Here’s Part 2 of our interview with Doximity’s C.E.O. Jeff Tangney. If you missed part 1, click here.
SCHMIEDER: How does Doximity fit into the current universe of social media communication among physicians?
TANGNEY: There are a number of social media channels but they are anonymous. For example, Sermo gives physicians a place where they can have discussions anonymously. That’s not what we do.
The space we’re carving out is a secure collaboration platform that physicians will use to coordinate care and find the right referrals. Doximity is about precision referrals and secure messaging. It’s about sharing cell phone numbers and backlines. It’s about opening up and increasing the efficiencies of secure channels. We’re the only network that does that.
Primary care physicians used to do rounds at the hospitals. They would see their patients and share information with other doctors, talk about new specialists in the area, or discuss a case or article that came out. This has completely changed with the prevalence of hospitalist medicine.
Hospitalist medicine is one of the biggest trends in healthcare this decade. It means that people practice medicine in hospitals, work in that hospital, and never leave that hospital. It’s efficient but as a consequence, you’ve lost that ability to stay in touch with peers and get referrals at work because primary care physicians no longer go on rounds.
SCHMIEDER: One of the biggest surprises in doing these interviews has been learning that adoption of social media by physicians has been led by the older physicians. Daniel Palestrant of Sermo mentioned they did the research and found older physicians were joining their network faster because the further away they are from medical school, the more they want to interact with peers.
TANGNEY: That’s it exactly. It used to be physicians had more opportunities to socialize with each other, but who has time for that now?
We’ve all lived the benefit of being in touch with our LinkedIn colleagues and knowing that if I need to get hold of someone I know professionally, I can find them on LinkedIn. Doctors benefit the same way from Doximity.
SCHMIEDER: Were there other legal or technical hurdles you had to address in building Doximity?
TANGNEY: Technically, there has been the challenge of keeping things secure in the Cloud. We’re hosted on Amazon and have backup on Amazon but Amazon has been down occasionally. Because of those security issues, we had to implement secure messaging in a way that is completely encrypted on the iPhone or Android device. It’s never unencrypted until it reaches your colleague’s mobile device.
Another technical hurdle has been taking advantage of the speed and scalability of the Cloud while keeping everything encrypted. You have to remember, healthcare has no central IT department, so doctors choose devices they are comfortable with and we need to be on those devices. We need Doximity to work across servers, to quickly encrypt photographs and images and text on one device and ship them to another.
The great news is iPhones and Android phones are very powerful. We’ve had some issues getting onto the Blackberry platform because some of their older devices are not powerful to do that kind of encryption on their own, but it’s just a matter of time.
I remember that when we launched Epocrates, it would take 45 seconds to open up a secure record about a patient on a Palm Pilot. You could almost feel the hamsters running in wheels. The iPhone I’m holding in my hand now is as powerful as computers were just five years ago.
SCHMIEDER: At Epocrates, one of your drivers of revenue was working with pharmaceutical companies. How will those relationships play out at Doximity?
TANGNEY: We’re not currently seeking any pharmaceutical company partnerships. Our focus is on the physicians. We’re making it easy for them to know what articles a particular doctor has written or how many clinical trials one has led. All of that is searchable and contained in a user’s profile. This is potentially very powerful for pharmaceutical companies but we’re not there yet. We want to preserve the integrity of the network that is building.
SCHMIEDER: I know it’s preliminary but could you describe how you envision a Doximity-pharmaceutical company partnership?
TANGNEY: I’ll preface this by again saying, it’s early, but I could imagine we’ll offer featured platforms for key opinion leaders. For example, if Doctor Ashcroft is a thought leader in fibromyalgia, a pharmaceutical company could sponsor a threaded discussion or group that is led by him. Again, it’s still too early to discuss. Most likely it would be in an opt-in basis.
SCHMIEDER: What other insights have you had in your first six months of existence?
TANGNEY: One is that doctors are more likely to accept invites from certain specialities. For example, if you’re an oncologist, the odds of you accepting another oncologist’s invitation are lower than you accepting an invitation from a primary care doctor or internist. So the notion of birds of a feather flocking together just isn’t true. Cardiologists want to have colleagues who are in the emergency room, because the ER docs see a lot of stroke patients and they need the referrals.
SCHMIEDER: Sounds like there is a fair amount of competition.
TANGNEY: That might be it.
The other insight is that faxing continues to be very popular. Physicians use the fax because the fax is HIPAA compliant, as it was grandfathered in by HIPAA. If a doctor wants to send someone a message, we allow that individual to send them a fax from the web,iPhone or Android, even if the recipient isn’t a Doximity member. Our users love this feature. Sometimes they want to send a brief note to a colleague and if that colleague isn’t on our network, they can dictate the note into their smart phone, hit the send button and fax it. It’s more convenient than printing out a cover sheet, finding the fax number, writing it down, typing up the note, putting it on the fax machine, etc.
SCHMIEDER: What have you been doing to get doctors interested in Doximity?
TANGNEY: It’s been almost all word of mouth. If doctor is invited by another doctor, then he’s more likely to join. At Epocrates, our number one marketing program was our Advocate Program, where we had over a thousand physicians go out and give presentations at local grand rounds or medical meetings. We would offer them the slides and they could personalize them.
SCHMIEDER: Jeff, we’re impressed with what you’ve done and are looking forward to hearing more about Doximity’s successes.
TANGNEY: Thanks Karl.
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