than a decade, saw the scaling potential after launching an Australian medical platform in 2008. “We saw the opportunity to go global — to basically improve healthcare for everybody, everywhere,” Hardacre says. “Because doctors’ practices are run more efficiently, they can treat more patients, and because practitioners have more time for sick patients, patients are more effectively treated.”

    HealthKit allows medical practitioners to channel their customer processing through the one place and frees up about an hour a day for a medical professional. The system is free to use, with revenue being driven from optional add-ons that can be purchased, including payment processing and a text reminder service. The platform also works as a directory and booking system, and is the second most-used medical directory in Australia.

    In its first year of operation, HealthKit signed up 200 practitioners to the platform. Four years later, it has passed 21,000, operating across more than 50 countries. That growth stems from two channels — practitioners searching for efficiencies and consumers looking for tools and better integration with their medical team to manage their health plan. Practitioners will often add their entire patient list to the system.

    The system allows individual consumers to track their own health data while also having it accessible to their medical team. Whether recovering from an accident or trying to lose weight, their health records can be made available to any of their practitioners who might need it. Consumer tools include an exercise tracker and food diary, enabling better management of conditions like diabetes.

    The system develops an individual’s medical record, which can be shared across multiple health practitioners. This is similar to My Health Record set up by the Federal Government. “[My Health Record] has so much potential,” Hardacre says, “but has yet to realise it. Everyone across our network can use all aspects of HealthKit, then we integrate into My Health Record.”

    With heightened awareness of cyber risks, data security is paramount. “HealthKit is protected by bank-grade security and encryption. It’s been built with data security and confidentiality in mind,” says Hardacre. “When we integrated with funding bodies (such as Medicare and DVA), HealthKit passed security and operational tests across the system.”

    Skilling up

    Hardacre completed the AICD Company Directors Course in 2004 and was also involved with the AICD as part of its member development committee in Victoria, which was focused on growing a diverse membership within the AICD from age, background and other perspectives. “The course has been helpful in considering how to structure our governance arrangements and show what works in a high-growth venture rather than, for example, a corporate,” Hardacre says.

    While Hardacre handles sales, marketing and investor relations, her co-founder manages the technology and operations side of the business, and is also skilled on payment systems.

    HealthKit’s board is small, but possesses strategically important experience for the business. It meets quarterly, and comprises Hardacre and Wheeler plus a prominent (unnamed) private investor the business brought in last year following its raising of $1.6 million. This investor brings a new perspective to the table, including running a national retail business, social change services and other businesses in Australia. “His experience has been fantastic because he knows all about the culture and the processes to drive growth,” Hardacre says. “He’s been doing that for 30 or 40 years, so his experience has just been brilliant.”

    To manage scaling and growth, Hardacre found help through the Springboard Enterprises accelerator program for women global entrepreneurs. She is an alumnae of the 2014 program.

    Culture and customers

    HealthKit’s expansion will be for nothing if customers aren’t retained, so it has a strong focus on user experience. Current operations — and scheduled changes in the pipeline — are heavily focused on the customer.

    “As we expand, the key thing we’re dealing with is customer service. We have a quite a good reputation in our sector for our customer service,” Hardacre says. “If someone emails us during Melbourne business hours, they get a response and a resolution within 15 minutes. We also have phone-based service here in Australia and we handle Asia as well as New Zealand.”

    Ireland, a popular destination for the medical device industry already, will also soon have a HealthKit office in operation. “We’re setting up a service capability out of Ireland and our Irish call centre will handle service queries (email and phone) across Europe and Africa.” With those operations due to open early next year, HealthKit has appointed a project manager to ensure the new team marries well with the current operations.

    “He’s working with us now, so when he’s over there running the Irish operations and building the team, he’ll be hiring people that can fit,” Hardacre says. “We want the Irish team to be as much a part of our team as the people in our office in Australia.”

    Global adaptability

    As HealthKit operates in a range of jurisdictions and across health and finance, compliance is an important focus to enable the company to navigate local laws and technological barriers.

    “We created HealthKit to be global and that was the issue we had to solve — that every health system is different,” Hardacre says. “For the most part, treatment is the same in most countries —tonsillitis is the same everywhere. What’s different is how the treatment is paid for. We had to build a system that could handle any funding body and any funding arrangement. Now that we have practitioners in 50 different countries, we’ve proven that’s exactly what the software does — it customises automatically to each health system.”

    Managing Growth

    • Hire for pace – having grown our business so rapidly, we know how to deliver at pace, so we can hire for pace and coach people for pace.

    • Hire for values, fit and skills – you’ll have a more cohesive and diverse team who can get things done together.

    • Prioritise customer service – excellent customer service is something customers remark about to others and drives word-of-mouth growth. It’s also the right thing to do.

    • Build something an industry needs – don’t build something just to make money, as it’s more likely your product will be usurped one day.

    • Be inventive – aim for the most effective outcome for minimal cost, even if it seems scrappy at first.

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