Patient expectations: Startups race to book you in at the doctor
A few years ago, about one in ten patients were logging on to book a GP appointment — these days, Melbourne startup HotDoc says at many surgeries this number is now pushing 50 per cent.
“It’s gone from a ‘nice to have’ to a patient expectation. If you’re waiting fifteen minutes on hold to make a booking for your child, that’s just not acceptable anymore,” the startup’s chief executive Dr Ben Hurst said.
Dr Hurst told a crowd at the Startup Grind conference in Melbourne this week that his medical bookings platform brought itself back from the brink a few years ago to reposition as a key player in Australia’s health tech space. At the time, it had just $20,000 in the bank while its main competitor, HealthEngine, had just raised $10.5 million.
“That was a really pivotal experience because it meant that we had to suddenly think about not just what we were going to be but what we weren’t going to be,” he said.
Over the past two years, Dr Hurst said HotDoc closed the gap with larger competitors like HealthEngine and this year has become one of the key GP software tools in Australia.
Dr Hurst said the startup had done this by carving a niche where the tech was designed and priced to keep a patient with one doctor for the long haul rather than shopping around: including booking, getting health reminders and results all through one platform.
We had to suddenly think about not just what we were going to be but what we weren’t going to be.Dr Ben Hurst
HotDoc is now predicting Australians will take up telehealth appointments and wants to expand with this in mind.
“I think over time telehealth will show itself to be a very valuable complement especially in terms of global health management,” Dr Hurst said.
HotDoc has done this at a time where the country’s healthcare IT industry has ballooned to a multi-billion industry: Austrade has suggested the sector will be worth $2.2 billion next year. While the range of GP practice software has grown, online health providers catering to everything from sexual to mental health and veterinary care have raised millions from venture capitalists.
The business has raised $7 million from investors including Right Click Capital and Airtree Ventures. It turns over less than $15 million a year but Dr Hurst said there was also room for long term global growth beyond the 15,000 doctors surgeries that use its software.
“We’ve managed to catch up [to competitors] by having a better strategy and execution,” Dr Hurst said.
A HealthEngine spokesperson said more than 100,000 practitioners were listed on its platform, which includes medical professionals of all types, not just GPs.
The sector has not been without controversies: in August, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took HealthEngine to court over misleading and deceptive conduct claims in relation to how the company used patient information.
HealthEngine declined to comment on the proceedings.
Given changing expectations of patients, however, trust between patients and GP tech platforms is going to become more important, Dr Hurst said.
“Reputation is going to be absolutely critical.”
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