By Riley Kaminer
Have you ever heard someone in a hospital shout, “Hey Alexa, order me a ventilator”?
Maybe not. But you will soon, if this healthtech startup has any say in the matter.
Courtney Richards, Miramar-based Founder and CEO of DMEconnected, is working to make complex medical purchases as easy as ordering a book from Amazon.
Richards and Co-Founder/COO Alex Casillas have developed an online marketplace that helps procurement professionals in hospitals and doctors’ offices source the medical equipment their patients need. The platform, which is free for medical providers and hospitals, provides detailed vendor and sales rep information including the insurance plans accepted, the vendor's location, and services provided. It also has a telemedicine portal for physicians to consult with patients.
Vendors and sales representatives pay a subscription fee to gain access to DMEconnected. But Richards told Refresh Miami that the platform is valuable because it enables sales reps to sell to clients without having to be physically present. He explained that this ability to work remotely was crucial in the face of the pandemic, when salespeople could no longer walk into their clients’ offices and help them in person.
“Sales reps build relationships in the field,” Richards said. “Sometimes your clients want to ask quick questions, and if you’re not available, then you lose business.” Availability is no longer a problem, Richards noted, if salespeople can have their online marketplace open 24/7. And this potential market is huge: there are over 150,000 medical sales reps across the US.
The platform is quickly gaining traction. “We have experienced month over month growth in sales, website traffic and partnerships,” said Richards. “Our brand awareness is also on the rise.” Richards reports that the most popular products on the platform are respiratory related items such as Oxygen Therapy and CPAPs.
Timing worked in DMEconnected’s favor. The business incorporated in 2019, but Richards said they really launched and started working with customers in February 2020 – coinciding with the pandemic and the shift towards remote-first medical sales. That transition to digital enabled Richards to scale his team to eight people within the first year of business, with scope to expand in the next few months.
One of DMEconnected’s top priorities for 2021 is to develop an Amazon Alexa-powered tool that takes this digitization to the next level. “Instead of searching for a product, users can ask Alexa,” said Richards. Placing orders by voice command, according to Richards, “alleviates a lot of back and forth” between customers and sales reps.
Richards is excited about artificial intelligence (AI) tools like Alexa. “We’re just at the beginning stages of AI,” he said, noting that the technology has the potential to help mitigate the effects of major societal shifts like America’s rapidly-aging population.
The medical sales industry can be complicated to navigate, requiring careful consideration of compliance issues while also understanding patients’ and procurement professionals’ needs. Richards leverages his “years in the trenches” working at a medical supply company and a manufacturer to develop what he hopes is an easy-to-use, helpful platform.
“We’re always thinking about what will make sense for the medical end user. We want to make sure that providers see value,” Richards said.
Originally hailing from Jamaica, Richards spent significant amounts of time in New York and Atlanta before settling in South Florida. “I’d always wanted to live here,” Richards says of the greater Miami area, “I love the city and culture.”
Noting the “constant growth” of the South Florida tech scene, Richards expressed excitement about helping the ecosystem mature. “No longer do you need to have a company in the Silicon Valleys of the world,” he said.
He was particularly attracted to Miramar because it allows for easy access both to Miami and the Fort Lauderdale Airport. While DMEconnected’s team is currently working remotely, Richards plans to open a local office in the near future.