“One person described me as someone who would go through a brick wall to ensure the success of my company, which is very, very accurate.”

The superpower I’d like to have is: Gentleness with self My pet peeve is: People who are unkind to others

Melissa Kozak

Transforming home healthcare by empowering patients and caregivers

COLLABORATING TO SUCCEED. Melissa Kozak launched her company intending to solve a problem for herself; little did she know its impact would kick start a revolution. Her business, CitusHealth, is a comprehensive collaboration platform that supports patients and their care team and caregivers to improve the overall home healthcare experience.

CitusHealth was born out of Melissa's experience working as a home infusion nurse in New York City. She noticed a lack of tools available to help patients and their care team communicate effectively and ensure the best possible care. "Generally, a nurse will visit for about an hour once a week, so for all the other hours in a week, that patient has to become independent to make sure they stay well. After a few years of hearing story after story of my patients' frustrations, I knew a change was needed."

Melissa's lightbulb moment that propelled her into the startup world came when one of her patients could not get support after an alarm in his infusion device set off and ran continuously throughout the night. Frustrated, he unplugged the pump, which was delivering medication for an infection in his heart. "That's when I realized these barriers to patients having access to care can actually impact their health outcomes."

Determined to find a solution but with no business background (Melissa previously studied Philosophy before training as a nurse in 2007), in 2015, she took an accounting class to learn the language of business. While shopping her idea to software development specialists, she was put in touch with established healthtech guru Shahid Shah, who helped bring her vision to life and build an MVP. "We took that to conferences within the market, and it turned out these problems were not only extremely common, but there was no comprehensive solution on the market."

A NEW STANDARD FOR HOME HEALTHCARE. Any doubts potential investors had about patients engaging with digital health technologies dissipated when the onset of the pandemic in 2020 fundamentally shifted the healthcare system. "We've seen care continuing to grow in the home and that our company is at the forefront of connecting those patients in the home to their care providers. We've only just begun to scratch the surface."

In 2021, CitusHealth was acquired by ResMed, a global organization supporting its next wave of growth. "There’s a lot of opportunity ahead for CitusHealth to address many of the challenges home based providers face today. We have the biggest clinical shortage the US has ever seen, so seeing our technology give time back to nurses like myself and others so they can take care of more patients is very exciting."

While CitusHealth offers a much-needed solution to an impending crisis, Melissa's unwavering determination for her business to succeed from the outset cannot be overstated. She puts her dedication down to, in part, challenging times growing up wherein there weren’t many people in her life who viewed her as likely to succeed. When she did eventually secure early-stage funding, she knew the company would succeed because, in her words, "It had to. One person described me as someone who would go through a brick wall to ensure the success of my company, which is very, very accurate. Because I didn’t want to be viewed as a failure, there was nothing I wasn't going to do to succeed."

Melissa admits she believed her success would win the acceptance of her family. However, she discovered something more profound during her startup journey: self-acceptance. "That change in perspective is the thing that motivated me through the 1000 'no's' to get that 'yes.'"

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.