In our usual tradition, we caught up with the enigmatic Founder of Doctoora.com who is gradually carving a niche for himself in the Nigerian health sector.
Now back to our feature.
Though a trained medical doctor, his knack for excellence seems to be pushing him into an excellent path of creating standard facilities for healthcare professionals interested in clinical practice.
Revolutions start in different ways. Dr. Debo, as he is fondly called, is leading a team that is well on the way to rejig how clinical practice is being done in Nigeria.
I spoke to him about his plans and what the future holds for Nigeria’s health sector. He is an incurable optimist I must warn you. Enjoy our chat!!!
Hi, can we meet you? Give us a brief summary about yourself.
My name is Debo Odulana. I am a medical Doctor, although right now I work more as a Management Consultant focused on healthcare. I am also an entrepreneur – the Founder & CEO of Doctoora Company Limited, simply known as Doctoora.
For a while, I practiced as a Medical Doctor for at least 7 years. Prior to that, I worked in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) and also trained as a Medical Doctor in the UAE.
For me, I moved backed to Nigeria because I felt there was a lot of work to be done to improve the healthcare sector here in Nigeria. After moving back, I have been working in urban and rural settings, private and public sector. There is a lot of gaps in the infrastructure and I wanted to make a difference by creating a solution that allows professionals to start a private practice without thinking of all the associated with set-up cost.
We now know you have some international exposure and some local experience, however, what informed your choice of the name, ‘Doctoora’.
Well, that was part of the UAE system. Coincidentally, in the UAE almost everybody in working in the hospital is called Doctoora. When the locals come into the hospital, they call the nurses, doctors or even the cleaner, Doctoora.
It is a general term for all persons working in the hospital. So while I was trying to figure out the best name for the company, I came down to a short-list of about 3 names. The first name was “Doctor-Shopper”. It sounded so much like an online shopping mall for doctors alone. So I spoke to a few people and the name Doctoora was chosen.
Can you let our readers know what Doctoora is primarily about?
It is a company that is focused on improving health care in Nigeria. This is our primary aim.
Now, we do this under 3 different business arms. The 3 arms include a focus on Infrastructure, a focus on consultancy, and a focus on Tech & Innovative management.
The infrastructure business is our primary business arm at the moment. We are focused on providing full-service medical facilities to healthcare providers who want to start a private practice. The philosophy is that if we get more professionals into private practice, then we increase access to healthcare. Already, Nigeria has a shortage of healthcare professionals, a shortage of infrastructure.
Take this as an example; there are about 83 professionals already signed-up for private practice on our platform. This means 83 new business who have created private practice and can cater for more clients.
This 83 doctors, all in Lagos right now, can see patients across 21 facilities. So you see there is an exponential increase in the access that we have created by just using technology and making sure people are not fixed to one location. This is what we do.
Our end goal is integrated care – a system where everything is connected; so it becomes possible to have clients and manage them at home, instead of keeping them in the hospital because you don’t know how the care will be when they go home.
As a pioneer in the use of technology to provide healthcare infrastructure to health professionals, what has been your challenges so far?
Honestly, this model has not been used in many places around the world. In actual sense, our model allows a doctor to book for one hour and allows for a flexibility never seen anywhere before now. So being able to navigate through such terrain without an existing case study to compare with our model is a major challenge.
Also, we have been trying to figure out what the pricing would be best for the market, what model to adopt. We learn from the healthcare professionals as well who ultimately decide what the price would be. For example, what would work for a nurse, may not work for a doctor or for an optician or even a dentist. So we have to be flexible enough to accommodate everybody and still make sure that our aim and objective are not defeated.
The other challenges include what other typical businesses face like brand awareness, financing, and staffing.
We have been able to raise a significant amount of funding that will take us through this initial phase of testing. We would still need to raise more funds in the future. The challenge lies in the raising of revenues from where we are now to higher levels.
Getting the right staff and keeping a team is also a big challenge. As we currently are, we have had to half our team size over the last 2 months. The reasons for this span from non-performance or poor performance to some getting better offers and having to leave. Some others leave because there is not enough money to pay heavily. Yet we need people who would come in, be passionate, work smart and work hard to grow the company. I want to also say that tech development in Nigeria is also difficult. Getting the right kind of developers, to grow the system is another challenge.
The rate of adoption of our solution is also slow because we have to drag in HMOs, health insurance companies and even professionals. We believe with our model, we can bring down cost. I also think we are also in our early days, we would need more successful case studies, data to show new clients to enable sign up to our platform and model.
Your model sounds excellent and well planned out, can you walk us through how health professionals can be part of Doctoora?
So we are taking a closed network approach to say if you are interested in joining Doctoora Network, you have to go through a verification process, submit your credentials including your license to practice from your relevant professional body.
After this phase, we help the professional build a standard private practice. All this roll on the back of tech. Professionals would be welcome “onboard” Doctoora.com to sign up, upload their credentials/documents including certificates, medical degree, professional certificates, and license.
After the onboarding, they are allowed to book facilities from any of the centers across Lagos.
How many centers locations does Doctoora run?
There are 21 locations in all, but Doctoora fully owns 3 of them. Our model includes setting up facilities to close the gap as well as meeting with owners of existing facilities to see their spare capacities. Since they don’t use up all their spaces, we take up all their space and rent it out to doctors for a small fee.
So a doctor in Ikeja who needs to see a patient in Lekki could use one of our partner’s facilities. Our partner in Lekki is happy and the patient is not stressed by the journey and possible bad traffic.
You recently got some funding for Doctoora. Founders of health startups with good ideas are usually held back or held down by poor funding. What is your solution for these entrepreneurial health professionals?
You cannot get money if you have not started anything. When you want to raise money, you have to start with people around you – your friends, your family and yourself. This would be your first initial funding. Once you get this initial small funding to boost what you have already started, always keep them in the loop by regularly updating them on the outcome of the money. They could get your customers, clients, users because you are serious with your business.
As the business grows and there is the need to recruit staff, to get an office space etc, you would need to get more money for the expansion.
Then you should look for another set of investors. They are typically seed investors, who would give grants (like Tony Elumelu Foundation) of about $5,000, which is about N1.8 million or thereabouts. This fund would take you another 4 -5 months of business.
After this, you may want to show bigger investors that the business is now scalable with an above average ROI.
So raising of funds is typically in stages. But most people I have come across have this grand idea; they simply want to get $1 million based on an idea. They do not want to start slowly or from a small size. It will never work.
How long has Doctoora been in operation?
We launched officially in February 2018 and we are hoping that by February 2019, we would be adding more states to our list of centers. So we have been focused on branding awareness and we have been getting a good response.
What governmental agency, if any, directly oversee your activities?
The agency of primary concern is the Health Facility Accreditation and Monitoring Agency (HFAMA). They are about making sure facilities are standard and of the right quality.
Since you started operations in February have there been complaints from patients?
How are you able to check that?
So our focus is on patient experience. You know all that we do is designed around patient experience. Patients have to rate the doctors after every consultation. We get the feedback immediately.
On the site, patients can rate a doctor. This ensures that we keep a close tab on their activities and other clients get to choose doctors with a good rating. Some of the criteria for this rating include the ability to explain, tolerance, attentiveness etc. A 5-star doctor will more likely get more patients than a 3-star doctor.
We also periodically pick up the phone to follow up on patients. One distinct thing about our service is that there is no waiting time. If an appointment time is scheduled for 11:30 am, everyone arrives at that time. This is good for us as an organization because it helps us to plan.
Your set-up is quite serene and calm. Also, I noticed that the caliber of equipment in this facility is top notch. I just feel like more Nigerians should know about Doctoora, however, I want to know if your services are expensive?
We don’t set the price. We set the metrics for own percentage though. Technically, we use an algorithm to help facilities decide how much they can charge. So we are really not setting any price, just playing around with economics. The doctors set their prices – they know clients who can afford to pay more and those cannot afford to pay. So they set their prices and agree with their patients. Then they come in and make use of our facilities for a percentage of the fee charged.
We hope that as traction increases, then we can begin to deploy more tech-based solutions to set prices depending on peak periods or off-peak periods, and depending on the specialty or specialist in high demand. Ultimately demand and supply will come into play and this will automatically determine the prices.
You should also know that at the moment, our consulting rooms have a standard price of N6000 per hour. This allows a typical doctor whose average consultation time is 20minute, can attend to 3 patients at a rate of N2000 per patient. This is a modest price for any doctor to pay. The balance of whatever he charges his patients is all for him.
On this note, I say a big thank you for having us and do keep up the good work…