Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving?
Joshua Gawlitza, InformMe: I think it’s something everyone has experienced: When you go to the doctor or a hospital, you’re first given some kind of paper – like admission forms, medical history forms and privacy policies. In addition to being far from environmentally conscious, it is also a significant cost factor. On top of that, handing out clipboards isn’t hygienic, and the workflow – handing forms out, filling them in, standing in line, handing them back in – is highly inefficient.
With InformMe, we want to digitize all communication with patients. What makes it special is that we do it all on the patients’ smartphones, which they’re familiar with. It starts with things like patient education, but can also be taken much further, for example for patient flow management. Right now, patients sit in waiting rooms until a doctor or non-medical employee calls them. Considering the current shortage of employees, even that can be problematic. But it can all be digitized and automated – and that’s where we come in.
“Our system is flexible and open”
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Joshua Gawlitza: That’s true, but most of our competitors have solutions that rely on their own end devices at the doctor’s office or hospital. That means they have four or five tablets there that the programs run on. So it’s basically just upgraded paper. And then you still have the same problems with workflow and hygiene.
Another problem with existing systems is that they’re usually very rigid. What InformMe offers, in contrast, is a content management system that users can enter their own information into. This makes our system very flexible and open for further applications, such as clinical trials. It’s still standard today, for example, for a patient in a phase three study to have letters sent to them to fill out at home.
Munich Startup: What’s your founding story?
Joshua Gawlitza: It all started with my former colleague and doctoral advisor, Prof. Thomas Henzler. We kept in touch even after we both left the University Hospital in Mannheim. He moved to a large doctor’s office and then contacted me again last year in July – this time with the idea of improving patient education. He actually wanted me to program something because he knew that I can code a bit.
InformMe originated as an idea from physicians
My modest coding skills, however, were far from sufficient for what was needed. Luckily, I had a friend in Munich with the necessary expertise. Jonas Eicher is actually a physicist, but had been working as a freelance coder until we got him on board our founders’ boat. The fourth person in the group is Sebastian Dieterle, who had worked at the doctor’s office with Thomas. He’s an economist with a focus on medicine and brings along the business expertise that we all lacked.
That’s how we all came together and started working on development, initially on the sidelines. We founded InformMe in December 2021, and then applied relatively quickly to things such as Start?Zuschuss! grant. We fortunately received it, just like an office here at Werk1.
Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Joshua Gawlitza: We’re still dealing with our biggest challenge. As a proprietary system, InformMe depends on being connected to the systems used by hospitals and doctor’s offices. The main problem is that it’s compulsory to archive medical documents for ten to twenty years, depending on the document. For this purpose, digital interfaces in medicine have been standardized worldwide. The leading standard when it comes to communication is HL7. It was introduced in 1997 and is maintained to this day, but can do next to nothing.
If, for example, you send a message to the system, then it says the message arrived – or says nothing at all. And when it doesn’t say anything, the system doesn’t issue an error code, because it can’t send a message back. That’s why we’re now in contact with the biggest manufacturers in Germany and Europe in order to develop modern interfaces. Some of them have been open to our ideas, and we’ve developed a modern interface in Germany with two of the five largest providers. We’re hoping to be able to do the same with the rest. But until then, we’ll have to use the old systems.
“In one year, we want to be integrated into all German systems”
Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?
Joshua Gawlitza: In one year, we want to be integrated into all German systems. In addition – because we have two radiologists in our team – we want to already have a relatively broad base in radiology with 100 customers or more. But we’ll also have the first other disciplines on board.
In five years, we definitely want to have a relevant market share across Europe. Perhaps already in collaboration with a large strategic partner.
Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far?
Joshua Gawlitza: I’ve known about Werk1 for a long time and came here the first time eight years ago. A friend of mine had his game studio here, and ever since I visited him that one time, I knew I also wanted to work in this kind of office at some point. And now we’re here and benefit from the ability to share information with other startups, like Auvisus. They’re working on a recognition system for self-checkout for cafeteria food, which is something completely different – but they’re also dealing with the same interface problem that we are, only with cafeteria register systems. It’s so great to be able to share information with each other.
Munich Startup: Quick exit or staying power?
Joshua Gawlitza: I actually can’t imagine a quick exit. We still have so many cool things in mind that will offer our customers significant added value and that no one offers yet – if we couldn’t roll them out ourselves, that would be really disappointing.