After a few months working on my startup concept Healthily Match, I want to take the time to step back, and announce that we’ve launched a website version targeting family doctors and medical specialists. I also want to note the work that I’ve done thus far. The inspiration behind this idea is my own personal experience in the frustratingly long wait times to a scheduled consultation for the patient, the frustrating referral communication, and lack of access and insight into medical specialties for general practitioners (family doctors).
Making the right referral is half the battle
Just exactly how many floors are we going? Either way, it was a good exercise to express the idea and possibly tailor the solution further:
Healthily Match believes in convenient, accessible and patient-centric healthcare globally. This means empowering patients to choose the right medical specialist for their condition and surgical needs in a timely manner. Usually, poor communication, errors in the referral process and uneven distribution of medical specialties mean that patients can wait for months to over a year to get to a consultation, and this long wait time results in skipped appointments or appointment no shows. Ultimately, this means lost revenue opportunities for doctors, and sicker patients. To solve this problem, we’re helping patients to ethically ‘cut in line’, and get waitlisted for an earlier appointment. To do this, we’re building technology to let medical specialists post their last minute appointment availabilities, referral requirements, track record of successfully completed surgeries and specific conditions they treat, and get matched to relevant primary care doctors and patients who’re looking for these medical specialists.
The benefits of this solution are quite relevant to both family doctors and medical specialists. Increasing administrative staff and overloading the receptionist isn’t the sustainable answer to a lack of accessibility to medical specialists. In other words, if your doctor’s profile and referral requirements isn’t online and easily discoverable by other doctors, it would increase the probability of general practitioners making the wrong referrals.
The Minimal Viable Product (version 1.0)
While I’ve seen other founders being able to sell to a customer just by talking about their product concept and the benefits it offers, personally I need to feel a lot more grounded if I can point to a prototype or minimal viable product to articulate along the benefits of using such and such features. After I graduated, there were a few things I wanted to test my skills in: one of them is product management. The process of creating a product and deciding on the type of user interaction to be performed on the product to help users get the most value. There have been different approaches to do this from various non-technical founders. Writing and describing in specific details the user experience and interaction with your product in an essay. Then, there are others like me who need to work and learn the actual product creation functionalities to feel secure in what the value proposition that I’m selling: Cut down on administrative expenses when you create an online profile, automate your appointment booking and referral communication to medical specialists. Pre-filtering to attract the right referral patients with complete information reduces the unnecessary back and forth communication that is clogging up your receptionists’ phone lines.
Are these Features or Product?
Without even beginning to define the terms between product management and product designer, I had to design the minimal viable product. The recurring advice that I’ve heard from entrepreneurs and advisors (people who worked at early stage startups) is that I need to focus on defining just one product instead of a product suite. Well, the latter is tempting because if you do enough research, you’ll find that your customers are generally dealing with a ton of problems instead of one problem. If my understanding is correct, it also sounded like creating a feature instead of a product should be prioritized here. Does the feature bring about the change necessary to create a new reality that doctors and healthcare professionals can capture value and reap the benefits right away? Well, I define a feature to be a minor functionality: ability to email, make a call through the app — not the defining feature that create value for the customer.
My original concept changed quite a lot. My rationale went like this: 1. define how the user experiences the product (ideally in a three step explainer that can fit within a mobile screen), 2. Create the minimal viable product to understand the logic of the workflow. It’s good to keep in mind that this is a whole generation of people who grew up on low attention spans. Personally, I do think that imagining (and realizing) the future ideal state of things is the bigger picture for product creation, which is fundamentally the existential reason and vehicle to drive and create new value for customers. The difference between you and others is that you’re a believer. Others are not (yet, anyway). Keep in mind there are probably a gazillion ways to solve the same problem and your competitors are possibly doing just that. Hope is not yet lost.
Either way, I needed to understand what I can realistically create and the best thing to find out is to just create.
A walk-through: Get a referral consultation with the right medical specialist quicker and easier
Step 1. Create your doctor’s profile.
The first step is to make sure you get discovered by doctors and patients looking for your medical specialty. Make sure relevant information is included for other doctors and medical specialists to understand the services you offer so that they can make the proper and correct referrals.
Step 2. Upload supplementary documents for referrals to make sure they’re easily discoverable.
For other medical specialists or healthcare assistants, they can quickly navigate to the other tab to check and download supplementary documentation.
Step 3. If other doctors consider you to be right for their patient, they can make a referral from your profile page right away.
When you scroll down the profile page, you can choose the option to make a referral.
The second option here (‘Book an Appointment’) is available if you post your last minute availability for a consultation. Patients who are already on the waitlist for the same medical specialty can choose to book a earlier consultation with you instead.
Final Step. A customized referral form will require referring primary care physicians to fill in and pre-qualify these patients prior to booking an appointment.
For the doctor who is receiving faxed referrals, pre-qualified patients are a time saver and reduces the follow-on back and forth communication. This is particularly relevant cost saving mechanism to doctors and medical specialists who run their own clinics.
Setting up automatic workflows
If we remember the purpose of digitalizing medical records is to prevent misplacement of paperwork (and the subsequent time wasted on re-ordering lab tests), this same train of logic applies here regarding digitalizing referrals and pre-sorting referrals into relevant categories, which the fax machine couldn’t do. Preventing referral communication breakdowns is about taking a proactive step towards setting up the right workflows today.