Ultraspecialisti was founded in 2015 in Milan, by the desire of the two founders to create a project aimed at offering a simple, fast and at the same time extremely effective solution for all those people affected by serious diseases who seek to contact a specialist doctor and expert in a specific disease area, to obtain a consultation or an indication, which may affect their long term treatment.
Daily, real life difficulties of people affected by serious diseases (such as cancer) kickstarted the project. The patients were looking for the best care and the doctor with the most experience and they had difficulty obtaining this information. We had noticed that even the doctors themselves have great difficulty in responding to all the requests that often come from people living in other municipalities or other regions of Italy. Dr. Vanesa Gregorc, Co-Founder of Ultraspecialisti, deals every day with the issue of health migration. A lot of patients turn to her and her colleagues facing long and tiring journeys. Hence the idea of creating a tool that could allow doctors and patients to dialogue at a distance on the basis of specific documents and examinations.
This awareness made the idea come true. In the summer of 2015, the two founders won their first call: “Ready to Impact”, a call launched by the Make a Cube (Avanzi) certified incubator in Milan and dedicated to innovative projects with a strong social impact. The incubation smoothed out the first rough edges and allowed them to build a precise plan of action, always following the lean start up method, which provides for a continuous and constant validation of each stage of progess. The first incubation phase ended with two focus groups (one in Bari and the other in Milan) where doctors and patients were interviewed to collect valuable feedback and comments on the project. Thanks to this path, the first draft of the technological platform for remote consultations was drawn up. This is how the first version of www.ultraspecialisti.com come to life.
At the beginning of 2016 the company was established, recognised as an Innovative Start Up with a Social Impact – an important first result, which recognises and certifies the value of the project. Shortly afterwards (after a long and careful research and analysis) the technological partner entrusted with the implementation of the platform was identified. This is Exprivia Healthcare, which specialises in development and programming in the medical and health field.
At the same time, the legal side of things was entrusted to lawyers in order to be aligned with the current legislation in the field of privacy and web (sensitive data processing) and the ministerial guidelines in the field of telemedicine and teleconsultation.
In September 2016 the first version dedicated entirely to oncology was released, an advanced version B that was tested first internally and then externally thanks to the contribution of the first ultra-specialist doctors, who became available for this initial testing.
While the developers were working on the platform, the start-up dedicated itself to meet the most experienced doctors and introducing them to the project, gathering evidence of esteem and great enthusiasm. So, thanks to the contribution of the first 20 ultra-specialists, it was possible to validate the service by offering it free of charge to anyone who needed it.
In December 2016 Ultraspecialisti won the selections of the acceleration path organized by Innovits, a training path that proved to be extremely useful and effective that the two founders followed with passion and dedication acquiring valuable input to further refine the project and the development phases of the startup. The course ended in April 2017 with a final presentation in front of a jury of experts and potential investors and ultra-specialists won the award for best start-up.
From January to April 2017 the platform was online in a free version to test and validate it. The validation was successfully completed and in May the start-up initiated the ‘go to market’ phase, activating the paid service and starting the difficult road that leads to confront market challenges.
In the meantime, after a year-long journey, Ultraspecialisti reached the final of the eHealth4All award and the MoneyGram Award, but above all it obtained its first international recognition, selected by SANOFI together with two other Italian start-ups to participate in the international technology fair in Paris ViVaTecnology.
In addition, Ultraspecialisti was ranked among the top 5 projects, selected from 308 candidates from 31 European countries, of the Social Innovation Tournament of the European Investment Bank, award for innovative projects in the social field.
In 2018, the platform went into full operation and the software was constantly updated with the aim of ensuring that patients and doctors have the best possible experience when searching for specialists. The area dedicated to Internal Medicine was inaugurated.
Important milestones were reached in 2018, collaborations that recognised the potential of the Ultraspecialisti platform in articulated projects in the world of clinical trials, often overseen by pharmaceutical companies.
The platform was used to view and solve clinical cases within the framework of “What’s ALK”, a course organised by Dr Gregorc in which the topic of activating therapy with ALK inhibitors in lung neoplasms was discussed.
In addition, together with AstraZeneca, the “Orchestra Project” was set up with the aim of creating a network between the various centres in the country for the treatment of patients with locally advanced NSCLC by helping to adhere to the guidelines and optimise their “management” by allowing direct doctor-doctor dialogue using the platform.
In 2018, an intense and fruitful collaboration was started with the Department of Management Engineering of the Milan Polytechnic.
Ultraspecialisti has been selected to participate in the International Business program X-Culture coordinated by University of North Carolina at Greensboro, that was developed in the course “Invest in foreign markets Lab”.
The Ultraspecialisti project was chosen by almost 1,000 students among 5,000 participants from 140 universities in 50 different countries, who then carried out 349 business internationalisation projects.
In 2019 the development of projects related to the pharmaceutical world continues.
Ultraspecialisti was chosen as a partner of FMI, Roche’s startup in diagnostics, for the “Ask the Expert” project, focusing on the topic of precision medicine.
In 2019, several new healthcare areas are being inaugurated for which it is possible to request an online consultation: Allergology, Bioethics, Cardiology, Unsolved Clinical Cases, Abdominal Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Primary Care, Dermatology, Endocrinology, Precision Medicine, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, Dentistry, Orthopaedics and Paediatrics.
In October, Ultraspecialisti became part of the Silver Economy Network of Assolombarda, the first network of companies offering products and services for the over 65s committed to enhancing and bringing out the chain of excellence of the Italian Silver Economy. As a member of SEN, the goal of Ultraspecialisti is to contribute to the research and study of new solutions that can have a positive impact on the well-being of the oldest segment of the population. This was discussed at the “Meet in Italy for Life Science” in Trieste, an event in which the Ultraspecialisti project participated after being chosen among those enrolled in the “Digital Health Lab” of G2 Startups.
In 2020 several new healthcare areas are inaugurated for which one can request an online consultation: Andrology, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Maxillofacial Surgery, Diabetology, Geriatrics, Gynaecology, Neurology, Nutrition, Psychology and Urology, with the consequent increase in the number of doctors qualified to provide remote opinions.
At the beginning of 2020 the second educational website of the Ultraspecialistis network dedicated to head and neck cancers was also launched: www.tumoritestaecollo.it. This was followed in June 2020 by the network’s third educational website dedicated to melanoma and skin cancer: www.melanomaetumoridellapelle.it. In July, the fourth site, www.tumoredellatiroide.it, went online.
The Covid-19 outbreak, which started in Italy in March, has highlighted the importance of telemedicine tools for the whole community. With the aim of supporting the fight against the emergency, in April Ultraspecialisti started a collaboration with the “Fondazione Istituto G.Giglio” of Cefalù, an important and strategic health structure operating in Sicily. Through the Ultraspecialisti platform, the hospital has been able to remotely manage chronic patients who are not Covid-19 positive and, therefore, limit the risk of infection for them.
As evidence of the project’s growth, other important partnerships and agreements were signed in October. The first of these, with the Spanish group QuirònSalud, is intended to facilitate, by means of a clinical pre-assessment in telemedicine, the referral of patients wishing to be treated in facilities of excellence in Spain. A collaboration has also been initiated with specialists from Altamedica, whose centres in Milan and Rome are recognised as being of excellence in prenatal diagnosis and medical genetics.
Ultraspecialisti was also invited by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation to talk about its solution during “Fare Milano”, a conference initiated by the Mayor Giuseppe Sala on the future of health in Milan, and by SDA Bocconi University to present the developments of the project within a discussion on the evolution of the Health System and, in particular, of telemedicine.