Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 16
kistein Monkhouse patient orator July 2020
Kistein: [00:00:00] People are now awakened to the idea that the black and brown communities are treated differently
while I was pursuing higher education, literally building my way from the ground up, I was a home health aid.
once I entered the industrialized healthcare system, I realized that it was a system that was not catering to humans.
the actual fact is it takes a doctor 11 seconds to interrupt the patient.
Now we’re in an era where everyone is aware suddenly that healthcare disparities exist.
I am not someone who comes from the backgrounds of people who are funded very easily.
Everything that I touch will be about humanizing healthcare.
Dan: [00:00:41] Hey Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here. Your host for Founders Unfound. Thanks so much for listening in. That was Kistein Monkhouse, founder, and CEO of Patient Orator, a platform that uses storytelling to improve patient experience and population health against the backdrop of COVID-19. We had a great discussion around healthcare [00:01:00] inequities and patient advocacy.
Our episode is sponsored by BLCK VC, a focused community built for and by black investors. Check out the link in the show notes for more about their exceptional programs and events. Have you ever thought about getting into venture? You definitely want to connect up at blackvc.com. That’s B-L-C-K-V-C.com.
Our hearts go out to the Lewis family, and our nation really, over the loss of John Lewis. He was a true leader who lived out his moral character with courage and conviction. His presence will be greatly missed.
As always, you can find Founders Unfound anywhere you regularly listen to podcasts and you can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.
Feel free to, or review on Apple or podchaser.com and please follow like and share to help us grow now on with the episode.
Stay safe and hope you enjoy. [00:02:00]
Hello, and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet, we bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode number 16 in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host Dan Kihanya let’s get on it today. We have Kistein Monkhouse founder and CEO of Patient Orator, a platform that uses storytelling to improve patient experience and population health.
Welcome to the show, Kistein, and thanks for making the time.
Kistein: [00:02:34] Thank you so very much for having me. I’m honored.
Dan: [00:02:36] Awesome. So let’s start off first with how are you and your family and how are things going overall? All in this Epic time of COVID-19 pandemic and the civil protest. How are you doing?
Kistein: [00:02:48] Well, I’d like to say to them, I’m most grateful for life.
In fact, I’m well and not ill. And so is my family. Although there’s been people in my extended family who have been affected by [00:03:00] COVID directly by being infected, that is, and, facing multiple different barriers in care. But I guess we’ll get into that later, but for the most part, I’m very grateful, for the fact that I’m alive and healthy during this time.
Dan: [00:03:14] Well, that’s good to hear. Yeah. I think none of us will go on effected that probably by all of this going on, when it’s all said and done so glad it’s been minimized, so help the listeners understand exactly, what is Patient Orator all about? what do you do?
Kistein: [00:03:29] Sure. We’re a digital health startup empowering the voices of underserved patients and their caregivers by providing a mobile health application that helps patients narrate their storytelling and also match patients to healthcare resources.
So the first iteration of our product is really looking at helping patients with their storytelling. Well, we know that about 97% of people have difficulties communicate in their medical symptoms. Sooner medical provider. And when we look at people of color and [00:04:00] underserved communities these are lower-income folks, these people well, face heavily by healthcare disparities, which means that they have a poor health outcome based on their income, their socioeconomic status of the color of their skin, et cetera.
So our goal and our mission really is to improve population health by empowering those voices by providing folks with the tools in the form of a mobile app that they’re best equipped to have their voices heard in their medical encounters.
Dan: [00:04:29] Great stuff. And this is one of the reasons I was excited to have you on, on the show to talk about that context of everything going on right now.
But before we dive into the company more, let’s hear more about who Kistein is and who you are and where you come from. I know you’re in New York, correct? Is that where you’re from?
Kistein: [00:04:48] So I’m an immigrant and I’m very proud to be an immigrant. I was born in South America in a country called Guyana.
And so I’m a South American English speaking have lived in New York [00:05:00] for half of my life, if not more at this point. And I consider myself a New Yorker, but most importantly, I’m a human being from this planet earth. And so grateful for again, life, I guess.
Dan: [00:05:13] Nice. What a rich heritage. I mean, you basically are an American, like everybody else, all these rich aspects to who you are and where you’re from.
So when did you come to New York? Were you still a kid or?
Kistein: [00:05:26] Yes. So I was, I was still a child when I came here. I think I was in my early teens. And so I went through high school in this country. I gained an education from the public school system in New York and have pretty much grown up here. So everything that I know is based on my lived experience as a New Yorker from interacting with everyday folks, just, immigrants, and working-class folks and people that are from diverse backgrounds.
Dan: [00:05:55] So, let’s explore this a little bit. So you came from another country as [00:06:00] a teenager, too, to do American high school, essentially that must’ve been a pretty dramatic change. What, what was that like?
Kistein: [00:06:08] It was a pretty dramatic change. And I will tell you, I’ve never discussed this on a podcast before, so this is excited and refreshing.
What was that experience like? I think when you’re, when you’re coming in from another country, you have one way of looking at things here. Your reality is at least in my case, My reality was framed. Based on my upbringing, I grew up very Christian, I would say. And just knowing this one path that existed, but then as I’m becoming an adult as a, as a young teenager or young adult, I’m now all of a sudden exposed to all of these cultures and the American way of freedom.
Speech and expression and all of these amazing things and different way of living and existed. And I think that was the opening to [00:07:00] me. I definitely, he grew a lot as an individual and a lot of the ways in which I thought things should be changed. So I would say that I just, as everyone else is learning tolerance have had to learn that, but I’ve learned that in my immigrant experience
Dan: [00:07:18] yeah, that’s great. No, that makes a lot of sense. , I think one of the things that people don’t really appreciate is, is how hard those transitions are. And even though. America’s supposed to be this, welcoming assimilation, melting pots. There’s a lot more burden on the, I think the immigrant side too, to not just only fit in, but also this idea of what you’re talking about is by definition because there are so many different cultures and backgrounds here, you have to adapt yourself essentially, right. To figuring out how to, how to maneuver and navigate that.
Kistein: [00:07:51] Absolutely. And what’s, what’s interesting. And I hadn’t thought about this before, but what’s interesting about this timeframe that we’re in, where [00:08:00] we’re in the black lives matter movement, where it’s people of color, who. People who have not had the experience of living as a person of color that is, are now awakened to the idea that the black and brown communities are treated differently in their day to day life experience in the United States.
And I think, as an immigrant when I came to this country, I have had to learn about so many different cultures and so many different ways of existence. That is not a norm to mine that, I have had to adapt to the reality of. Tolerance the, the reality of that, the fact that my way of thinking is not the best way or nor is it the only way to think.
And so I think when you speak about adaptability, it’s also looking at that tolerance piece of how is it that I am as an individual is co-existing with the different cultures and different people.
Dan: [00:08:54] Yeah, it’s fascinating. And the irony of it, I think is that, you know, those from backgrounds [00:09:00] where we’re not in the majority, we have, more of that ability to tolerance because we are looking for it. Right. And so it’s really interesting for sure. So you went to public high school in New York and that’s quite an experience.
I have several friends who went through that. And so what happens after high school? Do you have any thoughts about what you wanted to do or any lifelong dreams or anything at that point?
Kistein: [00:09:24] So before I even came to this country, I had a lifelong dream of changing the world as a child. I think I forgot the name of the movie that I watched, but I’d watched this movie and it dramatically impacted me.
And it was Hotel Rwanda and Hotel Rwanda as a child. I don’t think I should have watched that movie because it’s scarred me, but in the best possible way ever. It made me aware of the fact that there are so many differences within even a single or culture and that, there’s people that have, and there’s people that don’t have.
And so being aware of those things, [00:10:00] just kind of shaped and made me aware of the fact that I would do something different in this world have also always been inspired by Oprah. Not because she’s on television, but because of the impact of the work that she’s done. as a, as a little black girl used to watch her and my black and white TV in Guyana, and would see her.
And see the way in which she would bring communities of people together, but black and white people and Brown people and everyone in between the are fans of hers. And I think that’s a powerful thing for thinking about storytellers and the way in which they can bring folks together. And I think I’ve always been inspired by her.
And always been just in awe of her humanitarian efforts. So always knew I wanted to change the world. Just didn’t know how that would be. After I graduated high school, I didn’t have the same opportunities as the folks that I graduated high school with. I actually went to community college. Which again, I haven’t spoken about this ever in public, but [00:11:00] I went to community college because I couldn’t afford to just go right into the same level of education that everyone else went into.
And so I paid my way through community college. Into, public university and then from there went on to a master’s degree, but what’s interesting about my journey is that, uh, while I was, uh, pursuing higher education, literally building my way from the ground up, I was a home health aid. And then after I was a home health aid, I worked in a longterm care setting.
And then at my local emergency room. And so there was this repetitiveness of continuously working in healthcare settings because to me it was work that I was attracted to, but not really understanding why that is. And so, again, going back to the fact that I’d always wanted to change the world from, since I was a little girl, but not quite knowing that healthcare would be the way in which that would play out.
So in many ways, [00:12:00] Because of necessity because of the fact that, of the path that I’ve had to take, I was forced into healthcare and it just so happened that those worlds collide where the humanitarian in me and boats, everything else that I wanted to do just collided perfectly.
Dan: [00:12:16] Yeah. So let’s talk about that. I’m sensing a little chicken and egg, so hard hustle you’re working and going to school.
And so let’s talk about how did that connection for your wants and your ambitions around changing the world, connecting to health care to do you get the jobs first and then say, wow, I really want to go to school and learn how to, you know, sort of quote-unquote, master this, or did you go to school thinking?
Well, healthcare, public policy is a great place for me to do this. And then these jobs are kind of a way for me to be on the frontline to learn what’s happening, like which sort of tips. To the other first, I’m trying to understand that that’d be a really cool thing to dive into.
Kistein: [00:12:59] Most of my [00:13:00] journey has been out of necessity.
I don’t know if that makes sense, but I, my job as a home health aid is because I couldn’t get a job anger and because I couldn’t get a job anywhere else, I resorted to that. And if you look at the people who are on the front lines, in longterm care settings, and also in these professions, they’re a woman, first of all, and mainly women immigrants. And that is why you see a lot of times, these workers are, which is a whole other issue. These workers are, they have very low income and are treated very poorly in their profession. And so of necessity, that’s, that’s where I started. But, in that journey, fallen in love with, with this idea of healthcare being this healing experience where one human is interacting with another human and healing them back to strength and health. And so that’s how that happened.
Dan: [00:13:50] Wow. Makes sense. And obviously you’ve gone on to, to, like you said, you went through community college, then undergrad degree and a graduate degree.
So [00:14:00] kudos to you. I had to stop each time to do those things. I could not multitask the way that you did. So that’s really admirable. And so I imagine through both your academic work and your jobs, you really got a great idea insight into this idea of inequity in health care in the United States.
Kistein: [00:14:19] Absolutely while I was on the front lines, especially when I was working at my local emergency room. I saw that there was high hospital readmission rates, especially, or particularly for people of color and lower-income communities, but I’ve questioned. Why was it that no one was paying attention to it?
It seems as though folks for not investing. And let’s say for example, improving patient experience. And, uh, but on the flip side of that, while in the night I was, actually on the front lines, seeing this play out in the, in the daytime, I would go to school. And what I would learn is that policy public policy that is tied into every [00:15:00] experience that we have, and it accounts for why there are certain populations of people that will thrive and certain populations of people that will not thrive.
And so having that firsthand experience of exposure where black and Brown people were being readmitted for chronic illnesses that were being seen in the emergency room, as opposed to, by ongoing care, it brought awareness to a lot of these disparities that most of America is now awaking into.
Dan: [00:15:30] And this goes back to the conversation we were having a little earlier about just how people who are not vulnerable. Those inequities are now beginning to see them. It’s almost like the fog is being lifted and they’re starting to see through the eyes of those who essentially suffer. And so at some point you made the decision around starting a company and doing patient order where there were there, were there aspects of your journey that, or the catalyst for that, or is that something that you had been thinking about for a while? How did the, how did [00:16:00] the kernel of the idea come to you?
Kistein: [00:16:03] I think it was based on a buildup of frustration and moral conflict within myself. I spoke about my experience in-home care, which I loved, but once I entered the industrialized healthcare system, I realized that it was a system that was not catering to humans.
It was catering for numbers. And it throughout my journey when I was in, in longterm care. For example, providing care to the elderly. Witnessing abuse, and knowing to myself like this is just wrong. And then in actually working at my local emergency room and seeing that people of color and places that are densely right.
Populated that patient experience is so poor where people are waiting for, for care low hours, and then ultimately working in. Care coordination, where I had a patient, for example, who would lose her housing if she attended a full-time school. And those are [00:17:00] all the things that kind of collided in this one moment of, okay, the system is broken, but what are you going to do to change the narrative?
And I really just started this Patient Orator from this space of wanting to bring awareness about healthcare disparities. Because I had spent my entire early adulthood working with people from so many different backgrounds. I’m talking about black people, white people, everyone in between. And. I’ve had these amazing human connections, but I felt as though people in society were not having these experiences because we’re all caught up in our own lives and having our own experiences, I wanted to break that veal of, of otherizing humans experiences and really bringing people well together.
Because if I was seeing that there were poor white folks who were experiencing poor patient experience just as a black folks. Period, then there’s a connection there. Right? And if we can start talking about [00:18:00] why it is and what is that common denominator as to why these folks are having poor experiences, as opposed to other groups of folks, then perhaps we can change the system. And so I found the patient order with this goal of really raising awareness to these core experiences.
Dan: [00:18:17] Yeah, that’s great, that’s a great backdrop. And that let’s explore that a little bit more. We will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Kistein Monkhouse from patient order.
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Dan: [00:19:23] So we’re back with Kistein Monkhouse from Patient Orator. So Kistein, before we dive more into the company, I know one of the things that you’ve talked about, and it’s pretty visible in some of your other conversations and on the website about your own personal experience and how that informed, how and why you build Patient Orator.
Kistein: [00:19:43] Sure. So my personal experience would help disparity is so while I was building this storytelling platform, I became ill. And what happened with me was I realized that I was not being listened to. So there was a period of three years in which I was ignored [00:20:00] by medical professionals. And I’d been seen by over six different specialists.
It took the steps specialist, the seven medical providers in order for me to be prescribed pain medication and actually be taken very seriously. And in that experience, I. Took a step back and realize, wait a minute, this has been going on for three years. And I had no idea until I was in a crisis. I was not aware that this is tied to the idea that black and brown people don’t experience pain at the same level as their white counterparts.
I had no idea that any of these issues were rooted in slavery or are in any of these injustices that has happened to black and brown folks in this country. I just knew that I was someone who was always on the go, who wanted to build this company who was actually building the company and in that process was having bad days of, poor experiences.
Um, and so I took accountability and started [00:21:00] looking at and tracking. When was it that I started becoming ill and what has transpired. And that’s how I even know that I’d been seen by six books before I’d arrived at, in crisis to that seventh person who would actually take me seriously and then ultimately refer me to someone else that will take me seriously.
And so a lot of what has been built by the patient order is directly impacted by my experience, both on the front lines and as a patient myself.
Dan: [00:21:29] What would they tell you? It seems like I can only imagine the frustration and I’ve had my own personal experiences with healthcare and the dynamic you’re talking about, which is sort of getting handed off, so to speak or, or push to the next provider and getting different messages.
I mean, would they, would they tell you. Something wrong with, they tell you it’s not real. What would they, what would they be telling you?
Kistein: [00:21:53] So I’ll give you two examples. And the first is the very first time that I visited an emergency room [00:22:00] in this country or period, my first emergency room experience was I was in severe pain and had an experience, which I don’t want to get into right now.
But. It was a tragic moment in my life and I’d gone into the emergency room and I’d been discharged without any pain medication, without being taken seriously period. And then I think after that, I was referred to, I then decided that I needed special care. And then I’m continuously be seen annually for checkups.
But even in those experiences, I’ve been ignored. And I realized that one of the mistakes that I made along my journey was not happening. One particular provider and having a multitude of people within a set, let’s say practice while I would have my healthcare encounters. And even in that have not happened.
One particular person, let’s say OB-GYN, like one particular OB-GYN, let’s say dr. Mary, that I would see dr. Mary every [00:23:00] year or every six months, because I didn’t have that consistency. What happened was I was seeing different folks along the way. I would see, let’s say the nurse practitioner or anyone else, a part of the team.
And so in that, my narrative would get lost. Because I’m seeing all these different folks and they don’t really know who I am as a person. And I think the very last experience was when I was seen by a doctor who just so happens to be a black woman. And I, for instance, had to realize that I had fibroids and she said to me, you know, fibroids, shouldn’t be causing you pain in the way you’re describing it.
And at that point, I’d gone from two fibroids to four, within a couple of months. And so it was just this awakening. Yeah, it was just this rude awakening into, Oh, this shouldn’t cause you any pain. And it took me, , again that seven doctors, seven providers to actually say, we see this all the time.
This is my specialty. This is a problem that goes [00:24:00] undiagnosed because of the fact that providers don’t take women seriously. And then if you add on top of that, the color of my skin, You have someone who meets at an intersection where it’s very, very unlikely that they’d be taken seriously.
Dan: [00:24:15] Yeah, that’s a thank you for sharing that story.
And it’s so frustrating just to hear, right, because not only is it not serving the patients the best way, but it’s incredibly inefficient and probably expensive, but, you know, and probably one of the things that Patient Orator can help to solve this idea of the consistent narrative and the context. I know my, my dad who suffers from dementia and he was an immigrant and he came to the country and was pretty healthy for most of his life.
And so he didn’t even really see doctors. I think his company would give him a physical every year for free, and that was it. And so when we started to help him, he didn’t even have a primary care physician. He didn’t have any specialists. And [00:25:00] so I have a first hand peek into the frustration of talking to somebody and having to explain over and over again, what I just said as a minimum that, you know, he hasn’t had primary care history and so forth.
So, so this idea of the narrative and the context and helping patients advocate for themselves seems so powerful. So talk to us about. How does Patient Orator work and what’s, sort of the vision around how this can help and maybe give us an example or a scenario where patient order would would come in?
Kistein: [00:25:32] Sure. So we’re specifically targeted towards underserved folks. This is black and Brown people and lower-income communities, people that are over the age of 65 or Medicaid and Medicare recipients. Again, intentional about that because as a black woman who has been ignored, understand that problem very intimately and the way in which the tool works is it’s a mobile health application that is HIPAA compliant.
The patient downloads the app onto their phones. At [00:26:00] an annual subscription rate, that is affordable, they then begin to store their symptoms as it occurs, but not only are they store in your symptoms, they’re storing their symptoms in a formatted way that allows them to order a caregiver to pinpoint key information, to help their providers in the event of an emergency.
Clearly understand what the issue is. So one of the things that sometimes I even got caught up in, in the past, not knowing how to clearly articulate my problem. So I may overspeak because I’m nervous or I may tell my story differently because I am afraid or intimidated by the person that is in front of me based on their hierarchy in the healthcare delivery system.
And so what the app does is it really helps the patient store track and record your symptoms as it occurs so that when they’re in those encounters, that they’re empowered with the information that they need and the provider need so that they can be treated in the most effective manner.
[00:27:00] Dan: [00:26:59] Yeah, that’s a really interesting point about the intimidation.
I’ve experienced that too. You come in, and first of all, they’re sort of under a timeline, so they are moving quickly and they kind of give you that about 1.5 seconds, any questions, and then they move on to the next thing. And meanwhile, you’re trying to process what they just said. So, this helps the patient essentially be more prepared and more thorough in terms of what the provider’s getting as the sort of backdrop to why they’re sitting in front of them.
Kistein: [00:27:30] Exactly, and you have, you mentioned one second, the actual fact is it takes a doctor 11 seconds to interrupt the patient as they’re describing why they’re even going to that facility or for
Dan: [00:27:43] No way! 11 seconds?
Kistein: [00:27:45] In fact, it can be Googled.
It’s a study that was done within 11 seconds of a person telling their story. They will be interrupted. So, this is where this app helps because if you’re sticking to what the facts are, [00:28:00] you’re sticking to what the points are. Even if you’re interrupted, you can get right back into what the issue is and exactly what was not said and are ensuring that your voice is being heard in that encounter.
So it’s insane what those dynamics look like. I know you’ve touched on time limitation and then there’s others such as interoperability. So a patient data. From one system might not be talking to the other system. And so there’s, there’s that siloed ecosystem of where the patient data is missing in that.
How about we flip the script, which is what we’re doing, right. And help the patient with having them have their own data, their own patient-generated data so that when they’re going to those encounters, they have their, their own script. They have exactly what the issue are. They have. The medication that they’re on everything else.
And so let us, their caregiver, if that’s something that they want to share with them.
Dan: [00:28:53] Nice. So tell us about like the company itself, sort of other others working on the project, where are you in terms of the [00:29:00] journey of, creating awareness and distribution and those kinds of things?
Kistein: [00:29:03] Yeah. So we’re fully bootstrapped.
I have a team of advisors that are just amazing. And so, uh, yes, I am a solo founder, but yeah, I have this amazing team of advisors and mentors. Who’ve been a part of the journey in terms of advising of what strategies to take, et cetera, but to make it very clear, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys because of the fact that I obviously could not basically bring the point home as to why it’s important to address healthcare disparity pre COVID. Now we’re in an era where everyone is aware suddenly that healthcare disparities exist. Well, when I was pitching the idea a few years ago to angel investors, people didn’t know health deserts existed. And for folks that don’t know what a health desert is, it’s basically our food desert.
What a food desert is, is it’s when a person lives in an area where they have no [00:30:00] access to fresh produce because of cost limitation or because they’re not in proximity of those products to begin with. And so the fact that the folks that are funding startups, they’re not aware of these problems, which is natural because these are folks that are very well to do that.
That made it very difficult in this journey.
Dan: [00:30:21] Sure. That makes sense. And then in terms of the app, , where is that in the journey so far?
Kistein: [00:30:26] Yeah, so our, our app where we just, the change, huge milestone of having an MVP. And so having that MVP really right now, testing among patients. So we were starting with our small group of 20 folks to test this app to ensure that it’s working the way it’s.
Uh, intended to, and then our longterm goal is to really adapt a machine learning capabilities to really pinpoint a target and, and help with preventative care along the line. But our, we just achieved a major milestone enough, having our MVP [00:31:00] ready.
Dan: [00:31:01] Well, congratulations. That’s great. And in terms of, so the business model, I think I heard you say was kind of this annual subscription on the patient side.
Are there other partners that are connected in with this. I mean, how does it work with the healthcare providers or the insurance companies, , can you describe sort of that ecosystem around Patient Orator?
Kistein: [00:31:23] Sure. So in the longterm, our goal is to B to B to B, but right now we’re B to C where we’re going directly to the folks that need this tool.
So these are people who may have dementia, who are of a certain age or their caregivers, but our longterm goal is so we really envision a company that is really addressing healthcare disparity. And one of the most effective ways to do that is to partner with providers. And with payer systems. So, in the next, few milestones, our goal really is to get to that.
But right now we’re testing our hypothesis to say, Hey, this is a product that can really impact health [00:32:00] outcomes.
Dan: [00:32:00] Very cool. And are there specific targets or segments or conditions, maybe that you’ve started to focus on first, or is it more broad right now?
Kistein: [00:32:10] So it’s not, it’s not more broad it’s specifically for folks that are over the age of 65 that have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s or memory loss.
The purpose for that is because this is a silent epidemic. Public health crisis among African Americans. And no one is talking about it and the numbers are increasing dramatically annually in terms of the folks that are impacted by dementia. And it’s something that really needs to be addressed. So we are targeting folks, a patient population that lives with dementia or, and, or memory loss and, and yeah, that’s, that’s really our goal.
Dan: [00:32:49] Well, that’s great. Again, as somebody with family in that situation that can definitely see. That’s an important thing and the ability to have [00:33:00] documentation or, the ability to capture your thoughts, your feelings, your, symptoms, the pain you have in moments of lucidity is so critical. You know, I brought my dad into the doctor and he’s, you know, one time he’s very chipper and he was a smart guy.
He still is a smart guy deep down in there, and he could, he could just. It almost full the doctor, like there’s nothing wrong with this guy. And then the other side, you know, the conversation two minutes in, he’ll ask the same question that they just asked and so forth. And so you can’t count on those moments of, okay.
We have an appointment at four o’clock on Thursday, so you have to be able, to answer questions. Right. And so I think it’s a great place to start. It makes a lot, a lot of sense.
Kistein: [00:33:40] Sure. So coincidentally, the patient or in my home care journey, that’s exactly what my patient’s diagnosis was.
She had dementia and I was the main member or the heading member of her care team. And as the in-home caregiver, I was faced with the task of having to report her [00:34:00] symptoms. Um, and I would do that on a piece of paper or in a notebook. And then the other folks that were part of the care team such as see other AIDS and also her children would ultimately review that book.
But again, going back to what you just said, it just reminded me of what my patient would do. She would, she would have these amazing conversations over the phone with her doctors and, other folks that will call her up. And on the other end, you would never know that she had this illness. And so being someone who was in the home who was able to capture that information was so critical, but then there might have been, there might be other people who don’t have that, that particular person, where this app could help that patient, or it could help that, caregiver specifically desk in the home to help capture that data.
Dan: [00:34:47] Yeah. That makes sense. And you know, you’re absolutely right. There’s, you know, I could ask you questions about a competitive environment, you know, environment and things like that, but the advocacy patients. Representation [00:35:00] side is so lacking.
That could be a hundred companies doing this and it’s still, probably wouldn’t be enough. so, I think he really courageous for stepping out and taking this on.
Kistein: [00:35:09] Thank you. I appreciate that. But this is not about courage, it’s simply about a necessity for me. When I look across the ecosystem of the digital health tools that exist, there’s a handful that really is targeted towards people of color.
And that needs to change. And I want investors and other people in the ecosystem that there are leaders like myself that are catering to a market that is overlooked. So if you think about competitive advantage, I know who the competitors are in my space in particular, but I also know that they’re not targeted towards the patient population that I’m going after.
And the reason why I am addressing the needs of those patient population is because I’ve lived the experience. And B I know from an incentive standpoint, there aren’t much being done to address these issues.
Dan: [00:35:57] point taken well said, we will take [00:36:00] another short break to hear from our sponsor.
And we’ll be right back with Christine Monkhouse from patient order.
BLCKVC: [00:36:07] Hi, this is Jean-Claude from BLCK VC. We’re a community created to connect, engage, empower, and advance black venture investors. And the best part is we’re built for and by black venture investors. In these unprecedented times, our mission has become clearer than ever.
Black founders and investors are underrepresented and undercapitalized in the startup ecosystem. If you’re an investor, an entrepreneur or aspiring to be either one BLCK VC is working hard to help you find a community and the resources. If you need to further your journey to learn more about the events and the programs that we do, right.
Follow us on Twitter at black VC. It’s B-L-C-K VC. Or visit us on our website at blackvc.com. That’s B-L-C-K vc.com. Yep. You heard that correctly? No “A”.At BLCK VC. We believe that we are the change that we see and together we’re stronger. We hope that you’ll join us. [00:37:00]
Dan: [00:37:08] So we’re back with Kistein Monkhouse from Patient Orator. So Kistein, you mentioned it on the line segment. Can you tell us a little bit more about what your experience has been in terms of raising money? I know you said you’ve been bootstrapped and you had some initial experiences. What’s, what’s been your overall experience with trying to raise money either early on or more recently.
Kistein: [00:37:29] So I’m finally at a place where I’m not pursued or aggressively pursuing a venture capital because I gain a clearer understanding of how the ecosystem works. I understand that we’re early stage. And so I understand the mindset that the investor is, where it’s all about. Where is the dollar sign? Right.
Very early on. I made the mistake. Speak of pitching an idea. And I did not understand that being someone who’s from a disadvantaged background, that the same rules of [00:38:00] the game doesn’t apply to me. And so I’ve had to learn that the hard way in terms of investing a lot of time into pursuing or trying to pursue people are raising awareness about this issue of healthcare disparity and empowering the voices of people of color and other lower-income folks.
I wasted a lot of time doing that. And now what I’ve done completely 360 is focused more on delivering a product to the people who will use the product. And I think once I’ve done that now I’ve positioned myself where Patient Orator is, growing much faster. And we’re making much more progress than taking investor meetings, for example or wasting everyone’s time in terms of trying to pitch an idea.
When now we have a product that we can demonstrate and go after a hypothesis or proving the hypothesis.
Dan: [00:38:48] That’s a great insight. And for Unfound Nation out there, that’s a great little nugget, the timing of where your company is, and when you seek outside funding really can be optimized to [00:39:00] align so that the timing works. And so if you’re too early, it’s, it can be a challenge. And like Kistein is saying, , you’re viewed with a different lens then if you have progress. And so that’s definitely something, that’s a great lesson that you’re sharing. So one of the questions I would have is you, I mean, your business, your mission is around inequity. Do you feel aspects of inequity as a black woman founder out in the business world?
Kistein: [00:39:28] Of course I do. I, of course, I do. I recently have been taking some time to think about my journey and have been very introspective about the fact that I am not someone who comes from the backgrounds of people who are funded very easily.
I just gave the example of people who were funded based off of a napkin idea, for example, I know that that’s not something that happened in my case, for example. So as a founder of [00:40:00] Patient Orator, I would say that I’ve had to stop and think and not put too much pressure on myself about achieving these ridiculous goals that other founders can achieve because they have investment dollars behind them.
And so again, , once I realized that the game that I was playing would be completely different. Because of the fact that, the color of my skin and the fact that I’m a woman, I just accepted that and focus more on the product and focus more on who are the people that I’m building for. So I think mindset related, it’s really about not taking these things personal for me.
And this is coming from a place of where I’ve recently gotten to, of not taking these things personally and just really focus on building a company that is going to ultimately create the impact that I’m seeking to create.
Dan: [00:40:53] That’s so liberating, right? It’s to have the, yeah, they say, you know, you can be [00:41:00] raising money or running your company, but it’s hard to do both at the same time.
It’s very hard. And so that’s refreshing that you kind of came to that place where you could focus on I’m serving customers, I’m serving the marketplace, I’m serving patients, and I’m going to continue to focus on that, which is, which is awesome. So tell us about, , I know you have a, you recently come out with a documentary.
Tell us about that journey. Cause you don’t hear a lot of entrepreneurs who basically create stories like that. So tell us about that.
Kistein: [00:41:30] Yes. So I created an award-winning documentary titled humanizing healthcare. Again, everything that I touch will be about humanizing healthcare. I, again, going back to my background of wanting to change the world.
When I was on the front lines, what I was seeing was disparities. The fact that people were not being treated equally or that they have poor health outcomes and wanting to raise awareness about that. I found the patient order and I started filming and putting this content out there, but [00:42:00] not really putting it in a way that would tell a whole story.
And that’s where humanizing healthcare the documentary comes into play. It teaches about health inequities from the perspective of the patient, but it also looks at the historical standpoint of healthcare disparities as it exists. And so you will hear a lot in the media about social determinants of health, at least in my role.
You do you hear a lot about social determinants of health, but what that is is where a person live, play. , work, et cetera. These aspects of their lives impacts their health outcomes. And so this documentary looks at the way in which folks are treated black and brown folks, people with mental health issues and all these other stakeholders and looking at the way in which they’re treated.
It educates folks about again, health care disparities, and educate folks about poor health outcomes. But most importantly, it activates everyone to [00:43:00] be participants in their care. So you’ll hear from providers about the fact that healthcare, that implicit bias exists. In, in the healthcare setting and you’ll hear from historians about the fact that these are issues tied to slavery.
And then you’ll hear from patients who are people of color or poor white folks who are saying here, we’re not treated in a humanized way and we need a system that will foster humanism. But then in the end you’ll ultimately learn that we all have to play active girls as citizens. To ensure that the policies that are being developed on behalf of the people that need it the most.
And that’s just the activist in me coming out.
Dan: [00:43:46] I love it. That, you know, as somebody who is a dabbler in media, I know what effort. It takes to produce high-quality content. And so to make a full documentary is a, is a tremendous effort. So [00:44:00] it’s very cool. I’ve seen it and it’s it’s really well done.
So you talked a little bit about the kind of advisor team slash mentor network support. You have maybe talk a little bit about how has that helped you? Has it been easy to manage? talk about that dynamic, I guess, because I think our audience likes to hear, what does mentorship mean? How is it impactful? Maybe talk a little bit about that on your side.
Kistein: [00:44:26] Sure. So there are two different types of mentors that I have, I would say they’re formal.
And then they’re informal. And I think sometimes I would see in a third where it collides. Right? So I would talk about the folks that have impacted my journey, which are women of color who have basically given me advice at various points in my journey. So up until very up until this very year, I would say, I didn’t know that there were other black women who faced the same journey that I do in terms of having to educate [00:45:00] people like tremendously before you can even get into the door or continue on in that fundraising process.
I didn’t know this existed, but it took getting around a group of incredible high achieving black women in health tech and digital health to really listen and learn from them about their particular journey and the journeys of others. So that’s informal, I think the mentorship situation that resulted in me being both awake and, and aware of what the, what the landscape looks like.
And then there are other cases where, for example, because I’m not a technical founder, I would meet with folks let’s say once a month. And they would provide advice based on the particular part of my journey. That I’m a part of, like, let’s say before, I had product advice on what I should be asking developers when I’m interviewing them or, or what are my priorities and how to set up the timelines and things like that. [00:46:00] So I think that that, that mentorship relationship has played a huge journey because I, in no way hold the answers to everything. I just know that this is the product that I’m creating because of the impact that I want to ultimately leave. And having these relationships in place have helped me navigate the journey of how to go from idea to a finished product, which will ultimately lead to the impact that I’m creating.
Dan: [00:46:26] Love it that’s such an important aspect of the entrepreneurial journey for everybody has the ability to be coached and to seek out those, those hacks and those shortcuts and those things that will help you avoid, you know, mistakes or, or going down the wrong path. So as we get ready to wrap up, one of the questions we like to ask is if you could go back in time to say the five years ago, Kistein, and give yourself advice about the entrepreneurial journey, what to expect, what to look out for, what to do or not to. So anything that comes to mind that you feel [00:47:00] like you would let her in on?
Kistein: [00:47:02] First of all, I’d like to say that I wouldn’t change anything about my journey because of the wisdom that I’ve gained. And I don’t think anyone will understand that even though the journey that I’ve had has not been the easiest.
This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my entire life is to pursue a mission of improving the lives and will be in of other people. And if I can go five years ago, or even if I can speak to an entrepreneur, that’s thinking about going into entrepreneurship, I would say start planning early.
Start networking. I spent the last two years of my life, but networking across the healthcare and digital health ecosystem, it took so much effort and it took so much of my time because I didn’t have the social network to stand on. And so now I’m in a space where people know who I am, but that is still not enough.
In order for me to reach the milestones and the goals and, and [00:48:00] grow in the way that Patient Orator intends on growing. So I would say start networking early, building relationships, managing those relationships, being realistic about what can be accomplished, and just don’t give up. It makes any sense.
Dan: [00:48:17] Absolutely. And you’re so right about the wisdom, right? That’s what they say. Right? The learning happens when we have missteps or we have setbacks or we have failures or crises. It’s hard to have the same level of insights when things are going well. Well, this has been a great conversation and as we wrap up, first of all, is there ways that people can find out more about Patient Orator and also about the documentary that you want to share? There are ways for people to get ahold of you or if they want more information. What would you like to share?
Kistein: [00:48:46] So personally, I am very visible on social media. I can be found @KisteinM that’s K I S T E I N. And the letter M., also you can find more information about a documentary by a [00:49:00] patientorator.com and also about the app that we’re building.
We do plan on revamping our website in the very near future, but, uh, if you need to get a hold of me or the work that we’re doing, please do visit the website or just email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan: [00:49:18] Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Kistein. I really appreciate you taking the time. This has been a wonderful conversation.
Kistein: [00:49:23] Thank you. I’m honored for this opportunity. I appreciate the work that you’re doing.
Dan: [00:49:28] We’d like to thank our guests, Kistein Monkhouse and our sponsor BLCK VC. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento. That’s listen, T O. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.
This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya.
Editing and production by Internet Radio Corporation.
Social media, and other motion by Omama Marzuq.
Our music was composed by:
I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound. [00:50:00]
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