We’ve all experienced it before – days when we feel so ill that we can’t even muster the strength to roll out of our beds to see a doctor.
However, we still need medicine to get better, so we head to the nearest polyclinic or family clinic and sit lethargically on plastic chairs until our turn comes.
Fortunately for us in Singapore, while medical attention usually isn’t too far away, what if there was a way to skip all those queues and send doctor to your doorstep instead?
Dr. Shravan Verma (30) has created a ‘Grab for doctors’ so that we can get access to doctors anytime, anywhere.
Bringing Medical Care From Clinics And Hospitals To Homes
Having spent years working at public hospitals in Singapore from his med school days until 2017, Dr. Shravan noticed a gap in the market “for being able to provide quick and convenient medical care in a community setting”.
“This was further reinforced by seeing patients going to A&E for minor things like constipation or simple coughs and colds, simply because they did not have any alternatives after-hours,” he said.
“After seeing the above problem, I was determined to act and do something about it.”
A biomedical and electrical engineering student prior to his medical studies, he told us that “having an engineering mindset” was actually the driving force behind his urge to “always question, and look for improvements in the way things were being done”.
Eventually, Speedoc has become my way of marrying my two passions of engineering and medicine by providing a service that adds value to society.
The Speedoc team got to work quickly, and CTO Harish Ramachandran, previously the CTO at DineConnect, led a team of developers in Vietnam to develop the app.
“We moved extremely quickly and remained very lean in our expenditure, pushing out one product after another making changes on the fly,” recalled Dr. Shravan. “Even now, we’re constantly working to improve the app.”
Speedoc started seeing patients on 1 Jan 2018.
“There Are Doctors Who Prefer To Stick To What They Know”
But how do they ‘recruit’ the doctors on call in the first place? Aren’t most of them already tied down enough to their postings at chain clinics and hospitals?
“We partner with individual doctors, not with clinics – unless the doctors whom we work with happen to own their own chain of clinics,” explained Dr. Shravan.
“Our current doctors are GPs, and provide mostly GP services. We do work with some specialists and Farrer Park Hospital as partners, and we refer some of our patients to them.”
They currently have 29 doctors in their growing stable, but Dr. Shravan admitted that recruitment wasn’t all that smooth-sailing at the start.
There are doctors who say the market is too small, the demand is too low and they prefer to stick to what they know (clinic visits).
“Thankfully, there are quite a few doctors out there who believe in our technology, and our end goal of creating a mobile medicine ecosystem.”
As for getting patients on board, he shared that some of their most immediate customers comes from the underserved market that needs house call services.
This group includes the elderly, the immobile, special needs patients, people with injuries and trauma, patients with extreme dizziness and nausea, and also patients who need home medical/nursing services.
They’ve also recently starting seeing a larger response from patients looking for “fast, convenient, and comprehensive services”.
“We have received almost all positive reviews regarding our service, specially when they notice differentiators such as being able to chat with the same doctor after the visit, which was unheard of in primary care,” he revealed.
Consultations Start From $150
Since launch, Speedoc has acquired a user base of 3,000 individuals and their team of 29 doctors have made over 700 visits so far.
‘Speedocs’ also carry with them a standard Speedoc Doctor Bag, a medical kit curated by the team to cater to 95% of all commonly-seen ailments.
Not only are we able to prescribe common medication on the spot, we can also move beyond normal GP settings and can cater to requests like suturing, nasogastric tubes, catheterisation, IV drips etcetera.
A typical consultation costs $150-$250 (depending on the time of the day), but the steep price might put off a typical consumer.
Dr. Shravan assures, however, that they are “definitely looking to lower the costs”.
“We want to democratise house calls as a mode of health care,” he stated.
“With scale and volume, we can leverage on economies of scale, and work not only to lower the prices but also reduce request time for patients.”
Creating A Medical ‘Superapp’
When asked about the most memorable Speedoc visits so far, Dr. Shravan recalled that they once saw a special needs patient who had a phobia of needles.
“We worked with his family to come in and do a blood draw while he was sleeping. To ensure he didn’t wake up, we could not work with the lights on, but did the blood draw by candlelight,” he shared.
This reiterates our mission in being able to treat patients with limited options at home, without a burden on family for taking such patients to the hospital.
Recently, Dr. Shravan also went viral after photos of him rendering help to an injured motorcyclist emerged online.
Then, he was on his way to visit a patient in Jurong with a nurse when they came across the accident and the crash victim.
According to a Stomp reader, Dr. Shravan came forward to help check the vital signs of the victim, while bystanders helped to redirect traffic.
“He also checked for broken bones, gave instructions on how to immobilise the victim’s neck, and kept the victim calm until the ambulance arrived,” the reader added.
It was then that she found out that they were from Speedoc.
The report was met with overwhelmingly positive comments, and the Speedoc team responded, stating that they’re proud of the help rendered by Dr. Shravan and Head of Nursing Shirlyn Wu.
‘Look for the helpers. You can always find people who are helping.’ It was our privilege to be the helpers this time around.
Last month, they were also one of 4 medical service providers to join the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) regulatory sandbox for telemedicine, which will allow them to offer services to patients in Singapore while “staying within specified patient safety and welfare parameters”.
“We want to be able to push the boundaries of healthcare and medicine, while being safe and in a regulated manner,” said Dr. Shravan on the announcement.
Ultimately, the plan is that Speedoc becomes a “medical superapp”, offering not just house calls, but implementing in-app follow ups, and even opening a chat and video call module by early 2019.
“For now, our main priority is to grow our customer base through hospital and insurance partnerships and to prepare to scale up our business when more customers come on board,” he shared.
At the moment, we receive an average of 5-10 patients per day, and we plan to grow by two to three times by the middle of next year.
I’d like to thank Dr. Shravan for his time!