May 11, 2017
Healigo – Changing the Way Physical Therapists and Their Patients Connect

Nick Fontana was an employee of Deloitte, working in their healthcare technology practice. Fontana’s work involved a lot of back office systems projects, and he gained a look inside how the health care business works. It was also at the consulting agency where he met his future business partner, Dave Lemoine.

He later went on to work for the Massachusetts Health Connector when the Affordable Care Act was being passed. Fontana and the rest of his team dealt with the challenge of switching from a Romneycare exchange to a Massachusetts' state-based Obamacare exchange platform.

Nick Fontana, Co-Founder and CEO of Healigo
Nick Fontana, Co-Founder and CEO of Healigo

Fontana’s extensive career with the inner workings of health care helped him notice a trend with health care institutions. “One of the things that has always has stuck out in health care is the big gap between visits,” he says. “There was this lack of transparency and technology. I also couldn’t get over how much paper was being used.”

There were two instances in Fontana’s personal life that also served as inspiration for his future career change; his wife, Brittney, had a simple nasal surgery and was asked to fill out information regarding her next visit, in a hard-to-follow packet of information and while still recovering from anesthesia. The other incident involved his grandmother, who was recovering from a fall and having trouble deciphering the physical therapy exercise papers.

Fontana took note of the use of medical jargon and how some patients don’t understand the processes without an expert. “How do patients deal with this,” Fontana asked. “The thing is, patients don’t and instead deal with the consequences.”

The combination of personal events and career experience led him to take the plunge and become an entrepreneur. “I had always wanted to start a business, I just couldn’t find the right time,” Fontana says. “But, it was obvious it was now or never.”

In 2014, Fontana got in contact with Lemoine, who had similar experiences like Fontana, and also a physical therapist named Hollan Oliver, DPT. The three became the co-founders of this new startup. “You had me and Dave, two health care geeks, and Hollan who brought the clinical side to the company,” Fontana says. Around early-2015, Fontana got in contact with his future CTO, Jonathan McKenzie and he signed on as the fourth co-founder to round out the core team.

Initially, the name of Fontana (CEO), Lemoine (COO), McKenzie (CTO) and Oliver’s (Chief Clinical Officer) company was wellConnectd. However, due to a naming coincidence, the team was forced to change the name within a week. In late-May of 2016, the name Healigo was chosen after combining the word heal and the Latin word “ligo,” which loosely translates to connection.

Healigo is a HIPAA-compliant engagement platform with a focus on connecting physical therapists and their patients. “We wanted to close the gap in between visits,” Fontana says, speaking the company’s mission statement. Healigo is available on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

Healigo Team with their first patients; Hollan Oliver, Nick Fontana (2nd from left), Jonathan McKenzie (far right), Dave Lamoine 3rd on the right).
Healigo Team with their first patients; Hollan Oliver, Nick Fontana (2nd from left), Jonathan McKenzie (far right), Dave Lemoine 3rd on the right).

Developed using Facebook’s React platform over the course of a year-and-a-half, the platform received an official launch in February of 2016. Healigo offers a simple design and, thanks to a partnership with, a wide variety of physical therapy exercises including videos showing how to do a particular exercise. The mobile version even includes reminders for when a patient should perform their exercises. Aside from having an easy-to-use interface, the team wanted users to connect with their PTs. “The biggest mechanism missing from the whole process was the person-to-person interaction,” the CEO says. “We added features to make it a more social experience.”

While in development, Oliver told the team to keep things easy and simplistic for not only the patient, but for the physical therapist as well. “She told us, ‘Guys, don’t have users spend more than 10 to 15 seconds on the interface,’” Fontana remembers. The company has also managed to design templates for physical therapists in order to streamline the process. Healigo’s team discovered using the platform will not only make the job much easier, but also differentiate themselves from competitors.

Currently, Healigo’s clients have been primarily single location physical therapy practices. Many of their clients are nationwide, going from Maine all the way down to Florida. However, one goal the company wants to accomplish by the end of the year is to lock in a partnership with a much larger institution.

Fontana and his team have also been making appearances at trade shows, allowing them to connect with any and all future clients.

The physical therapy field is expanding with an estimated 34% growth in the field. There are also patients out there who aren’t sure what to do when it comes to physical therapy. Healigo is looking to change that on both ends; they want to help those going into the field and the patients who need the assistance with their own therapy.

Colin Barry is a contributor to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash.

Images via Nick Fontana and Healigo.