Simon Lorenz, founder and managing director of Klara, wants to change the way doctors communicate. Originally a telemedicine company focused on dermatology, this German-born company has morphed into a communication hub that Lorenz hopes will become the central nervous system of the healthcare system. How? Introduce a little sleek German engineering to the American telemedicine market.
TeleMedMag: Tell us a bit about Klara.
Simon Lorenz: Basically it’s an intelligent system that doctors can use to communicate securely. For any kind of chat. They can also send payment requests and charge the patients very simply by just hitting one button. It’s also a portal that connects the entire team. We don’t see the doctor as the sole user of the system. You have to integrate the nurses and the PAs because they handle so much of the patient communications. Klara facilitates that kind of collaboration. Eventually, doctors on the system will not only be able to talk to patients and their staffs, but they’ll be able to collaborate with other doctors. We want to become the central communications system in the healthcare market; like the central nervous system for communication in healthcare. I know that’s a bold statement.
TeleMedMag: Who are Klara’s primary users?
Lorenz: Our target audience are mostly single and joint practices. However, we are planning on having three pilot hospitals that are going to work with us.
TeleMedMag: Klara is open to any specialty?
Lorenz: Yes. We want to see communications as open as possible; so doctors can use our system to just generally communicate or support staff can use our system to generally communicate with patients in a very easy way. If the patient or the doctor sees that an online visit makes sense, then they can actually do an online visit with our system as well. That part is simple – It’s asking a certain number of questions and sending in pictures or having a video call, right?
TeleMedMag: You first launched Klara in Germany. What was the impetus for making the jump to New York?
Lorenz: We realized that the U.S. market is a very good fit, as the U.S. healthcare system has already implemented newer technologies I would say in comparison to other countries. You have EMR companies, HIPAA compliance regulations and the necessary infrastructure.
TeleMedMag: How has your European perspective influenced Klara’s development?
Lorenz: In Germany we are very detailed and quality driven. I think German engi- neering has always been a sign for quality and detail and design especially. And I would really say that these are the things that make us stick out as well. Because we think that design is very, very important. We believe that the use of our software
or our solution should be an experience, and an enjoyable one. It has to be nice and easy. Because of this focus on design and usability, we might move a little slower because we want to understand the details. For instance, when we started the com- pany, we focused on a low number of users in order to understand how we can actually do this. For over two years we analyzed the technology behind of B2C teledermatology, then B2B teledermatology. Then we went and opened up our system for general communication.
TeleMedMag: So you transitioned from a more traditional telemedicine company (focusing on telederm) to your current form as a broad healthcare communication platform. Why did you make that transition?
Lorenz: In 2014, we were looking purely at telemedicine. And then by the end of that year, we looked at it and we saw that telemedicine as a standalone platform, based on our experience, was not going to be the most successful. We realized at the end of 2014 that our product needed to be a complementary thing, something that comes alongside the communication that’s already happening with the [doctor] communication. Everybody speaks about telemedicine, but I don’t think the sweet spot has been found yet. If you think about it, doctors have been practicing telemedicine ever since phones existed. Now that communication is generally moving to messaging, it is clear that there is a need for a secure messaging platform that is designed for the medical environment. Teladoc may have gone public but I know they have difficulties in building up their B2C model. We saw these challenges, and then noticed that our doctors were using our telemedicine system in a very different way than expected. We saw that they were using it for general communication, to funnel the patient in and build a relationship with them and then get them into their practice. They were also using the system for online follow-up visits and for general questions from the patient. We found that every doctor, and every practice, was different in how they used the system. Doctors want to have a system that gives them all the possibilities for communicating with their patients in an easy way.
TeleMedMag: How big is the Klara team?
Lorenz: We are in total about 30 people and we are growing.
TeleMedMag: What kind of trajectory do you think you’re on?
Lorenz: In terms of our staff, it’s not so much about the quantity of people as the experience and the quality of the people we are gathering. In terms of customers, we want to have millions of users that are using Klara.
TeleMedMag: There’s a wide range of options for revenue models for companies like yours. What’s your model?
Lorenz: Our model is that you can have Klara for free. Our aim is to build the biggest medical communication network.
We want to monetize when the provider makes more money via the use of Klara. So one revenue stream is that doctors can collect balances (copays, down payments, cosmetic holds, telehealth visits etc.). When they do that we take a transaction fee similar to what credit card companies charge. There will be more and more premium features like that that enable doctors to make more money via Klara. If you want to have customized integrations and features then you will be able to get Klara “Premium”.
So you can have the basic concept for free. Why do we offer it for free? Because if you enable doctor-to-doctor communication, when a doctor invites a different doctor to use the system, you have to be for free that this person can actually use your system in order to communicate back. We also want people to experience at first how easy it is.
TeleMedMag: What is Klara’s price tag?
Lorenz: Klara “Basic” is free and can be used with an unlimited number of patients and colleagues. If you want to collect money via Klara then you pay a small transaction fee. In the future we will have more revenue related premium features. Klara “Premium” is $99 per month per doctor. So if you have a multi-specialty group, we don’t bill for the nurses or the PAs or the patients or anyone; we just bill for the doctor accounts.