Update: After the sale of Visionflex to 1st Group in 2022, Mike maintains an active role in the business and is now the Head of Product for Visionflex.
In 2014, when Visionflex was established, CEO and co-founder, Mike Harman, set a goal – to design and manufacture world-first telehealth technology that enables health professionals to conduct remote clinical examinations, and provide equitable access to health services for everyone, everywhere.
Today, says Mike, that goal has been achieved with health professionals across Australia using Visionflex telehealth solutions to deliver clinical health services to the point of need, and improve patient outcomes.
“My passion has always been about bringing our technology to the market and really making a difference,” said Mike, an electronic engineer with more than 25 years’ experience in the medical technology sector.
“The whole innovation and development cycle is very exciting. We are a technology company and we’re all engineers here – we love solving problems; that’s what we do.
“It’s motivating to come to work and to see the journey continue; to help our customers and to help patients access health services.”
As the head of Visionflex, Mike is responsible for steering the company along this innovation journey, but he prefers to think of himself as just another valued member of the Visionflex team. True to this approach, Mike allocates time each month to work across all facets of business operations.
On any given day, Mike could be in meetings with investors or driving the warehouse forklift and packing boxes. He helps with sales and customer training, as well as delivering and installing product in far-flung regions.
“I actually think it’s a good thing for the CEO to spend time in the field and to spend time with customers,” said Mike. “It gives you a better connection with how your products are being used and how the customers integrate them into their workflows and daily routine.”
Understanding customer experience also leads to new product innovations – for example, Vision by Visionflex.
Vision is a new, purpose-built telehealth video conferencing platform that is embedded with clinical functions, transforming internet-connected devices into portable and powerful diagnostic tools.
“After working with health customers, we could see there was demand for a low-cost, purpose-built telehealth video conferencing platform with clinical functionality, that was accessible via internet-connected devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones,” said Mike.
“And from that initial idea, Vision was created.”
Mike’s interest in remote health was ignited in 1986 when he commenced a year-long position as head of the science winter-over crew at Scott Base, the New Zealand Antarctic research station.
“It was an amazing experience to be down there,” said Mike who was responsible for monitoring science experiments during the long winter.
“We were the last group to have huskies. We would go out on the sleds with the huskies and do overnight trips, camping out on the ice and watching the Aurora Australis above us. It was fantastic.”
Mike subsequently visited Antarctica on another two occasions, and he says the allure of remote locations still continues: A recent trip saw Mike and his wife, Elke, on a 10-day trek across some of Tasmania’s most remote, rugged, and inaccessible southern reaches.
“I think it’s hard for people who live in the city and have access to health services at a moment’s notice to understand just how difficult it can be for people to access health services when their nearest doctor could be up to 10 hours away,” said Mike.
“And isolated patients aren’t always in Antarctica or the Outback – they can be in large cities, in aged care centres, or in disability accommodation.”
“If we can connect all these patients to health services, then that’s life changing.”
Mike believes that product innovation will be key to the future success of telehealth in Australia and around the world, once the pandemic eases.
“I’m very optimistic about the future of Visionflex and I think our technology will have a huge part to play in the roll out of telehealth globally. Telehealth is accelerating, and people are starting to realise that face-to-face consultations are not enough. We’re contacted constantly by companies who are looking for a telehealth solution with clinical capabilities and I’m hoping companies will see Vision and Visionflex hardware as their go-to telehealth solution.”
And joining Mike on this journey will be the Visionflex team.
“It’s fantastic to be working with a motivated team; a team that’s focused on getting this product to market and helping our patients and our customers achieve better health outcomes.”