The Origin and Evolution of FirstHx: A Tale of Persistence and Innovation

The Origin and Evolution of FirstHx: A Tale of Persistence and Innovation

June 4, 2024
FirstHx Origin

Author: Dr. Mark Benaroia, Board Chairman and Co-Founder

The journey to modern-day FirstHx (First History) is a story I love to tell. They say success is built on failures, and it’s rare to succeed with your first Startup. This has certainly been true for us.

In 1995, amid the vibrant academic atmosphere of the University of Toronto, I was an undergrad student who found himself at the crossroads of life sciences and a burgeoning field—artificial intelligence. Although destined for medicine, I harbored a fascination for math, physics, philosophy, and the new frontier of neural networks and AI. The allure of AI/ML’s potential applications across various fields was undeniable, yet it was a vision ahead of its time.

Fast forward to medical school, where the seeds of FirstHx were sown. My co-founder, Roman Elinson, and I were first-year medical students, constantly engaged in discussions about improving patient care. Roman, with his entrepreneurial spirit, was convinced that there was a more efficient way to collect medical histories. From these discussions, the concept of a sophisticated, patient-directed history-taking system was born—a vision to transform the physician-patient interaction and improve patient-centered care.

The road to innovation, however, is rarely straightforward. As mere med students, we faced the daunting task of creating a product that emulated the diagnostic reasoning of seasoned physicians. Determined, we sought advice from mentors, experts, and tech professionals. Their support was overwhelming, fueling our belief that technology could indeed transform patient care.

In 1998, was born (our first attempt at FirstHx). By 2000, we had developed our first tool, initially a differential diagnosis engine, and later refocused solely on history taking due to liability issues. Running on a Windows 98 system and a hefty tablet, our creation had over 1,000 coded differential diagnoses, impressively capturing patient data. Our efforts culminated in a feasibility study during my internal medicine residency at the University of Western Ontario, validating our innovative approach.

Yet, the early 2000s were not kind to us. By 2005, had dissolved and our dreams seemed to fade. However, 2008 brought a glimmer of hope when a US-based hospital system expressed interest in our solution. Rejuvenated, Roman and I formed Computer Medical Solutions, updating our algorithms for the US market. Despite our efforts, success remained elusive.

Reflecting on the years of development and setbacks, we realized that a ground-breaking idea alone wasn’t enough. The market needed to be ready. Our product demanded a significant shift in medical care processes, patient data collection, and system integration—changes that were premature for the early 2000s.

Then, the tides turned. As technology began reshaping medicine, discussions about clinical decision support tools and AI/ML applications resurfaced. Sensing the market’s readiness, we founded FirstHx in 2017 with a small, but dedicated team. By 2019, we had a prototype and initial funding, gaining traction within our networks. Just as we prepared for a major hospital integration, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, derailing our plans. Ironically, this disruption became the catalyst that spurred early success. The pandemic accelerated virtual care adoption, making our solution more relevant than ever.

By 2021, we recognized the need for seasoned business expertise, leading to the recruitment of our current CEO. With his guidance, FirstHx flourished. Our team grew to 35 members, and our product went live in Canada, the US, and the Middle East.

Today, FirstHx empowers patients, enhances clinician-patient encounters, and improves overall efficiency. Our evidence-based, clinician-built approach ensures our product evolves with real-time changes, meeting the dynamic needs of medical history taking. The journey of FirstHx has been long and winding, marked by failures and driven by an unwavering vision to harness technology for better patient care. As a practicing physician, I witness daily the challenges in healthcare, reaffirming our mission. Ultimately, we are all patients, striving for a future where accessible, efficient healthcare is a reality for everyone.


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