Siu Tong, a former aerospace engineer at GE, has now built and sold one company, founded another and stepped away as its CEO, and on Tuesday unveiled his latest startup. But not only did Tong publicly launch SmartLink Mobile, he also disclosed the new venture had raised $2.5 million from angel investors.

In an exclusive Q&A, Tong talks with WRAL TechWire about his new venture, the pitch he made, and more.

First, a bit of background: Tong launched and then sold in 2008 Engenious Software to Dassault Systems. In 2010, he launched Infina Connect, a healthcare IT firm that advanced to the finals of an annual Wall Street Journal startup competition. In late 2013 he stepped aside as CEO but remained chairman and prepared for the spinout of SmartLink.

Our Q&A:

  • Congratulations on the new funding. What was the elevator pitch you made to briefly sum up your company’s appeal to potential investors?

In order to help curb the growing cost of healthcare, providers are moving to risk bearing reimbursement models, Value Based Reimbursement (VBR). By 2017, it is estimated that 50% of the patient population will be aligned under VBR. In order to succeed under this new paradigm, solutions that facilitate delivering the necessary outcomes at a lower cost are required.

Our solution looks to address patient engagement by delivering an active and efficient patient-provider communication tool – one that fits into the current lifestyles of patients, and processes of practices with little change, and that can be adopted by all – regardless of where patients are, or what healthcare portals they are on.

We provide patients with an easy way to access all of their care providers when they want, wherever they are, from a single mobile application. For providers, we deliver the capabilities to engage in patient communication in single, subset, or mass-communication.

  • Given all the technology choices practices and patients face, why will they embrace yours?

We are leveraging Smartphone capabilities to deliver the convenience, ease of use, and speed that patients demand, while providing the seamless efficiency and implementation that healthcare providers need.

The key to a successful patient engagement program is of course adoption. The adoption rate for patient portals for example is in the single digits, because it’s far easier for a patient to just pick up the phone than it is to manage multiple sites and login credentials across all of their providers.

Other technology solutions provide mobile capabilities such as the ability to schedule appointments and pay bills. What is missing is a single application that enables patients to engage in bi-directional, clinical dialog with all of their healthcare providers. Patients need to do more than just pay their bills, schedule appointments, and receive their test results.

They need a simple way to communicate with their providers about their care. Physicians that do a better job of communicating with patient populations and succeed in getting them more involved in their care will be the most successful at delivering the highest quality care at the lowest cost.

  • Is there intellectual property involved in your product design and delivery methods?

Yes, including the following:

(1) large scale broadcasting capabilities to selected patient populations,
(2) facilitate and document Medicare Chronic Care Management Service (CCM) billing to maximum revenue/efficiency,
(3) B-to-C, text messaging experience at patient end but enterprise solution at clinics side

  • Are your investors individuals/angels? 

There are around a dozen angel investors, half of which are physicians. One of the investors is a commercial entity as a strategic investor, the rest are individual investors who have experienced investing in healthcare startups.

  • What is the relationship between Infina and the new venture?

The new venture is a spin-off from Infina. There are some common investors and we have a commercial licensing relationship. But they are separate independent corporations. We have a joint solution for the Medicare Chronic Care Management Program, as the electronic technology requirement happens to be addressed by the combined offerings.

  • Was part of your reasoning for stepping down as Infina CEO to give you more time to focus on the new venture?

Yes. Infina has an excellent CEO, Mark Hefner, who managed $140M of Allscripts business before joining Infina. Infina has a strong leadership team with deep experience in the healthcare industry.

I am now focused on building up a strong leadership team at Smartlink, which has different requirements (mobile, enterprise to consumer).