Ivan Yosifov is the CEO of “Naicoms” Ltd – a Bulgarian innovative company that offers a telemedicine system. “Naicoms won the award in the Social Innovation category in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2019 contest, an initiative of the Applied Research and Communications Fund with the support of Enterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria.
The company offered a fully developed telemedicine system for free as an alternative for safe access to healthcare services in a complicated health situation this year. The system (Medcare.bg) is used by hospitals such as Acibadem City Clinic, Alexandrovska, and in 30 other locations. Separately, any interested doctor can set up a profile and schedule online consultations quickly and easily, and can contact the company for assistance.
“If before the pandemic everyone was unanimous that telemedicine was the future, the state of emergency has shown unequivocally that the future is here and now and there is no benefit in delaying innovation. We believe that it is important to have a kind of ‘training’ of the people, mainly in order to meet some of their objections and resistances, for the most part even unconscious. The potential of the whole ecosystem of telemedicine in Bulgaria is about to be unleashed”, says Ivan Yosifov.
– Hello, how is your project developing after receiving the award in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2019 contest?
Hello! The project continues its development in several directions. On the one hand, technological improvement and upgrading is a never-ending process, because there is always some good new idea or desire to respond to a customer enquiry. On the other hand is the team’s drive to translate new technological possibilities into practical application and human benefit. The business line is working on agile solutions given the existing comprehensive telemedicine ecosystem of Naicomms and the reality of healthcare.
It is the different needs in the health delivery system that create the conditions for different converged telemedicine solutions. On this basis, the range of different customers and users of the service expands. Different health activities are being worked on in collaboration with medical professionals. Last but not least, we are increasingly demonstrating the possibilities and benefits of telemedicine and more and more people are convinced that it does not hinder or threaten, but significantly supports the health process.
– The last few months have been a testing time for business in general and a great opportunity for technology to better healthcare. What has happened to you and what have been the biggest challenges?
In terms of development and acceptance of telemedicine, the conditions created have increased customer desire and demand. If before the pandemic everyone was unanimous that telemedicine was the future, the state of emergency has shown unequivocally that the future is here and now and there is no benefit in delaying innovation.
The challenges are in several directions. Even with the client convinced that they need the technology immediately, it takes time for the technology to organize itself to use the capabilities. This once again proved that the future is now.
It also helped that the difficult situation created was not local, but global, and the need and application of telemedicine was being talked about more and more.
The company itself was also experiencing difficulties as the company’s revenues from other IT projects were affected and we had to fight on several fronts, but in the end the opportunities far outweighed the challenges. The hurdles themselves very often happened to energize us and give us more momentum for development. The team is more cohesive and more convinced than ever of the products and the value they offer to the person.
– What opportunities did you find and how did you take advantage of them during the crisis?
Challenges and opportunities are often two sides of the same coin. In that sense, every challenge, from keeping the team in place during the crisis to reaching our customers quickly and the right way, was a great opportunity to grow and build on. Definitely the biggest opportunity was opening the minds of customers and users to learn more about the possibilities of telemedicine. For our part, we did our best to respond to all inquiries and address each person’s needs in the quickest way possible. We think it is important to have a kind of “training” of people, mainly in order to address some of their objections and resistances, for the most part even unconscious.
– What lessons will you take from the emergency and continue to apply?
I think the main lesson is that we need a fair amount of outreach to clients that telemedicine supports, not threatens, communication and the physical exam with a doctor. It is necessary to keep their attention on the obstacles that its use overcomes so that timely action can be taken and each person can benefit from the pros of innovative technology.
– How do you assess the support from the state, from European sources, from Enterprise Europe Network Bulgaria, for better adaptation of businesses to the new conditions and for recovery?
For better or worse, we have not felt much support from the state so far for the development of telemedicine, but it seems more important not to stop the process, which is happening for the moment. As far as European sources are concerned, we have been involved in several initiatives, the development and outcome of which is yet to come. It is too early to be able to evaluate them, but it is important that they have tried to provide the opportunity and to act quickly and adequately in proposing them. The team of the Applied Research and Communications Fund, national coordinator of the EEN, with whom we communicated during the crisis, definitely provided us with adequate and timely support with information, communication and assistance in several crisis situations.
– How do you plan to develop by the end of the year? What’s next for your field?
Mainly, we are going to unleash the potential of the overall telemedicine ecosystem in Bulgaria. We have had enquiries from other countries, the implementation of which we are yet to assess. We are working on some individual solutions that may prove to be key for future deployment.
We are also considering some finer tuning of the system for a more complete experience, again guided by the benefit to the person. We are also looking at the possibility of implementing artificial intelligence, even virtual reality, into some of our developments, but again I stress that it is important that these have a practical real-world application and outcome for the human, not an end in itself.
– The Enterprise Europe Network and the Innovative Enterprise of the Year Contest community seeks to support businesses to develop innovation, internationalisation, partner search, funding. What kind of support is important to you? How have these channels worked for you so far?
For us it is definitely interesting the possibility of support in all three directions – for internationalization, partnerships and financing are beneficial for every business. So far, the EEN team has supported us in all three areas, which is valuable.
I believe that as we move into calmer waters after the crisis, we can continue to work together, and we will be better able to focus our activities around them. We are interested in working with partners and going beyond the borders of the country, and funding opportunities are important for the timely development of business ideas.
The Innovative Enterprise of the Year contest is interesting and very useful as a process, and reflects the value propositions and gives publicity. The recognition gained by taking part is rewarding for the team, but also valuable for our clients who feel even more secure in their choices.
– Would you recommend your colleagues to participate in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year Competition and why?
Absolutely, yes, we do and will continue to recommend it. Even if you don’t win, the professional evaluation and working with committed people during the process is useful feedback for the products or services being developed, and it helps to better organize and appropriately present the business model.