Swedish MedTech startup Doctrin has a simple, yet ambitious goal: to improve healthcare for one billion people by 2030. It helps practitioners to intelligently digitize the patient journey, creating better experiences, improving diagnoses and streamlining the demand on medical resources. Here the company’s founder Magnus Liungman speaks to Red Herring about grand designs, staff culture and Sweden’s lofty goals for its domestic healthcare.
What first inspired you to found Doctrin, and what were your earliest setbacks?
I have worked with healthcare almost all my career, amongst others at McKinsey & Company. I felt frustrated of not being able to do enough to solve the issues I faced in healthcare. I quit my job and started researching 13 hours per day for six weeks, to understand what the most cutting-edge technology was, that could have the biggest impact on healthcare. I found a solution which I discussed with a childhood friend of mine who is a doctor, and had seen the same problems from the inside. And that is when we started Doctrin.
Our platform is built to solve the fundamental problems of healthcare: improve quality, reduce costs and increase patient access and satisfaction. A core concept of ours is William Osler’s famous quote: “Listen to the patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. We realised that the part where the patient is telling his or her story to the HCP (healthcare practitioner) could be done much more efficiently and securely, using automated digital interviewing tools.
I think all fast-growing companies face the same challenges: how to build the right culture; how to organize; how to prioritise, etc. To highlight one though, I would say recruitment. I think our values and our mission to radically improve healthcare has been the strongest reason for why we have attracted so many talented people. In two years we have grown from three to 50 staff members. Our team consists of developers and designers as well as consultants from BCG and McKinsey in addition to doctors and data scientists – all working with the same mission of radically improving healthcare.
What are the biggest failings in modern doctor-patient relationships, and how can Doctrin help solve them?
One issue is lack of time. Sweden has a longer average time for doctor-patient consultations in primary care, compared to many other OECD countries. Still, Swedish doctors feel more pressured and stressed than doctors in other countries. This has to do with the administrative burden that HCP struggle with and IT-systems that are obsolete or have been implemented without the HCP in mind.
We look at each point of contact between the patient and HCP throughout the entire patient journey and evaluate – how can we do this better not only by using resources more efficiently, but also with the purpose to improve medical quality and increase patient satisfaction.
An example is that we use chat-based communication for our digital consultations instead of video. Chat means that the patient and the doctor can speak whenever and wherever it best suits them. As oppose to video, chat consultations enable the doctor to handle several cases at once, making sure that even more patients get help faster. As the chat consultations can be turned into structured data it can also be used to improve medical quality and increase transparency which could reduce the risk for malpractice.
I think that we differ from other digital platforms in that we are not only a technology supplier. We have a team of 11 doctors that oversee both medical content as well as implementation. It’s easy to focus too much on the tech aspect of health tech. But equally important is to adapt and develop organizational structures and ways of working to make sure the digital technology is used to its fullest potential.
Where do you get the one billion figure from?
Eight months ago I met with a startup billionaire who now only invests in companies that have the potential to become impact unicorns – i.e. instead of being valued at a billion dollar they impact one billion people’s lives for the better.
This coincided with one of our sponsors traveling Africa and East Asia, meeting with governments that said the same thing: Instead of spending money on building physical healthcare infrastructure they wanted to leapfrog to a digital healthcare system. That’s when I realized that our platform could be so much more than just a digital layer connecting physical healthcare. It could replace parts of physical healthcare all together, enabling provision of universal healthcare even in low resource settings.
Half of the world’s 7.3 billion people still lack access to basic healthcare, so the goal of one billion people felt both realistic and feasible. Which is why we now have set an ambitious goal – to help one billion people get access to healthcare by 2023.
– How has Sweden’s tech ecosystem helped, or hindered, progress with the company? What are the country’s biggest pros and cons for young tech startups?
There is a strong tech community in Sweden with a lot of very talented people wanting to work in tech. When I graduated from Stockholm School of Economics, everyone wanted to work in finance or management consulting. Today people are much more value driven in their choice of career, which is part of the explanation as to why we have been able to attract so many brilliant people in such a short time.
When it comes to healthcare Sweden has set an objective: that by 2025 we should be the best country in the world at using healthtech. This creates a sense of urgency among decision makers. But a lot needs to be done if we are going to reach that goal. Today public tender processes and reimbursement systems slow down development.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. We have worked closely with healthcare provider Capio and done a broad roll out in their 80 primary care centers with 800,000 listed patients having access to the platform in less than a year. So now when we are looking beyond the borders of Sweden, what we are looking for are private healthcare providers that wants to improve healthcare and understand the potential of user friendly and intelligent digital tools to do so.
What’s the single best piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs?
Be absolutely convinced why you are doing something. The why must guide everything you do, from market strategy to product development and external communications. If you are comfortable in your why you will save a lot of time that you’d otherwise spent pondering, worrying about whether you have made the right decisions.