Founder with 25 Years of Experience in Digital Health. Digital Health Interviews: Amir Kishon - image

Founder with 25 Years of Experience in Digital Health. Digital Health Interviews: Amir Kishon

Welcome to our new episode of Digital Health Interviews! Unlike the usual video where our host Alex Koshykov is familiar with the guests through social media or not at all, this episode presents a unique narrative. Alex is set to interview a figure from his past, someone who was once his superior when working at the company nearly a decade ago. The guest, Amir Kishon, is remembered for his visits to Ukraine, which were marked by productive and inspiring meetings.

Venturing into Digital Health: Amir Kishon’s Story

Amir Kishon holds a Ph.D. in computer science, which often prompts him to use the title “doctor,” leading to a common misconception that he hails from a healthcare background. However, this is not the case. Upon completing his academic journey, Kishon surveyed the landscape of opportunities and felt compelled to merge his expertise in software with the healthcare sector. It was a pioneering moment when he declared, “Let’s take healthcare and digital!” This decision, taken in the early ‘90s, was akin to experimenting with a new recipe, mixing distinct ingredients to see what could emerge. Kishon humorously refers to this as a “mistake,” but only in a tongue-in-cheek manner, acknowledging the digital health industry’s continuous transformation and efforts to align with healthcare over the past quarter-century.

The Evolution of “Remedy Health”

“Remedy Health” was Amir Kishon’s venture into the burgeoning field of digital health solutions. The startup aimed to empower organizations with technology that they could easily configure themselves, reminiscent of the early days of low-code or no-code platforms. It was designed to be as user-friendly as Squarespace or Wix for creating patient engagement applications. Kishon fondly recalls, “With ‘Remedy…’ you can create your app in a nice afternoon taking care of your diabetic patients or tracking high-risk pregnancies.”

The journey with “Remedy Health” spanned 17 years, culminating in an acquisition that led to Kishon’s departure. Four years have passed since he embarked on his next entrepreneurial endeavor. Reflecting on “Remedy Health,” Kishon views it as a tripartite entity, akin to a Shakespearean troupe where the same actors perform different plays. It began as dietwatch.com, an online dieting platform, which then pivoted into Wellness Layers to provide technology to diet organizations like NutriSystem, Medifast, and Atkins. The final act was transforming into a packaged online SaaS solution for consumer engagement.

Kishon’s entrepreneurial philosophy is shaped by the belief that a young company has a specific lifespan and must continually reinvent itself to stay relevant. This agility and lean approach to business was carried over to his new company, Twig, which embraced the Lean Startup methodology from the outset.

Regarding the numerous pivots and the eventual rebranding of “Remedy Health,” Kishon admits that it was a daunting process. He explains, “It’s scary, but… it’s just survival! You want to feed your children, so you need to change.” This constant search for solid ground and the willingness to adapt were the driving forces behind the company’s evolution.

Navigating the Highs and Lows

For Amir Kishon, the journey with “Remedy Health” was a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The most challenging times oscillated between moments of grand ambition and stark survival, a common experience for those in the startup world without substantial backing. Kishon describes this fluctuation as going from “Oh, I’m going to be a billionaire” to “How do I survive?” in a single day, embodying the existential duality of entrepreneurial life.

Despite being a relatively small entity, “Remedy Health” managed to capture the attention of industry giants like Medtronic, IBM, and the American Heart Association. Kishon attributes this success to serendipity as much as skill, noting that sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Even so, securing partnerships with such organizations could take up to 18 months, with a project with Medtronic taking about three months to initiate.

Kishon likens entrepreneurs to dogs, unbothered by size, and encourages embracing a certain naivety. He reflects on entering daunting situations without regard for his company’s size, advising, “Don’t think about your size, think like a dog.”

Following his departure from “Remedy Health,” which was acquired by OptimizeRx, Kishon continued to observe the company’s trajectory. He likens companies to DNA strands that retain their essence even after mergers. Kishon’s leadership style never veered towards autocracy; instead, he fostered a team-oriented atmosphere. He believes in balancing a focus on financials with product passion, stating, “I think it’s very important that you will always have your eyes on the money… But on the other hand, I should say I’m a Steve Jobs-ian, so the product is key and you need to love what you do.” This philosophy underscores the dual priorities that have guided his career: financial prudence and product excellence.

The Entrepreneurial Journey of Amir Kishon

Shortly after departing from OptimizeRx, Amir Kishon embarked on a new venture, Twig Health. Reflecting on his entrepreneurial path, Kishon remarked, “You need to be addicted to the pain.” This sentiment captures the essence of his relentless pursuit of innovation, despite the challenges that come with starting a new company.

Kishon’s new venture was born out of a desire to address the varied problems he had encountered in his previous experiences. He was struck by the disparity in outcomes when different organizations implemented the same technology — some achieved an impressive 80% engagement rate, while others faltered, with a staggering 90% failure rate. This led him to question the factors contributing to such divergent results.

Upon deeper analysis, Kishon realized that the key to success was not solely in the technology itself but in the holistic integration of technology, people, and processes. He believed that successful companies prioritize their people and processes to effectively incorporate technology. Emulating the approach of Steve Jobs and Apple, Twig Health aimed to control all three components, offering a comprehensive turnkey solution.

Inspired by the Apple Store’s Genius Bar, Kishon sought to create an optimization layer within healthcare organizations. This layer would enhance patient engagement and streamline communication between patients and technicians, ultimately transforming healthcare teams into “superheroes.”

Kishon acknowledged that despite efforts to avoid past mistakes, they sometimes recur. He noted that while certain technologies may appear promising, they often fail to resonate with patients who prefer personal interaction over automated systems. With this in mind, Twig Health decided to leverage SMS text messaging, a widely accepted technology, to design their product.

This approach underscores Kishon’s commitment to creating user-friendly solutions that prioritize the human element in healthcare technology.

Dispelling Outsourcing Myths

Amir Kishon has been a proponent of outsourcing development for years, and he addressed the skepticism surrounding it. Kishon emphasized the importance of viewing the outsourced team as an integral part of the organization, rather than a separate entity. He shared, “Once you establish that, it just flies upwards.” This quote encapsulates his belief in the power of collaboration and relationship-building, regardless of geographical boundaries.

Kishon’s experience with the team in Ukraine mirrored the close-knit dynamics of his local team in Tel Aviv. He found no discernible difference in the quality of work, attributing success to the strength of the relationships formed. For Kishon, the modern development landscape is modular, and best practices, such as an agile approach, make outsourcing a logical choice. He has witnessed firsthand the benefits of this approach across three different companies, challenging the notion that onsite teams are necessary for developing HIPAA-compliant software. His insights suggest that with the right mindset and management practices, outsourcing can be a financially sensible and effective strategy for software development.

Final Insights from Amir Kishon

Our guest believes that success in this space requires a deep understanding of its unique challenges, including stringent regulations and the diverse motivations of stakeholders. Kishon advises, “JLT — Just Lean Tenacity,” emphasizing the need for flexibility and the willingness to adjust one’s approach frequently.

Kishon’s journey has taught him that engaging solutions in digital health cannot be static or impersonal; they must resonate with users on a personal level. He cautions against ideas that seem innovative on paper but fail to connect with the end-users, labeling them as “dead on arrival.”

For early-stage startup founders, Kishon underscores the importance of tenacity and persistence. He candidly shares his own experiences with mistakes and the continuous learning they have afforded him. His advice is to embrace these errors, learn from them, and maintain forward momentum.

Kishon sees the current state of healthcare as ripe for innovation, likening it to an open field where technology can make a significant impact. He points out that while other industries are saturated with technology, healthcare still operates with outdated systems, presenting a unique opportunity for digital health startups. Kishon finds profound satisfaction in the industry, not just for the technological advancements but for the tangible help these innovations provide to people, making it a rewarding field both professionally and personally.

Our previous episode was with Kat (Kovalchik) McDavitt: Medicaid needs more innovators!


Alex Koshykov
Alex Koshykov (COO) with more than 10 years of experience in product and project management, passionate about startups and building an ecosystem for them to succeed.
Mariia Maliuta
Mariia Maliuta (Copywriter) "Woman of the Word" in BeKey; technical translator/interpreter & writer

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