Unexplained waits in the doctor’s office or the surgery center could soon be a thing of the past, with technology invented by two Tampa-St. Pete area doctors.
The patent-pending application for DocClocker and DOC-OR allows physicians to communicate about wait times with their patients.
“We are very much wanting to improve the patient experience because we value our patients’ time. We know that other doctors do too and it’s often the lack of communication that creates frustration,” Dr. Kevin Makati said. “A tool like this levels the playing field and provides the information and transparency that consumers want and it allows physicians a means of alleviating the frustrations their patients experience.”
Makati, who is board certified in cardiovascular diseases and is an assistant professor in cardiology at University of South Florida, and Dr. Eric Carter, board certified in family medicine and a hospitalist at BayCare Medical Group, collaborated on the technology, although with a third co-founder, Brandon Sultemeier, a marketer in Austin, Texas.
They’ve raised $1 million in a seed round funded by local physicians. DocClocker is a member of Embarc Collective, the downtown Tampa hub designed to elevate the startup community.
There are two software platforms, accessed online and used in conjunction with a smart phone app.
“DocClocker.com allows patient go online, find doctors in their area, make an appointment with that doctor and at the same time know how long the wait will be for that doctor,” Makati said. “It gives two pieces of information. It gives them the availability of the doctor at any time of day. It could be a Sunday night when the office is closed, or a holiday, it doesn’t matter. They know the doctor’s schedule at a glance looking at the doccloker.com website and once they book the appointment they have real time knowledge of how long it will take to see the doctor.
“If you know the doctor is running late, you have the ability to grab a coffee or bring reading material so you’re not just waiting without knowing how long it will take.”
The software helps relieve the anxiety on the part of the patient or their families, while also impacting doctors’ responses.
“We’ve had physicians that run really late typically and after implementing our product, they’ve felt more aware their wait times are being reported and it’s taught them to run more on time,” Carter said.
DOC-OR is designed for the hospital or ambulatory surgical center setting.
“I’m sure you’ve had a loved one have surgery and not knowing what’s going on during the course of the operation,” Makati said. “We have an iPad that we sell to the hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers and they are able to pass HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]-protected text messages, even photos and videos, of what’s happening to the same smart phone application so that the family has real-time updates as to what’s happening.”
They are currently focused on launching DocClocker. DOC-OR was piloted at Oklahoma Heart Hospital and got good patient reviews, but it’s enterprise level software that requires more marketing resources.
Part of the impetus for the technology came from personal experience.
“As a patient myself, with my wife, I waited in the OB waiting room for two hours. I thought there should be a way to communicate wait times,” Carter said. “We understand emergencies pop up, and as clinicians it’s often the case where a specialist will be backed up in the operating room and have to scramble off to their afternoon clinic, but because of delays the case gets pushed back and they need a way to communicate that they are running behind. Or if there’s a difficult conversation, perhaps an end of life or a grief conversation that can require more time and is difficult to cut off, and other patients have to wait, but they need an easy way to communicate delays.”
They worked with BHW Development in Austin to develop DocClocker.
“We set out to do it four years ago and it’s evolved into this cross-platform application that’s really a convenient tool, and we’re looking to launch and scale it across the country now,” Carter said.
As a Tampa-based startup, they wanted to support the local economy, so they enlisted local doctors to sign up for DocClocker and also invest in it.
“They believe in the product, and they’re willing to invest in the product and use the product because they understand the value it offers their patients,” Carter said.
The infrastructure at Embarc has been important, Makati said.
“Before we were a concept with a minimally viable product without necessarily the infrastructure to develop and scale it. Now we have coaches and mentors and access to their network, so we can leverage the business leaders they’ve recruited to help us scale this to a national level.”
Privacy and cost
One of the challenges in introducing new healthcare technology is competing with tech giants in an industry where the sales cycle is already lengthy. Other concerns are concerns over price and security.
“We have priced the software to be very competitive, because in our hearts we want to improve the patient experience. That’s our first goal, so we’ve priced it so it is not a big expense for the hospital system,” Makati said. “The second concern, which explains why healthcare tech is so far behind other vertical markets, is that technology has a tough time advancing in the healthcare environment because hospital systems are so concerned about patient information and protecting that information.”
DocClocker has hired an IT firm that protects patient information with 256-bit encrypted transfers. The company also has worked with healthcare lawyers with HIPAA expertise. “They have gone through our workflow and have given us the confidence that what we’re doing is HIPAA protected,” Makati said.
They’ve applied for a patent, and can see other uses for the technology in settings where wait times are a sensitive issue. For now, though, they will stick to healthcare.