Cheaper consultation rates and the convenience factor help Webdoctor to attract more patients, writes Trish Dromey.
The internet has changed the way we buy airline tickets, bank, and shop — and, according to Dublin company Webdoctor, is now in the process of changing the way we visit our doctor.
Co-founder and CEO Oisín Kim says, since setting up in 2014, his company has treated over 12,000 patients online.
He believes that acceptance of online consultations is growing in both Ireland and Europe, and expects his company to be treating several hundred thousand patients a year within five or six years.
Back in 2014, Webdoctor started out by offering repeat prescriptions for the contraceptive pill, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation.
Mr Kim says: “We have now increased this to eight conditions, including a home test for sexually transmitted infections and, in August last year, we went live with a video consultation service.”
He noted that the company has since held over 500 online consultations.
Supported by Enterprise Ireland, Webdoctor raised just over €1m last year, which it is now using to grow its team, expand its range of services to include health screening, and to explore new markets in the UK and Europe.
“The advantages of our service for patients are that it’s cheaper and more convenient — over half the people who use it do so outside of the hours of 9 to 5,’’ says Mr Kim, explaining that the service is also widely used by people with conditions such as sexually transmitted infections which they are too embarrassed to see their GP about.
The repeat prescription service is available 24/7 and costs €25, while online consultations are available between 7am and 12pm and cost between €28 and €35.
The company does not deal with serious illnesses but Mr Kim estimates that Webdoctor can safely treat between 75% and 80% of the typical conditions patients visit their GPs with.
Early last year, the company launched a home test kit for sexually transmitted infections.
It is currently in trials with a blood test kit used for standard tests such as cholesterol, glucose, thyroid.
This is scheduled for launch at the end of March.
Prior to setting up Webdoctor, Mr Kim and his brother Howard ran a consultancy firm working on large-scale internet systems.
They became interested in using technology in the medical arena when they computerised the practice of their GP, Dr Sylvester Mooney.
“He was struggling with volumes of paper files and we helped him select a new system.
"We began discussing ways of using modern technology to improve communication and efficiency. We spent a few years talking and thinking about it,’’ says Mr Kim.
After that they sat down with him while he was dealing with test patients. “We looked at how his interaction worked and began building a road map and developing a platform.”
In September 2013, Webdoctor was set up with a team of seven — made up of four technical staff, including the Kim brothers, in addition to Dr Mooney and two other doctors.
Initially they worked part time but switched to full time when the company launched its initial service in 2014.
Self-funded at the start, Webdoctor became a High Potential Start Up company last year and raised €1m. Since then the staff has grown to 10 and two more doctors are being recruited.
Company plans for this year include expanding the service offered by Webdoctor to include online consultations with other medical practitioners.
“We are also working on a halo approach to providing on-demand appointments online,” says Mr Kim, further explaining that this will involve building up a network of GPs to provide online consultations.
Also in the pipeline is a plan to offer the technology to GPs on software as a service basis, so that they can offer their patients online consultations in addition to ones held in their surgeries.
Mr Kim says that in terms of online doctor services, Europe is around four or five years behind the US but he believes the gap is narrowing.
Within three years he expects Webdoctor to have a turnover of in excess of €1m.
CEO: Oisín Kim
Business: Online doctor service
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