DocDoc CEO Cole Sirucek

DocDoc CEO Cole Sirucek

Located in Singapore, DocDoc is a patient empowerment company. With operations in eight countries with more than 23,000 doctors, DocDoc claims it enables patients to find the right care at the right time. The company combines deep expertise in clinical informatics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and healthcare quality assessment to help patients find quality care for patients’ medical needs.

The firm recently raised US$5.45 million in new funding round, led by London-based investment company Adamas Finance Asia Limited (ADAM) to scale its doctor discovery product.

e27 recently had a chat with its Co-founder and CEO Cole Sirucek, who shares the company’s future roadmap.

Edited excerpts:

Can you explain the DocDoc working model? How are you fundamentally different from other medtech platforms like Practo?

DocDoc is Asia’s leading patient empowerment company. Operating in eight countries with more than 23,000 doctors, DocDoc enables patients to find the right care at the right time.

We are transforming Asia’s insurance industry through policyholder engagement. The service is available to insured patients through insurance firms motivated to assure their members receive the highest quality care.

Our business model is fundamentally different from most healthtech platforms. We are not a directory of doctors with reviews from patients. We believe that doctor discovery must go deeper than that.

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The best way to imagine our model would be to think of it as a high-end dating service, which matches the right people based on their unique preferences and characteristics. No two human beings are created equal, neither do two human beings have the exact same preferences. At DocDoc, we use a similar logic to connect patients to their right doctors. We match the unique needs and preferences of the patient to the specific expertise of the doctors to empower patients to achieve excellent outcomes, efficiently priced treatments, and improved healthcare experience.

Our model is that everyone wins. The patient finds a highly qualified doctor to treat their condition. The physician, who excels in specific treatments and procedures, has a company validate their expertise and send select patients to them so they can focus on clinical care. The insurance firms, knowing that happy patients maintain memberships,  partner with us to assure their patients make informed medical decisions. The service is free of charge for providers to ensure transparency and avoid conflict of interest.

Can you walk me through the underlying tech? Also, what is the role of AI here? How do you make sure that your users get the best treatment from the best doctors at the best price?

DocDoc is a real world AI project currently operating in healthcare in Asia today. Our doctor discovery product is based on “HOPE”, which is the name of our AI. HOPE stands for the Heuristic of Outcome, Price and Experience. We define quality in healthcare as a function of Outcome — expected efficacy of treating a condition or procedure; Price–what a doctor charges relative to peers; and Experience — how the doctor makes you feel.

While each of these aspects of quality is important, they are not always tied together. For example, a physician may have given a great experience for a patient, but have limited training in a specific procedure and have a poor predicted outcome. As another example, a physician may be extremely well-trained in an area and provide an excellent predicted outcome, but may have a poor bedside manner or a long wait time. Given your unique healthcare needs, for any given condition or procedure, you may care more about outcome, price, experience, or a combination.

The technology used behind doctor discovery can be broken down to three parts:

Proprietary data — DocDoc has the largest provider network in Asia. We seek physicians, clinics and hospitals in the region that have excellent outcomes and are willing join our network. Information is collected from and compared against multiple sources, including patients, providers, insurance, and government. Most of these data sources are not available publicly, making the DocDoc database the most robust in the industry.

Knowledge modelling — DocDoc converts international medical code sets into a discoverable, comparable and consumer friendly database, considering over 10 trillion permutations in the process.

Data analytics and AI — Collecting the data in a structured way allows HOPE to leverage the practical strengths of computer intelligence to compare each doctor’s unique strengths with the patient’s needs at a condition and procedure level of granularity based on healthcare quality. This in turn generates customised panels of recommended doctors for the patients. Each panel of recommended doctors is uniquely customised to suit the requirements of the patients and aid them in making empowered decisions in finding the right care.

Customer service –– At DocDoc, we have a highly qualified medically trained team which acts as a medical concierge for the patients. Based on the net promoter score methodology, the average consumer in 2017 rated our product to be an 8.1 on a scale of 10 with 10 being perfection and 1 representing a very poor experience. Any score greater than 8.0 on this scale represents a delighted customer.

In comparison, the insurance and healthcare segment as a whole in Asia tends to average a score of 4, which is an active offense each time an interaction occurs.

Can you explain the doctor/clinic/hospital vetting process? What technology have you employed for this?

Our goal is to give you access to powerful and credible information that is not available anywhere else. As a company offering doctor discovery in Asia, we are able to secure and share the critical information that is most linked to quality. This includes the information doctors are most reluctant to disclose. We then verify information with legal bodies, certification boards and government agencies to assure that our understanding of physician strengths and weaknesses is as accurate as possible.

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Our process of collecting information is time-intensive (requiring tens of hours per physician) and sensitive (requiring the power of a company to demand transparency). The best physicians want to work with us because we highlight their strengths based on their measurable qualifications. With a growing network of doctors located in the healthcare centres of excellence, no other company has interviewed and vetted nearly as many doctors as DocDoc.

We do this work so you don’t have to. We will listen to your unique needs and compare physician backgrounds for you, so you can make an informed decision. It is important to us that the doctors we refer to you are the same ones we would see ourselves and recommend to our loved ones.

What are your various revenue models? Do you also charge the end customer (patients)?

Our current revenue model is based on partnership with Asia’s largest insurance providers. At the core, our mission remains empowering patients and hence we do not charge the end customer, our patients.

What are the different challenges faced by the healthcare industry in Asia? Is doctor discovery the most pressing problem? How can technology help solve these problems?

Healthcare is a deeply complex and opaque industry, where the key stakeholders come with widely divergent interests, juxtaposed with vast asymmetries of information and significant regulatory overhead. Most often than not, the patient’s best interests get lost in this complex ecosystem. Patients are expected to make the most important decision of their life in an information vacuum.

As a result, three negative consequences to the patients manifest in the form of lower quality care as measured by 1) increased complications and readmission rates, 2) higher cost of care as measured by medical inflation, increased recovery time, morbidity rates, and mortality rates, and 3) increased anxiety and lower overall patient experience. To provide a sense of scale to this problem, in the US, one of the world’s most advanced healthcare markets, medical error is the third leading cause of death only behind cancer and heart disease.

To solve these problems, healthcare providers as well as insurance providers are transitioning to a patient-centric model to address the needs of the patients. At DocDoc, we are proud to be the patient’s advocate and be a catalyst to this change.

What are the key challenges faced by DocDoc? Is awareness a key issue?

Definitely. The idea of doctor discovery is not commonplace in Asia. It is usual for patients to assume that the healthcare system is too complicated for them to understand, but the fact remains that you do not need to be medically trained to consume information that will allow you to make informed healthcare decisions.

This is similar to the situation of buying a car. You do not need to know about fluid dynamics to be able to choose a car. Instead, you consider the horsepower as one of the factors that will determine the engine’s performance. In this case, the horsepower acts as an intermediate marker. Such intermediate markers are widely available in almost all industries except healthcare, which poses a major challenge for the end consumer, that is, the patients.

A huge wave of innovation is imminent in the healthcare industry. Patients are beginning to demand transparency and relevant data which will empower them to make the right healthcare decisions. At DocDoc, we collect data no one in the industry has, combine it with the latest in clinical informatics, and AI and convert the data to patient friendly digestible formats.

You have operations in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Do you have the same strategy in all these markets?

In every market, our vision is the same: to empower patients to make data-driven healthcare decisions, which are safe, transparent, and fair.

We do refine our product according to specific markets to ensure product market fit and cater to the demands of the specific market.

Are you expanding to other markets in Asia, for example India, where healthcare is broken? Do you look to work with governments to improve the healthcare services in Asia?

We are currently focussed on partnering with the largest insurance providers and corporates across the region.

Do you have exit plans in mind? Are you receiving any buyout calls?

We have had several offers in the past, but we are just hitting our stride and so now is the time to focus on execution. The truth about healthcare IT companies is that they are easy to start, but really difficult to build. The market is littered with examples of healthcare IT companies that failed to establish product market fit and or gain traction with key stakeholders. At DocDoc, we have a couple of industry leading enterprise partners, an amazing group of doctors, clinics and hospitals and a product which patients seen to really love. Now is the time to scale, not sell.

Blockchain is the new buzz in the market. Do you see any opportunity to leverage this tech to make your product and services more effective?

At DocDoc, we are true believers in the power of blockchain technology to transform the global economy for the better. Blockchain technology has the potential to improve transparency and increase efficiency in healthcare, while delivering a better patient experience.

The most critical aspect of any blockchain solution is ecosystem adoption. This is where nearly all of the healthcare solution in Asia fall down. The healthcare world is littered with great ideas that could not gain ecosystem adoption.

DocDoc is well positioned to leverage its knowledge model, provider network and industry connection to deliver exceptional value over the blockchain. We know the Asian healthcare landscape from the inside out and are looking at various way to build a blockchain solution, which reflects this real-world understanding. If we come to market with a blockchain product at some point in the future, this will be because it is a natural extension of our current product architecture and customer needs.