James Bateman has had a unique path — he worked in his family carpentry business for 9 years, went back to school to pursue his passion for quantum physics (including earning a PhD), and then co-founded MedChart (now known as Marble) in 2016. In addition to giving back — he and his team are currently fundraising for Parkinson’s research by running the 900 km Bruce Trail from Niagara to Tobermory — he is on a mission to transform access to health data.
You co-founded Marble in order to streamline ease of access to patient medical records. How did this come about?
Unfortunately, my father-in-law became very sick and passed away from cancer. It was really going through his care journey that sparked the idea of Marble. My co-founder, Derrick Chow, and I got our start at the Entrepreneurship Hatchery, which is an incubator program at the University of Toronto. We won prize money and attracted our first angel investor, who within a few weeks wrote us our first $50,000 cheque.
We’re growing. We have offices in Toronto, Waterloo, and Dallas (Texas), with over 100 staff, and [we] have raised about 17 million USD in capital. We really leveraged the University of Toronto entrepreneurship ecosystem as well as the venture capitalist system within Canada, specifically Toronto. They were all great in helping us to build a hyper-growth, scalable business that is going to be able to compete on the world stage.
What are some of the challenges around patient consent, authorization, and data in this space?
This goes back to the lightbulb moment for our company. When my father-in-law was sick, my family was trying to coordinate care. He was at multiple hospitals [for different specialists], with two homecare agencies coming in, along with family caregivers and his palliative care doctor. Trying to get information from a homecare agency to a research hospital that’s doing a clinical trial was all so disconnected.
The “ah-ha” moment was that my mother-in-law could ask for a copy of the files. They’d print them out and she’d get the data every time with 100 per cent of the information. It’s really about making data connect with technology to become more accessible at scale and being a catalyst to innovation because you can’t build a digital health ecosystem on faxed and paper datasets.
Marble was founded to help “build a new generation of digital health applications and experiences.” How is this innovative and unique in the health application space?
Currently, there’s no company out there that is providing a single access point for developers, digital health app builders, or patient services to plug into all their user’s health data — it just doesn’t exist. However, it does exist in other industries.
In the financial industry, companies like Plaid created that single access point and became the front door to all financial institutional data. In the U.S., there were 90,000 digital health apps published and their only way to get user data was to ask patients about their medical history. Nothing was connected to official medical data.
What’s exciting is being at the forefront of creating the same thing for health that Plaid created for the financial industry. We have an opportunity to pioneer an entire new wave of innovation that is world-changing in terms of benefiting patient lives and building an entire ecosystem around digital health. It’s super exciting to be at that forefront.
What do you envision in the future of the med tech space?
The future is one where, as an individual, you’re going to be able to engage with the apps or services of your choice, to say, “Yes, access my medical information,” and it’s there. Medical services that you engage with, except for family physicians or hospitals, are on the outer limits of access to your information. The only way to obtain it is through printed documents or screenshots of emails. The future is one where all services have the same information that you have granted access to. We’re going to be the catalysts of making that possible and that’s really exciting.
Stephanie Hawkins | Contributing Writer