Beth Ann Lopez: Using Tech to Connect Vietnamese Patients to Doctors 24/7
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become empathetic entrepreneurs. This series features interviews with founders working on SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing by a character named Spiffy. Health is on a lot of our minds these days, so let’s see what’s being done!
Hi All, I’m Spiffy, back with my second interview talking to entrepreneurs working in health & wellness. Today I’m talking to Beth Ann Lopez, founder of the Vietnamese tech company Docosan!
Spiffy: Xin chào Beth Ann! Thank you for meeting with me today. Tell me, what health challenge is Docosan addressing?
Beth Ann: Despite being plagued by chronic inefficiencies such as long lines, unpredictable hours, and uncertain quality, the health sectors of many emerging markets remain largely unchanged by new technology. Patients rely on word of mouth recommendations to choose providers – a daunting task in Vietnam, where there are over 50,000 private clinics alone. Doctors rarely have access to comprehensive patient medical records and spend much of their time seeking new patients and filling out paperwork. Patients, in turn, find themselves undergoing overly short consultations and multiple visits to doctors and specialists with virtually no coordination of care.
Spiffy: It sounds chaotic! What motivated you to start Docosan?
Beth Ann: I’ve seen how smartphones have changed the way that businesses are run in Vietnam - it's possible to order a motorbike on Grab, or a bowl of phở on Now, or anything else you want on Shopee. However, one area that hasn't been affected by this digital transformation is healthcare. There are large variations in the quality of care across healthcare facilities, and Vietnam is a low trust environment. Choosing a healthcare provider can literally mean life or death. So I want to bring the same amount of ease and transparency digital marketplaces foster in other industries to healthcare because it is something that will not only provide greater choice but save lives.
Spiffy: You’re entering uncharted territory with your innovation. But how does it make the world a more equitable place?
Beth Ann: We dream of a world in which great quality healthcare is accessible to everyone. Our platform lets patients compare healthcare providers across a wide range of specialties, book appointments online 24/7, chat with primary care assistants, and manage their own health data for free. Docosan offers healthcare providers an easy mechanism to manage patients, massively expand their client base, and efficiently maintain clinical records, as well as a secure and compliant way to share them with patients.
Spiffy: What’s a recent milestone you’ve reached with Docosan?
Beth Ann: We now have over 100 healthcare providers on our platform, which lets users access a far wider variety of care than is typical. Many people in Vietnam use word of mouth recommendations from family to choose a provider without much consideration for the location, price, or quality of the services. From written reviews, we know we have directly improved the health of users who were used to seeing overpriced or poor quality doctors but used our platform to finally make a change for the better.
Spiffy: When have you faced failure in your journey? How did you overcome it?
Beth Ann: We initially launched a mobile app for doctors because we knew how ubiquitous smartphones are in Vietnam. However, the launch was a fluke - the app failed to gain traction. We soon realized, though, that doctors and their staff are far more used to desktops for admin purposes. We worked overtime to bring our website up to speed. When it was ready, doctors' attitudes changed overnight. They quickly embraced our web platform and the ability to gain new customers in a convenient and transparent manner. The mobile app is more of a supplement to the main product for doctors now, which is a web dashboard. The app is more popular among patients than doctors.
Spiffy: It’s all about knowing your customers! What’s a time you’ve learned from someone recently?
Beth Ann: I recently learned that many of our patients are using our platform late at night, even past midnight. The fact that many people are making healthcare decisions at seemingly odd hours shows how busy life is here and demonstrates the need for convenient care. One thing I love about Ho Chi Minh City is its energy - many coffee shops in my neighborhood only close very late and are filled with young people on their smartphones reading or hanging out.
CEO Beth Ann Lopez holds an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. Previously, she was head of public affairs at Singaporean startup mClinica, where she launched mobile applications for pharmacists in Vietnam and Cambodia and led the company’s public sector initiatives, securing over $2 million in global health contracts. She has served in the Peace Corps in Cambodia and worked in health policy and program development in Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. (Nominated by Global Bio Fund)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog
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