Some industries take decades to reach the level of maturity needed to easily absorb innovative solutions and adapt accordingly, but titanic industries like Finance and Regulation have proven that adopting new technology is essential to evolution.
And now, as COVID-19 forces us to distance from each other, that evolution and digital transformation of traditional industries becomes more important than ever. Healthcare, already creaking under the strain of ageing populations and surging costs, is at the very top of the list of those needing to evolve.
In Sweden, where Healthcare is publicly funded, universally accessible and decentralised, Digital Healthcare start-ups and scale-ups are stepping up with massive funding. To get a measure of the industry, the scale of the opportunity and the potential for a real, measurable impact on the well-being of the vulnerable - we sat down with Martin Lindman the founder of HealthTech frontrunner Doktor.se.
Adding Value to Both Sides of Healthcare
With a professional ice hockey career that spanned 12 years and brought him to teams like Cardiff Devils and Eisbären Berlin, Martin Lindman knows a thing or two about building high-performance teams. Shortly after his playing career ended, Martin studied business. It was after this that Martin’s Dad, a leading healthcare figure in Sweden, approached him with an idea to set up their own primary clinic.
One clinic quickly became three. Martin’s Dad retired while he kept running with it as a project that he could cut his business development teeth. But, after expanding the business to a total of 5 clinics, the limitations of traditional healthcare were starting to show, affecting the company's ability to scale. It was at this point that Martin sold 4 of the 5 clinics and met the individual who would later go on to join him as Co-Founder of Doktor.se.
“We were both obsessed with making healthcare more efficient from a society and financial perspective. We knew that as you scale up one aspect of healthcare, say the number of clinics, that another part of it, like the patient and health worker experience, loses some quality.”
The initial product that Martin and his Co-Founder came up with involved a Nurse quickly triaging patients and getting them through to the next level - something that other Digital Healthcare services don’t provide. Later digital doctors, psychologists and midwives were added to this early concept but, crucially, it always had that core of creating a triage function which became the distinguishing feature of Doktor.se that helped it provide unparalleled value to both sides of the healthcare function.
“We wanted to start a service that adds value to both sides. Firstly the patients feeling of being seen and cared for, and secondly, create a platform that meant healthcare workers were only being called on for cases they could definitely handle.”
Knowing that the scarce resource in the industry was Doctors, Martin and his team focused on creating a platform that was pin-point specific on a patient’s problem. This single-minded focus brings positives to both the patient, who often only wants easy and accessible care, and the Healthcare professional, who wants to be helping everyone they can.
Healthcare is under pressure - we can help
“In Healthcare, you see 6 different doctors on 6 different care levels and 30% of the scheduled times the patient doesn’t even show up. These are billable hours that the tax-payer is paying for.”
In England, where a similar Public Health framework is in place, more than a quarter (27%) of those attending GP appointments could potentially be treated elsewhere and about 18 million of these cases could be treated through self-care and community pharmacies, according to NHS England. This has lead to major campaigns pushing patients away from primary healthcare.
“While we’re doing that we’re creating a culture that forces the patient to try and push their way through the system.”
Striving for Omnichannel Healthcare
Doktor.se, who have just finished a funding round to the tune of $45M, are setting their sights on creating a HealthTech function that unites the digital and the physical creating a solution for the 40% of people they can’t help over the phone.
“Now we just tell the patient we can’t help them and that isn’t good enough if we want to be a long-term service provider. At that point you have to be able to offer them bookings at GPs and show them the location.”
Achieving this, however, is no small feat. A true omnichannel function, through which the patient can seek medical advice through the digital channel but end up getting care on the physical side when needed, requires not just a more intuitive platform, but also a complete shift of how we view communication in more professional settings.
Something that, as of late, has been a hot topic of debate, discussion and development.
Riding The Video Communication Wave
With hundreds of millions of people under lockdown around the world, telecommunication is going up. People we’ve spoken to have been connecting in new social ways, hosting virtual bachelorette parties, happy hours and reunions with friends who haven’t connected in decades. People have been hanging out on FaceTime while working on separate projects (almost as if they were in a coffee shop), or even gathering callers to pray together in a nightly video Novena.
And although the major video conferencing players, like Zoom who have enjoyed 50% growth month on month this year, have stepped up to provide better services, it’s the shift in our behaviour around communication that will be felt long after COVID-19 has faded into the history books.
“Everything we’ve been doing is all remote, all digital. We’re not performing miracles with the mode of communication, it’s basic video or text chat. What we’re good at is being able to scale it up.”
The change in confidence around this method of communication means Martin and his team at Doktor.se can continue to strive for new heights of engagement, and, perhaps more importantly, continue to prove critics wrong.
“How quickly this conversation went from “don’t touch that, it’s poisonous” to “how can you help us, what can you do?” is by far the biggest change.”
Now no one can discredit the value of digital healthcare
This culture shift in the way we, as patients in the healthcare system, communicate is only one side of the story. A positive bi-product, for Martin and those in the digital healthcare space, has been the shift in how Healthcare workers themselves view technology.
Before the pandemic, healthcare worker opinion on Digital Healthcare was mixed at best, but through the ‘immersion therapy’ offered by COVID-19, Doctors and Heathcare professionals are seeing the value.
“This was largely driven by a traditional mindset and a resistance to change. Now, i don’t think that anyone would ever go out and outrightly discredit the value of digital healthcare.”