Missed a Doctor’s Visit? KC Entrepreneur’s TeleHealth App Is an Innovative SolutionDavid Cawthon
Photo courtesy Chase Castor for The Pitch
“In 2018, my father died suddenly in his sleep,” says Shelley Cooper, Ed.D. “Apparently, he had a doctor’s appointment scheduled to take place in less than 30 days.”
But that tragic event would spark a new beginning and would plant the seed for a business idea to help medical professionals and patients.
At the time of her father’s passing, Shelley was helping medical clinics design telehealth solutions. One of their biggest problems? The high rate of patients missing scheduled appointments. About 1 in 4 medical appointments are no-shows.
And so, Shelley took her concern, that medical problem and her expertise in telehealth and shaped them into her startup SureShow Inc., which sends alerts to the physician and to the patient’s mobile device when appointments are missed and invites the patient to participate in virtual services directly with their doctor, among other features for patients and health care providers.
“That’s when I realized I could create a solution that would fill that downtime with on-demand telehealth visits which would allow more people to see their doctors when they needed to,” she says. “I knew this would have the greatest impact on the most medically fragile patients like my father, who make up about 50% of the U.S. population.”
But before Shelley’s tech was helping patients avoid catastrophic events and insurance claims that stem from a missed appointment, she had to build the app and clear some tough hurdles herself.
Solving struggles with startup capital
Shelley leveraged her background in business, technology and education as she worked on her business strategy and strategized the most effective way to promote the SureShow application. But she soon ran into a roadblock: getting funding for her startup. Like most early-stage businesses, she bootstrapped her business, turning to her own personal savings and credit cards for startup capital.
But getting funding past that proved difficult for Shelley, and it’s a particular challenge for minority- and women-owned businesses. Investments in women- and minority-owned businesses are 80% lower than the median investment in businesses overall, according to a 2018 Forbes article. So, Shelley eventually sought direction from several national and Kansas City organizations that provide capital and financial assistance for startups and small business owners — and things began to shift.
“There were several meetings and workshops that provided training opportunities to learn what an investor is looking for in a startup,” Shelley says.
She connected with Lightship Capital where she learned about investment strategies, how to pitch her program to investors and create the necessary financial and legal documents for her startup.
Through the Women’s Academy Accelerator offered by Beta Boom, Shelley honed her skills for customer discovery, product development, developing a marketing plan and building a quality team.
She took the Tech Venture class from the ELEVATIONLAB™ at the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC and perfected her elevator speech and learned the qualities to look for when recruiting individuals for her board of directors.
She also tapped the expertise of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Entrepreneurial Innovation Center to identify local resources to benefit her company.
Those connections helped Shelley refine her business strategy and prepare to pitch for funding from investors. That work and those resources paid off, literally.
In 2019, Shelley pitched SureShow in a few grant competitions. She received a $5,000 grant from Opportunity Hub. In 2020, she has won $1,000 microgrant from a competition associated with Tech Venture and a $500 grant from Velocity Lee’s Summit. Watch Shelley pitch SureShow to the Velocity Lee’s Summit judges.
When a business and plan come together
Launching a business always poses challenges. Entrepreneurship requires courage and community.
“You have to be flexible and willing to make a shift in your strategy,” Shelley says. “As a startup founder and especially in these past few months, my Chief Technology Officer Dr. Mohd Hamid and I learned to pivot and adjust our plan when necessary.”
Since the official launch of SureShow in early 2020, Shelley has filed for a patent, released her MVP (minimum viable product) and initiated outreach to connect with local and national hospitals and health care facilities to conduct SureShow’s pilot program in the Midwest and later across the country.
In the coming months, Shelley says she plans to unveil the next version of the app that gives patients the opportunity to meet with several physicians at the same time and plans to be in three new hospital systems in the next six months.
Her final piece of advice: “Always have a Plan B ready and waiting. Do your research. And seek good mentors and communicate with them frequently. Their advice can save months and sometimes years of missteps.”