April 30, 2020

Artificial intelligence transforms going to the doctor

  • This is the fourth in a series of five articles.

    Showcasing how the EBA program and other Alberta Innovates services are helping different Alberta companies in their journey.

A photo of Kyle Nishiyama, Mikata Health CEO and co-founder (far left), and Meaghan Nolan, MIkata’s chief operating officer and co-founder (third from right), with Mikata team at launch party.
Kyle Nishiyama, Mikata Health CEO and co-founder (far left), and Meaghan Nolan, MIkata’s chief operating officer and co-founder (third from right), with Mikata team at launch party.

The next time you receive an automated message from your doctor chances are it’s coming from Mikata Health, a fast-rising star in Alberta’s digital health field. This Calgary-based startup is using advanced artificial intelligence to help a growing number of clinics and doctors in Alberta transform how medical care is delivered to Albertans. 

“Our mission is to make it easier for clinics to provide outstanding care to all their patients,” says Kyle Nishiyama, Mikata Health’s CEO.

Using Mikata Health’s app technology, clinics can send customized text messages for appointment reminders, instructions and pre-visit conversations, helping patients get the most out of their medical appointments.  At the same time, using predictive modeling and information collected from patients, the tool enables clinics to reduce visit no-shows and reach out to patients to provide personalized care.

The story behind this technology goes back three years ago.

The seed of innovation

In 2017, Nishiyama, a medical researcher with a background in biomedical computing, and Meaghan Nolan, a digital designer, were looking to start a new business in Alberta. After meeting with local clinics, they started to see an important opportunity and launched Mikata Health in August that year.

“Clinics told us they were frequently overwhelmed by tasks like phone calls and follow-up. Also, they often didn’t have the right information at their fingertips to make sure they were asking the right questions of patients. We saw an opportunity to alleviate these problems,” Nishiyama explains.

To get started, Nishiyama and Nolan, both first-time business owners, reached out for help.

Business support

In 2017, they entered the *Alberta Entrepreneurial Incubator program managed by Alberta Innovates. Over the next two years, supported by different voucher grants, they learned new business skills and researched their technology platform. Later, with the agency’s assistance, they identified customer leads and engaged clinics to provide product validation. At the same time, learning from technology development advisors at Alberta Innovates and mentors at the A100 group of Alberta tech entrepreneurs, they solidified their business model.

“This support helped us to get our business model together, build connections and ask the right questions,” Nishiyama says.

In a matter of a year and a half, their business was taking shape rapidly. It was now time to think about what was needed to raise capital to grow their company further.

A photo of Calgary-based Mikata Health receiving the 2019 A100 One to Watch Award at the Start Alberta Tech Awards. Shown here accepting the award are Kyle Nishiyama, Mikata Health’s CEO and co-founder (on right), and Meaghan Nolan, MIkata’s chief operating officer and co-founder.
In October 2019 Calgary-based Mikata Health received the 2019 A100 One to Watch Award at the Start Alberta Tech Awards. Shown here accepting the award are Kyle Nishiyama, Mikata Health’s CEO and co-founder (on right), and Meaghan Nolan, MIkata’s chief operating officer and co-founder.

Executive Business Advisor Program

For this next stage, Nishiyama and Nolan joined Alberta Innovates’ Executive Business Advisor (EBA) program in late 2018. Under the guidance of Calgary-based entrepreneur and EBA Jim Gibson, they refined their investor pitch and met with investors in Gibson’s network.

A year later, in November 2019, Mikata Health closed $1.16 million in late seed financing with an Alberta syndicate of physicians. Other investors included James Lochrie, managing partner at Thin Air Labs, and Bluesky Equities.

Today Mikata Health has grown their team from two to nine people. So far, the technology has been introduced at more than 50 clinic locations in Alberta, with more than 250 doctors on its platform and interacting with over 300,000 patients.  

Responding to COVID-19

Like other companies, Mikata Health has also had to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to staff working from home, the company has adapted its technology to enable clinics to proactively pre-screen patients for COVID-19 and introduce protocols to protect the safety of patients and staff.

“We’re working with clinics to adapt our technology so we can provide even further value in these changed circumstances,” Nishiyama says.

Responding to this major health issue has only deepened Nishiyama’s confidence in his company’s future. “Everyone in this province’s innovation network — especially Alberta Innovates — has been extremely supportive of our technology. That’s been critical.”

A photo of the Mikata Health team working from home.
The Mikata Health team working from home.

*The Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator program was a two-year pilot program designed to offer support for entrepreneurs, especially recent graduates. This program closed March 31, 2019.

Read part one of our five-part series on how Alberta Innovates helps Alberta companies bridge the gap to growth and success: Helping companies grow and succeed