We’ve been chatting with some of the startup founders we’ve met through Rock Health. They’ve offered us an inside look into how they’re tackling some of the biggest challenges in healthcare. Now we’re offering you a peek behind the curtain.
Founders: Danish Munir, Samir Malik, and Mubeen Malik
Cooper: Here’s a look into 1DocWay, a telepsychiatry network which increases access to psychiatric care through video conferencing.
1DocWay: 1DocWay is a telepsychiatry network which increases access to psychiatric care by allowing doctors to treat patients in facilities where they don’t normally have mental health services. These might include community health centers, skilled nursing facilities, military bases, critical access hospitals, and other underserved care settings, allowing them to now offer mental health services through video conferencing.
Cooper: Can you tell us a little bit about 1DocWay? How was it started?
1DocWay: It really began as we visited clinics and spoke to patients and doctors. Time and time again, we heard psychiatry is the number one missing capability, so we decided to focus in on that. There are many facilities like community health centers, skilled nursing facilities, military bases and critical access hospitals that are underserved when it comes to psychiatric health. With 1DocWay, these establishments are now able to offer mental health services through video conferencing.
Since 2011, we’ve been at it--we’re in 11 states and have 20,000 patients, and we’ve begun our quest to get ourselves into all 50 states to reach the millions of Americans who don’t have access to psychiatric care today.
Cooper: You all have a great goal. You talked a little bit about doing research with patients and clinics, what was that process like?
1DocWay: What we found is that talking to your various stakeholders is critical. We went out to different healthcare facilities across states, spoke to patients, doctors, clinic staff, and it soon became apparent that the right business model would have to incorporate the needs of multiple stakeholders. We had to learn what information the doctor needed to provide quality care and we had to know what pricing model would work for many clinics. All of it depended on listening, going out to customers, asking what would work, and learning through trial and error.
The mantra for us has been to always talk to the customer. Every time I get the opportunity to fly out and spend time with the customer, I come back with 50 new ideas. Even spending time with a happy customer gives you new ideas. When you’re running a scrappy business and you’re resource lean, it’s hard to find the time to go to customers and spend time with them, but it’s critical.
"You can’t undervalue the perspective of your customer—getting out there and listening to them is critical to good product design." -1DocWay
You’ll find problems to solve by talking to people today, and you’ll learn what the scale of the problem is, then it comes down to creating mockups, evaluating them, get feedback from others, and then you’ve got a new product that you’ve approached in a cheap and smart way.
Cooper: How has design changed for you over the past 4 years?
1DocWay: Design has also changed for us as we’ve progressed. From the get go, we needed something simple and new. Mental health has a slow adoption of technology, and it’s behind the curve even within healthcare. Our partner clinics and physicians were either not using technology, or they were using tech that was really outdated and broken. The goal was to build something for people who are not used to using technology at all. Now we know what will work and how to get ahead of the curve. Phase two of design is resetting the bar for us internally so we can get ahead of the behaviors and experiences people expect now.
Cooper: What has it been like working with Rock Health? How have they influenced 1DocWay?
1DocWay: Where do I start? We started with Rock Health in February and they’ve been tremendously helpful from the get go. They’ve helped us find new investors, achieve good negotiations, redesign our website, determine a branding strategy down to formatting and getting our content out to the right people. Then there’s all of the community events—CTO series, sales enterprise workshops, the Rock Summit, they’re all opportunities to cultivate ideas and meet other people.
Cooper: Fantastic! So what’s next?
1DocWay: We’re trying to achieve a couple things. One is to demonstrate the right sales cycle and build the right sales team to take our organization to an accelerated level. We’re experimenting with geography, sales styles, lead generation, different pitch angles, and trying the right strategies to take our business and communicate it to our potential clients. In 6 months, we want to have a strong hypothesis of what the right sales approach is and to scale it.
On the product side, design has become a big emphasis. We’re innovating in new areas. By going out into the field, we’re seeing more of the pain points in healthcare. An emergency department setting has totally different needs than the clinic, so we’re developing a different workflow that can work for them. We’re looking at adjacent needs besides video appointments that can help. While video is the most obvious approach to distance care, telehealth and remote health is really expanding beyond that and we’re exploring what that can mean for the future.
We’ll be releasing two new product lines this Fall that we’re excited about.
Cooper: What has been a challenge?
1DocWay: How to scale effectively—that’s the hard one we’re still figuring out. Customers like our products, we know we can sell products and have solid margins on the units, but what we don’t know yet is the best way to sell at scale. There are a lot of potential options on the table, and our caution to others in a similar situation is to talk to other people who have done it before. Find others who might be working on a similar product or technology, and talk to them to narrow your considerations. Find out what doesn’t work. No one is really going to know the final answer for you, but get input to know which options might be best to roll out by pulling advice in from people who have done it before.
Cooper: So what would you tell someone who’s thinking about starting their own company?
1DocWay: It’s really important to understand where you get your motivation from. Technology has gotten much more accessible- the barrier to entry has become lower- but this also means a lot of other people can enter the tech space. So you have to have that tenacity, the need to survive, and in healthcare you need to survive for a long time. If you don’t know where your motivations come from, that’s something you need to sort out because you’ll need to tap into that.
Cooper: What’s coming next for the healthcare industry?
1DocWay: I’m biased, I’d say the future of healthcare is better—a lot better than it is today. It’s a healthcare environment where providers are working to make patients better, keeping them healthy, where patients are engaged and excited. It’s a health care economy that is open to innovation, new ideas and experimentation. Looking at where costs and quality have gone in the past few years, you have to believe that we can’t keep moving in the direction it’s gone for the past decade.
Cooper: What advice do you have for someone looking to disrupt the healthcare space?
1DocWay: Just do it. Healthcare has so many opportunities where repairs are needed. No matter what your idea is, you’re probably not that far off from a solution that could benefit doctors, patients, and healthcare centers. A lot of the learning happens on the fly, so the quicker you roll up your sleeves, start talking to people and start building stuff, the sooner you’ll get to the real problem and real solution. You’ll find truth if you’ll just start asking.