Seven years ago, Cole Sirucek and Grace Park’s daughter faced a medical emergency. The infant required immediate liver surgery. Like any good parents, Sirucek and Park wanted to be certain that the physician they were dealing with was the right person for the procedure, but he was unable to provide his qualifications. Time was of the essence, so the couple sent out feelers in their personal network. Through those connections, which included a doctor who provided timely advice, they managed to locate a surgeon whom they trusted.
That ordeal sparked a thought in Sirucek and Park: surely all patients and their loved ones deserve to know their physicians’ histories. A little extra transparency in medical care could help everyone ensure that they are matched with the right medical professionals, and receive the best possible care. The couple set out to make that change, and they founded DocDoc in 2012 in Singapore.
The startup places patients at the heart of healthcare. The lack of data and transparency is a fundamental problem in the healthcare industry, at times leading to situations where patients are led on by doctors. To address this problem, DocDoc developed a model that allows patients to find a suitable and relevant doctor for their needs. For the physicians, they can focus on treating patients in their area of specializations instead of being sent patients who require consultations from someone else.
DocDoc’s revenue originates from the insurance firms who pay for its service. Meanwhile, doctors, clinics, and hospitals do not charge the patients to avoid conflict of interest and ensure transparency. This business model cuts through insurers, medical device companies, big pharma, and other actors who may try to steer the public toward certain physicians.
DocDoc is more than a matchmaker. As Sirucek put it, it is designed to be like the friend who helped his family in their moment of need. At the moment, the company only provides its service to patients insured by companies that have partnered with DocDoc.
Using the service is simple: When a patient searches for a doctor on her insurance portal, she is given a number to call. The call is routed to a certified medical professional, who will determine what kind of help the patient needs. Once that information is fed into DocDoc’s system, an AI-driven algorithm generates three doctors who have the relevant specialties for further diagnosis and treatment. The patient can pick a doctor based on factor like her budget.
DocDoc follows up with the patient after each consultation. In the event that she needs additional care or another form of treatment, DocDoc will provide even more recommendations. In doing so, the company ensures no patient loses track of her own medical care. In certain cases, like for patients who have rare medical conditions, the staff at DocDoc will get hands-on and apply a manual workflow to locate the right doctor for its users.
In all, DocDoc maintains a network of more than 23,000 doctors and 793 hospitals and clinics across Southeast Asia, making its network the largest in Asia. According to Sirucek, the professionals that are listed on DocDoc’s platform can treat or manage over 90% of the conditions that insurance companies cover.
The startup is growing quickly. Shortly after raising USD 5.5 million in a funding round led by Adamas Finance Asia last March, DocDoc announced it had secured investment from Hong Kong’s Cyberport Macro Fund, raising its total funding to USD 18.5 million. It is in the midst of setting up an office in Hong Kong and is said to be eyeing expansions in Vietnam, Japan, and mainland China as well. In particular, the firm aims to offer a service that will help Chinese patients locate affordable medical care elsewhere in Asia.
Sirucek told KrASIA that DocDoc’s success can be attributed to “a shit ton of luck and discipline.” Being in Southeast Asia helped too, because countries in the region regulate their healthcare sectors more loosely than the United States, where both of the company’s founders are from.
Healthtech is still a young industry in Southeast Asia. As the industry grows, the limits of technology become obvious. Telemedicine providers, for instance, will never be as effective as in-person consultations, so DocDoc aims to overcome this pitfall by redirecting patients to clinics and hospitals.
The current solutions in healthtech are far from perfect, and laws in most countries still lag behind the technological developments that are shaping up to address the cracks in healthcare systems. But as long as barriers that—perhaps inadvertently—prevent patients from receiving the best care possible are being dissolved, every stakeholder will benefit from a healthier populace across the region.