Interview with Grace Park, Co-founder & President, DocDoc

Nothing matters more than your and your loved ones' health, DocDoc has built a sophisticated AI-powered doctor discovery platform that helps patients identify high-quality specialised medical care at a procedure and condition level of granularity. Grace Park, Co-founder & President discusses the story behind DocDoc and current situation, health ecosystems, and gives her advice to other founders.

  1. 1. Please tell us about your background, DocDoc, and the story behind it

    My career spans over 23 years of leadership experience, nearly 10 of which were spent in international healthcare in Fortune 500 companies. I began my career as an Army officer after graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point with honours and served for five years, leaving as a Captain at the Pentagon. Prior to DocDoc, I held leadership positions at Medtronic, most recently as the Managing Director in ten countries, expanding the access of life-saving and enhancing medical devices to developing markets in Southeast Asia. DocDoc’s mission was inspired by a deeply personal experience. My daughter, Rand, was born healthy, but at her three-month check-up, she looked jaundiced. After a battery of tests, a room full of surgeons broke the news that our little girl’s liver was failing and that she had to immediately undergo an operation and ultimately needed a liver transplant. Despite several attempts at fact-finding, we were not able to collect the information we needed to understand if the team who had made the initial diagnosis was the right team to do the highly complex procedure for our daughter. Luckily, through the right contacts, we were able to navigate through the discovery process and eventually found our daughter’s surgeon who was a pioneer in live liver transplants. The lead surgeon and his team, based in Japan, was the team that had successfully conducted the highest number of pediatric liver transplants in the world. Thanks to the expertise of the medical team, the 15-hour long operation was a huge success. Surprisingly, this team charged us 60% less than what was quoted by the initial team that had diagnosed the procedure and had far lesser expertise in performing the procedure. We realised that we got lucky, but healthcare shouldn’t have to depend on luck. We have built a sophisticated AI-powered doctor discovery platform that helps patients identify high-quality specialised medical care at a procedure and condition level of granularity, and follows them through the continuum of care, combining telemedicine and a cashless payment solution for handling medical bills. DocDoc has become the service we never had - empowering patients to find the right care based on their unique needs.

  2. 2. How has Covid impacted your business?

    At DocDoc, our mission has always been to empower patients to make data-driven healthcare decisions which are safe, transparent, and fair. The Covid-19 pandemic has made our value proposition more relevant than ever. As we face increased demand for our doctor discovery consultations, our in-house doctors are working tirelessly to guide patients to the right care using our AI-powered platform. Our aim is to ensure patients' safety while reducing stress on overburdened healthcare systems across Asia. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the limitations of the current state of the insurance industry. It is quickly becoming clear to our ecosystem partners (insurers, employers, brokers, and healthcare providers) that DocDoc's platform is not only relevant in day-to-day lives but is ideally suited to tackle global pandemics. We are witnessing a sense of urgency from insurance companies to strike partnerships, unlike anything we have seen before. It has been heartening to see that even companies that we had least expected to take action are also rapidly mobilising their resources to sign partnership agreements and implement solutions at a speed and scale hard to imagine under normal circumstances. Essentially, Covid-19 is fast-tracking the trends that were already underway. In the aftermath of Covid-19, investment into digital health will no longer be optional.

  3. 3. In your opinion, what is the future of health ecosystems?

    Insurance companies are transitioning from the role of being the “bill payer” towards becoming the policyholders’ “health partner” -- offering a hassle-free suite of health management services that can solve the policyholders’ end-to-end healthcare needs. These ecosystems may include wellness solutions, information about suitable treatment options, telemedicine, medication delivery, and cashless solutions for processing medical bills. These ecosystems will be digital-first, with human touchpoints at the right junctions. Moreover, the customer experiences of these ecosystem will have to match those of Amazon, Nordstrom, and Google. This is where insurtech will play a key role. Insurers who invest heavily in intellectual property today, such as building infrastructure to collect and save data in a structured manner to provide a host of useful solutions to end-users, will be the ultimate winners in the long run. By leveraging the expertise of the right insurtech partners, insurers would be able to create health ecosystems that delight policyholders and improve healthcare outcomes while curbing escalating healthcare costs.

  4. 4. What are the challenges you have faced when setting up DoDoc? What advice would you give to insurtech startups?

    Charting your own path is never easy. What we are doing at DocDoc has never been done before. There is no blueprint of success. We had to try and learn at every step. What’s more, innovating in one of the most traditional sectors comes with its own set of challenges. Historically, insurers have tried to dip their toes into innovation -- investing limited resources and minimising their own risk while expecting over-the-top results. After years of paying lip service towards innovation, today, insurance companies across the board are embracing innovation in its truest sense - full-blown transformation across their organisation. My advice for tech companies that provide solutions to insurers would be three-fold:

    1. 1. The B2B sales cycle in insurance is extremely long and complicated. Prepare your team, forecasts, and investor expectations accordingly.

    2. 2. Understand the industry jargons and chalk out your value proposition clearly. Speak to industry experts and continue to iterate on your value proposition till it strikes a chord with your audience.

    3. 3. Along with finding the right internal champion, go bottom-up and top-down simultaneously. Insurance companies require a massive amount of organisational buy-in to finalise a partnership. You will need the approval of the leadership team as well as the on the ground operational teams who are in charge of implementing new solutions.

  5. 5. What are your predictions for the insurance and insurtech sectors?

    Every insurance company will transition towards becoming a tech company to survive in this sector that has been commoditised. This trend is already playing out in China where incumbents who have heavily invested in technology and built powerful ecosystems are now reaping the benefits. Over the next few years, we will see a massive focus on building the infrastructure needed to deliver digital solutions to end-users at scale. A key aspect of this would be interoperability of datasets, i.e. connecting data in disparate systems to deliver increased value to end consumers and enterprise stakeholders. As an example, in the healthcare space, tech companies that can successfully leverage the interoperability of datasets will play a massive role in increasing access and improving the quality of healthcare. These are the companies that will ultimately win the trust of end-users and form long term partnerships with insurance companies. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly sent shockwaves through the industry. Insurance companies are being forced to change whereas for many insurtechs (tech enablers) it's a question of whether they have enough capital reserves to survive this storm. The crisis will also enable insurers to quickly distinguish between value added services that are ‘nice to have’ versus the ones that are ‘must-have.’ The insurtech space will become one in which the “winner takes all.”

  6. 6. Insurance is a borderless community but what are the main differences between ASEAN and the rest of the world? Will the gap ever get smaller?

    While ASEAN is a diverse region where each country has its own characteristics, a few common trends emerge across the region. Penetration rate of insurance remains relatively low in many of the markets as compared to the rest of the world. The Covid-19 pandemic is raising awareness among consumers about the importance of insurance and thereby may lead to a narrowing of the protection gap in the region. A large millennial population and greater connectivity - as measured by mobile Internet penetration - will make digital distribution of insurance more prominent than ever. Millennials have grown up with instant access to verified information and services on demand. They are beginning to expect the same customer experience from their insurance companies. This will push insurers to go beyond reimbursement and provide digital services powered by insurtech solutions that cater to the holistic needs of these digitally active millennials. In healthcare, this will translate to services such as on-demand access to verified information about healthcare providers, telehealth visits where applicable, and cashless transactions. Being more informed and customising the healthcare experience will be the great equaliser regardless of socioeconomic background and promote the narrowing of the gap.

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