Our co-founder and CEO, Samir El-Alami, gave an interview to ApoBank’s magazine for doctors, ‘Richard’.
With Germany determined to head down a direction of digital innovation within the health industry, there is a lot of interest in startups building new technology with the aims of improving the lives of doctors and patients alike.
You can read the condensed version within Richard magazine, below are the full answers to the interview questions.
What is the idea behind Doctorly – and how did you get this idea?
The team behind doctorly has a very eclectic background. We are a mixture of serial tech entrepreneurs, software engineers, creatives, and doctors, having previously built startups in other highly regulated industries, e.g. Insurance, Banking, Pharmaceuticals, etc.
We put great efforts in to assembling a team with this balance of expertise and talent, perfectly suited for building something in the health industry.
We are also backed by some excellent European investors (VCs & Angels) with track records of investing in highly successful disruptive tech startups.
Once we took a close look in to the health industry in Germany (and in Europe as a whole) it became clear that there were a lot of ‘health tech’ startups out there building some interesting and cool products, however these were almost always ‘patient facing’, e.g. booking sites & apps, health chat-bots, wearable devices, apps for storing personal health records, etc.
We conducted a lot of research with doctors in Germany, and they simply were not utilising any of this new technology or data.
It was interesting because we surveyed over 100 doctor practices and the key trends that kept coming up were that doctors are unhappy with how much admin they have to do and ‘how’ they have to do it, and that they also believe that digital innovation will help them to improve the performance of their practice.
So why are they not embracing all of the technical innovation happening around them? Well, they simply can’t.
The practice management softwares (PVS) that the vast majority of doctors in Germany are using are very old fashioned and not suitable/capable of digital innovation.
There are doctors still writing notes by hand, storing records on paper, managing all of their processes and tasks in analogue and manual ways, and this is mostly due to the fact that no one is offering them a better way of doing it. It is also probably worth mentioning that, in the past, the governmental authorities seemed quite ‘anti-digital’, something that is no longer the case.
It was then that we realised that, if we want to truly help the German health industry to innovate and move forward, first we need to help the doctors. How best could we do this? By building a digital first, cloud-powered, modern practice management software.
doctorly will revolutionise how doctors manage their practice, conduct their day to day business, interact with their patients, and ultimately support them in minimising the amount of time spent on admin within the practice.
The foundation of the healthcare industry is the practice doctor, who uses a practice management software to manage their work-life, if this is not modern and up to date, the effect on every other area of the health industry can be seen clearly. The interaction between doctor and patient, between doctor and their KV, between doctor & doctor… it’s all managed here (or should be)
The KBV released statistics that each practice in Germany, on average, is spending 60 ‘working days’ on purely administrative tasks. Without digital innovation, this number will not decrease.
doctorly will make the doctors happy, because they will have more time to focus on their patients.
doctorly will make the patients happy, because they will have a higher service level with their doctors and digital services matching modern day expectations.
doctorly will make the governmental health regulatory bodies happy, as Germany needs to step up it’s digital innovation game, and doctors using doctorly will be able to embrace every new innovation with ease, e.g. the telematik infrastructure can be used as a cautionary tale of what happens when you try to build something new on top of something old.
doctorly will make the health insurance companies happy, as billing and regulatory administration will be fully digitised and lessen the workload on both sides, while increasing efficiency and quality of data.
How can your tool cut down the time spent on administrative tasks?
The first step was spending a lot of time with doctor practices all over Germany.
We sat with the doctors and MFAs for days and days, analysing what tasks and processes they manage on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.
There are many different practice management softwares on the market, but ultimately they are all trying to support the doctor and MFA in the same way.
We made a list of tasks and processes that were repeated, patient after patient, call after call, printing after printing, test after test, backup after backup, update after update, and we simply saw there was very little automation, accessible customisation, and intuitive usability happening.
Often practices were creating their own unique and strange work-arounds to get tasks done, because the PVS they were using was unable to do it, or made it incredibly difficult to do.
Many practices are still receiving physical discs in the mail to update their software on a quarterly basis! Not only is this super time consuming and a generally painful process, they are also charged for the privilege…
Not with doctorly. Our updates are digital, happen in the background, simultaneously for all practice computers and will not interfere at all with the smooth running of the practice.
Similarly, backing up and making available patient data is quite the administrative chore for doctors currently. Personally liable for (at least) 10 years for the patient data, this is not a trivial issue for doctors. With GDPR coming in to effect in May, it is simple really, doctors MUST protect patient data to the highest level possibly available to them. So when we see doctors with paper files, DVDs, and hard-drives laying around their offices and houses, I know for a FACT that this is not as safe as it can be.
Whether it is someone simply walking in and taking the physical files, or a fire, flood, or accident damaging the physical files, there is a big risk…
Not with doctorly. We offer cloud based practice by practice storage with the highest data security available. The data is encrypted (3 times), the data is stored in Germany and will never leave, doctorly does not have any access to unencrypted data (only the doctor and the patient), and there are a plethora of other data security and protection measures built in and around the system to ensure the safety of the important data. doctorly does also offer secure offline backup functionality in addition to the cloud.
Practices who believe in digital booking & scheduling often have to use external booking tools, which are not fully integrated into the PVS they are using. This means that the practice has to use two different systems/calendars to manage bookings, often doubling the workload…
Not with doctorly. Our digital booking is fully integrated with the PVS and its workflows, so the doctor and MFA can control and manage all scheduling in one place. Not only is this more convenient, but the doctor will also have pre-consultation anamnesis information directly taken from the booking and available in the patient notes, which will save a lot of time with the patient and on the admin.
Practices that handle state patients submit their billing info to their local KV every quarter, many of which spend hours and hours, if not days, working on the billing info before submitting…
Not with doctorly. We have real-time billing updates, corrections, budget tracking, and formulate the data in a way that when it is time to submit your billing data, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
We saw that task management was often a real issue within practices. Tasks and processes were communicated and managed via conversations, post-it notes, and scribbles on note books. Practices can be manic places and a lot of tasks can fall through cracks and get forgotten…
Not with doctorly. We allow all tasks and processes to be managed by the doctors and MFAs digitally, with clear overviews on what needs to be done, when, by whom, and how urgent. The ability to plan your day in an effective manner and communicate within the practice in a structured way is something that will add a great deal of efficiency within a practice.
doctorly also provides practice ‘analytics’. Doctors are data driven by nature, and as such we found it very strange that doctors were not aware of the many core metrics within their practice.
With doctorly you are able to track time spent with patients (per type of consultation), patient waiting times, how many patients come on which days, real time practice financial data, statistics on patients missing appointments, billing information (private & state), and many other metrics, it is also customisable to each practice.
We believe that having a clear view on the quantifiable metrics of the practice, the doctor and MFA have the opportunity to make the right changes to increase productivity and performance.
With all of the above, plus a whole lot more, doctorly can decrease the time spent on administrative work by 50%. And this is just the start for us, we will have an ongoing goal to keep adding tools, features and services that make the doctors & MFAs lives easier and easier so they can focus on what really matters, the patients.
How much does it cost for one medical practice? (per year)
We have not yet officially set the price for doctorly.
However, what we can guarantee is excellent value to practices.Unlike other PVS suppliers, we do not sell on a ‘modular’ basis, i.e. when you pay for doctorly you receive ALL of the functionality, as well as our premium customer support as a standard.
We believe that doctors value service-level above anything else and this is something doctorly is putting an incredible amount of time and effort into.
We ‘need’ practices using our software to love it and thrive working with us, with that in mind we will always go above and beyond expectations to ensure each one of our practice is looked after as well as they deserve.
Because we are a young, agile and technology focused company, we do not have the massive overheads and wastefulness of bigger companies, this means we can focus on providing excellent services at a fair price.
Why should a physician manage all this with one system? Won’t it be more secure, if one uses different systems for booking and scheduling and – for example – health records?
The current ‘system’ most doctors in Germany use for health records is keeping personal health records on paper inside a draw, on DVDs (my computer doesn’t even accept DVDs anymore) inside draws, on hard-drives inside draws, or on old fashioned personal servers that they don’t really know how to maintain.
Doctors owe it to themselves (for liability reasons at the very least) and to their patients to store health data in a way that has the highest safety and the best usability… what I described above represents neither.
When a doctor uses a different system for calendar functionality and scheduling, health record backups, patient communications, administrative work, and medical services, what you get is a practice that is nowhere near as productive as it can be, annoyed doctors, MFAs, and service levels to patients that are nowhere near where they could be.
The reason digitalisation is so important to humanity and societies as a whole, is that it allows us to be ‘connected’. Being connected allows us to not only have access to services in a faster, cheaper, and more convenient way, but for these services to also be personalised and of a higher quality.
Our health is incredibly important to us. Data is what doctors use to help us stay and get healthy. If this data is on paper, in draws, and non-standardised, then it is impossible for doctors to use that data to help get in front of medical conditions… they will always remain ‘reactionary’ and not a ‘preventative’ force for health.
Furthermore, each doctor having a piece of your health-records, not sharing with each other, and no 360 degree view of your health is by no means an optimal way for a doctor to treat a person.
You can not complete a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces.
So from a functional perspective, no it is not safer nor anywhere near as productive, if you use a mixture of random old fashioned systems that are unable to connect to each other to run a practice.
What you want is a new system that was built with the future in mind, prepared to handle all of the challenges and risks that are out there, while focused on making lives for doctors and patients alike, a whole lot better.
And of course we will be regulated by the KBV, as well as working with a host of other regulatory and supervisory bodies to make sure doctorly hits the very highest standards in all areas of importance.
The German health market is strongly regulated. How can a startup, which promotes a one-fits-all-approach, be successful in such a market?
Regulations are never a problem, they are there for a reason, as a barrier for entry to maintain a certain high standard in quality.
I think doctorly is hitting the German market at exactly the right time. The German government has clearly recognised that, as far as health digitalisation is concerned, it is falling behind many other EU and international countries. So there are new initiatives, laws, and systems coming in to place that are firmly geared towards pushing for more digitalisation in the health industry.
doctorly recently took part in the KV-telematik & KBV digital health pitch day. Not only was it great to see other German health-tech companies attempting to innovate the health industry in Germany, but it was fantastic to see the governmental bodies proactively pushing to bring us together and offer their support.
In my opinion, we won because we are innovative, while being highly practical. Doctors already use a PVS, we are simply offering a significant upgrade. This upgrade will offer value to the full chain, practice doctors, MFAs, patients, health insurers, and governmental bodies, other health-tech companies and beyond.
The PVS space is ripe for disruption, and we are working incredibly hard to set the new standard for practice management software in Germany.
This same vision is what lead to us raising a strong round of financing from three VC funds, as well as a host of excellent Angel investors.
Everything we are doing is highly compliant, not to mention prepared for all of the new laws and structures that are to come (e.g. GDPR, telematik infrastructure, etc)
How do you make your tool compatible to other data-systems in the German health market?
Very easily, as this is one of our strengths.
doctorly is brand new and we pride ourselves on being software-agnostic, i.e. able to work with and connect with other technologies with ease.
So whether we are attempting to work with an insurer or local KV, or perhaps partner up with a company that could offer an amazing service to our doctors, this is something we are actively working towards.
Over time doctorly will become something of a platform, where we will integrate with any service we deem excellent and useful to our doctors and their patients.
We also aim to be a tool for the governmental bodies to push innovation forward with doctors quicker than ever before.
Samir El-Alami, CEO & CoFounder of doctorly