A Step towards Innovative Telemedicine - A Conversation with the CTO of Remmie
Zhan Wang, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and co-founder of Remmie, never stops pursuing his goals. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Zhan found himself becoming deeply interested in computer science during the early 2000s, when internet services were globally booming. Following his computer science interest, Zhan decided to change his career path.
After Zhan obtained his master’s degree in Computational Linguistics from Tsinghua University, he went to the University of Utah in 2008 to further study Computer Science. This year, as a senior software engineer with 8 years of experience in major technology companies, Zhan pivoted his career path again. He jumped into the healthcare technology industry after asking himself and the high-tech world a simple question -- “So what is the next big thing?”
During a conversation with Zhan, he shared his computer science vision of developing an innovative ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) monitor and discussed his CTO plan of growing Remmie into a technology company.
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How was Remmie Monitor produced? What has motivated you to work on this product with the background of a software engineer?
Zhan: Today people are more concerned about the quality of their lives than before. So, I saw a valuable opportunity in combining my experiences in both software engineering and Internet services with the next big thing, telemedicine. It was a very natural decision for me to choose Remmie. From my perspective, Remmie has a very bright future.
The Remmie Monitor was developed from two parts: the hardware part and the software part. The hardware part is about the design and manufacturing of the otoscope. The software part includes the Remmie App and the backend services, which are the domains that I’ve been working on. These are basically the two main parts of Remmie.
Q: Remmie Monitor is the first FDA-registered connected ENT monitor; what is your vision to develop Remmie from an innovative perspective?
Zhan: That's the core thing I'm thinking everyday actually. Our innovation is that we are embedding the connected otoscope into the telemedicine industry. This industry has existed for several years and plenty of telemedicine startups have grown to become public companies. However, although it’s become a booming and relevant industry this year, it’s still in a very early stage. Most telemedicine platforms only have conversation-mode, it's not a complete medication process because they don’t have devices to monitor symptoms. Remmie is different. It's not just the otoscope. It brings a renovation to the telemedicine industry. It makes the industry much more powerful. When doctors ask about a patient’s symptoms via video chat, they can also take a look at it through a compatible device. This is further implemented by Remmie and was not possible in the last few years.
We started with a focus on ENT diseases, and in the future, our plan is to expand it to apply to more illnesses and monitor other symptoms. So that's where Remmie stands. Remmie is like a big building block for the telemedicine industry. If telemedicine is a house, Remmie bolsters the doors and windows. Without this kind of functional device, I don't think telemedicine is a complete medication process and it cannot provide a quality alternative to in-person medication.
Q: As a medication solution to the ENT problem, what are some advantages of Remmie compared to other otoscopes on the market?
Zhan: Some devices have similar functions to Remmie, more or less, but we can always differentiate them from us. Competing companies and devices will usually build enclosed systems for themselves. They are contracted with exclusive telemedicine services, which greatly limits their user scope. Remmie is available for all the telemedicine systems and all medical practitioners, such as clinics and hospitals. So that's where I think the advantage of Remmie is. We provide a broader range of services to users. Also, Remmie allows for users to easily stream what is captured. What the Remmie otoscope captures can be streamed directly and in real-time to a doctor.
Q: What are some new features that will be developed in the next generation of Remmie Monitor? And when will it be announced to launch？
Zhan: The Remmie Monitor that we launched this September, the first generation, demonstrates what Remmie is and what Remmie can do. It is a powerful alternative solution to in-person medication and for receiving professional evaluations of ear-nose-throat symptoms. We are currently exploring the opportunity to allow our customers to have broader options to connect the Remmie Monitor with their smartphone. This will provide more convenience to users. Also, the streaming service itself will be a part of Generation Two, and this is the main advancement from Generation One. With the improvement of hardware, the streaming can be more fluent and easier to use.
Another aspect is the addition of visualizing modes for professionals to see the patient’s captured symptoms. We’re currently exploring WebRTC streaming for the next generation. (*Editor’s note: WebRTC provides point to point real-time video communication services that are applicable for web browsers or mobile applications). So, this will be the improvement of software and hardware. As I said, Remmie production has two parts and both parts will have a breakthrough in the second generation. Most of the new features will be gradually introduced in the Spring of 2021.
Q: As a software engineer and the co-founder of Remmie, what can we expect from Remmie as a technology company? Do you have any passion for growing Remmie into a software company?
Zhan:I think it's generally a technology company. As I said, we started from ENT, but later we want to add more functionalities, surely there will be some additions to the hardware part. If we focus on developing software, the hardware upgrade will be needed as well. It's not just about software because if the hardware is under-developed, it becomes an obstacle for exploring more software functions. Whether Remmie will be more inclined to be a hardware company or software company? I don’t have an answer for now because I don't want to confine myself and the company to this definition. I would say it's a technology company. It’s a medical device. Take CT scanners as an example, the CT scanners that we see in hospitals have developed very fast from generation to generation. They are much different today than they were 20 years ago, when invented. If you ask me If I’d think whether that's a software thing or a hardware thing, I would say both, so same to Remmie.
Edited by Tianyuan Xie