Creating a Next-Generation Participant Payments Solution to Drive Engagement and Retention

Mar 28, 2023

When myself, Jason Dong and Shawn Milochik founded Mural Health our goal was to create a next-generation clinical trial participant payments solution.

After moving on from my former company and thought I would see what the universe had in store for me next. Then Jason, who was working for a tech forward private equity firm, called me and asked if I would be willing to start a company to build my ideal product strategy.

Given the current landscape in the category, I felt there was a unique opportunity for anew company to enter the payment solution space. It is a sizable market opportunity. It has relatively shallow penetration. It has a single market leader who has never been challenged which has led to a lack of innovation.

This created an opportunity for a worthy competitor to enter with a product which is ten times better and offers more than just a second vertically integrated payments product.

I had worked with Shawn before. I would scratch something down on a napkin and he would go and build it. Mural Link is what Shawn, and I would have built if we could self-disrupt our original product.

Combining our talents meant we were able to enter the clinical trial participant payments space with a better product in every way.

Driving participant engagement

I believe there is a valuable strategic opportunity in leveraging payment for both patients and caregivers. Ease of payment drives engagement and allows us to deliver strategic value to sponsors in the form of patient retention.

This tech also has the ability to drive adherence or protocol compliance and accelerate enrollment rates by positively impacting the conversion of leads in the recruitment funnel.

The core thesis is that there are two touch points the participant genuinely cares about. The first is treatment. The second is payment.

That might be stipends but, in many cases, it will simply be reimbursement. Someone has spent money traveling to the site or parking and they want that money back.

This gives us an opportunity to use payments as a hook. Once you have the participant’s attention you can do something more for them which will also have a positive impact on the study.

This is the core spirit of what we have built with Mural Link.

Overcoming challenges

The concept might be simple but it is not that easy to build a next-generation payment solution. If it was, this space would be more deeply penetrated.

One barrier to innovation has been that both the clinical trial and FinTech industries are regulated. Most industries using vertically-integrated payments are in a non-regulated space. That dual regulation is probably enough to prevent your typical eClinical business from entering the FinTech space and vice versa.

Then there is the added component that you need to understand how to build a user interface that accommodates a workflow and genuinely makes the user’s life easier. Does a FinTech business really understand the patient experience?

When we got into the specifics of building Mural Link, which does not rely on a debit card platform at all, we uncovered different challenges around using a variety of different digital wallets and electronic payment delivery methods. I suspect hurdles like this are what turn a lot of people off.

Being a second-time founder

When we started Mural Health, I was not sure I could do it again. There were moments of real brilliance, skill, and willpower the first time around. There were also moments of just straight luck and you cannot quantify the percentage of those things.

But I feel more confident every day as I collect data points.

If I take a step back, I am a second-time founder. I am building a product competitive to the market leader, which is a product I built. I know the nuances of this industry and I have good relationships.

I probably underestimated when we started this business how valuable my experience was. What I am most flattered about is how responsive customers and partners have been to us.

As we have navigated the past year, and continue to navigate new opportunities, I sometimes reflect on how we are doing. I can tell you it is easier in every way second time around. From building an MVP to hiring, raising money was not a difficult task.

That does not mean everything is going to be easy going forward. There is still work to be done before we can declare victory. But I am confident we will get there.

- Sam Whitaker

Co-Founder & Co-CEO

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