When we think of an emergency room physician, we usually imagine a white blouse. Although he does wear one, it’s rather with his entrepreneur hat that Dr. Sylvain Croteau, emergency room physician at Gatineau Hospital for the past 29 years, talks to us about his business career and his platform SEKMED, a support tool for the clinical approach in medicine.
One of the problems physicians face is the lack of time. Given the extensive breadth of medical knowledge, doctors must spend an enormous amount of time keeping up-to-date with best practices, which is hours they can’t dedicate directly to their patients. SEKMED (Software for the Evolution of Knowledge in MEDicine) makes it possible to gather knowledge and best practices in a given field and then share them to an entire community of practice.
From physician to entrepreneur
In 2004, while using speech recognition technology, Dr. Croteau became interested in the creation of macroinstructions – preformatted text segments which can be integrated to longer documents. He quickly realized that these macros could be used to store medical information, but he lacked the time to work it all out. So he found collaborators and together they created a wiki in 2006. Unfortunately, this wiki also proved to be time-consuming since data has to be constantly updated. Dr. Croteau then started to think about a new model that could contain an entire body of medical knowledge, wouldn’t take much time to keep up-to-date and would be reliable. A solution finally emerged: a platform based on communities of practice, i.e. a group of people working the same job, following the same guidelines, using the same vocabulary and based in the same administrative region.
SEKMED is able to offer intuitive tools to each member of a community of practice, which in turn allows them to create reliable resources such as diagnostic or physical examination templates that can be used by other members of the community. These resources are formatted for immediate use and are peer-reviewed. Physicians can thus continue to learn, contribute to the development of best practices, and take care of their patients. For Dr. Croteau, SEKMED is much more than a technological innovation—it’s a societal project. He hopes that physicians will be able to move away from the paradigm that they need to know everything at all times, in order to be more connected with each other and collaborate for the benefit of the patient.
Ready for anything!
One of the biggest challenges facing Dr. Croteau at the beginning of his venture was undoubtedly funding. He tried for several years to raise the public funds needed to finance SEKMED but without success. Far from being discouraged, he took to the sea in 2011 and crossed the Atlantic in a catamaran, from Morocco to Barbados, to raise money! “I thought, well, if I’m willing to risk my life for this kind of thing, why not just go into business,” he laughs. Consequently, he launched his own company in 2012: Solutions Doc 2.0.
The doctor’s advice
"I think a lot of good ideas die because people are enthusiastic about technology but don’t necessarily centre that technology around its actual use and the transition towards it,” says Dr. Croteau. “We must make sure we’re able to make our technology connect with the actual human who will be using it.” He also suggests being well informed before starting a business, especially if you’re not familiar with the world of entrepreneurship! “Having been better guided at first would probably have allowed me to grow a little bit faster and a little bit easier,” he admits.
Solution Doc 2.0 is now being assisted by Cilex and receives advice on innovation management and the positioning of services. The company also obtained $450,000 in funding for the assessment of its platform in a clinical practice environment, in collaboration with researcher Véronique Nabelsi, professor at UQO and Director of R&D at Cilex.
More information on the SEKMED platform is available on its website [in French].
Please note that the platform is currently being redesigned and will be available in 2021.