A friendly game of Frisbee would ultimately change the way Zack Fisch Rothbart looked at the healthcare industry.
In 2011, Rothbart was engaged in an Ultimate Frisbee match at the University of Waterloo in Toronto. A freak accident in the non-contact sport resulted in Rothbart breaking his leg and being transported to the hospital, where his bewildering patient experience began. From the time of his admittance to the day he was discharged, Rothbart was inundated with information, from medical records to medications. Stressed out and medicated, he developed a preventable complication that nearly resulted in the amputation of his leg.
“I was being pulled in 50 different directions,” says Rothbart, CEO and co-founder of CoHealth, headquartered in Toronto. “Post-op is when most of it was being thrown in my face. You drown in all the noise.”
After Rothbart was able to walk again, he remembered the feeling of being overwhelmed as a patient. That planted the seed for CoHealth’s app, which empowers and educates patients before, during and after their healthcare experiences. The app serves as a personal health manager that provides patients seamless access to all aspects of their care.
Identifying a Need: A Single Point of Access for Patients
After hearing from patients about their experiences, Rothbart and CoHealth co-founder Cory Blumenfeld hit on the idea of a single point of access for their needs rather than the 13 different touchpoints he experienced during his hospitalization. CoHealth’s goal of “Connecting the Dots in Healthcare” reached fruition in the summer of 2016 when the firm began a relationship with its first hospital in Toronto. Today, CoHealth works with 21 health systems in Canada and is aggressively pursuing opportunities in the United States.
CoHealth’s first foray into the American health ecosystem came at the 2017 Medical Capital Innovation Competition. Rothbart enjoyed the experience so much he returned to Cleveland for MCIC2 in 2018.
“We were tip-toeing into the U.S. market and were eager to learn more about its healthcare system,” says Rothbart. “Cleveland is one of the healthcare capitals of the world and the experience was incredible. All of the different healthcare leaders were there in one place and we got to hear from people who live and breathe this every day – people we would not normally get meetings with by ourselves.”
During MCIC2, CoHealth learned from its first experience at the competition. “We changed up a lot of the messaging,” says Rothbart. “Our pitches were significantly different. We learned so much at the first MCIC there was definitely a ripple effect.”
Finding Advisory Board Members at MCIC
While CoHealth has participated in other pitch competitions, Rothbart feels MCIC has been the most worthwhile event in his company’s evolution. “A lot of them are like revolving doors, but at MCIC we had more time to tell our story, which is very meaningful from our standpoint.”
Most importantly, CoHealth ended up forming relationships with MCIC attendees who would become members of the firm’s advisory board. “When investors hear from people like that, it lowers their risk threshold,” says Rothbart, who connected with several other formal and informal advisors he still talks with today. “That kind of thing is invaluable. Opportunities like that are hard to come by.”
Rothbart, who hopes to attend the 2019 MCIC as well, recommends participants be their true selves when pitching their ideas. “The number one thing that is so important is authenticity,” he says. “You’re presenting to world class folks from world class institutions. Be yourself…and remember that every presentation is a bit of theater.”