No more being on hold by phone

Publié le 8 January, 2019

Start-up Doctena developed a medical booking platform to make doctors’ and patients’ lives easier. Patrick Kersten, founder and owner of the company is confident.

Patients can schedule an appointment online through Doctena’s cloud calendar at a date and time convenient to them. And that appointment then goes directly into the healthcare provider’s calendar. The system then reminds patients by email or text message of that appointment, greatly reducing the no-show rate, according to Patrick Kersten. ‘On average by about seventy percent, according to research we regularly commission. Moreover, as a doctor, you can offer timeslots that become available at the last minute to patients who would like to be treated quickly. That too offers benefits for both parties.’

More than 10,000 physicians

Doctena began in Luxembourg and now has a firm foothold in Belgium and Germany. The bulk of the one and a half million appointments per month are made in these states, with more than 10,000 physicians. Furthermore, the company operates in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. In the Amsterdam, Haarlem and Amstelveen region, dentists, general practitioners and gynecologists and dermatologists from some independent treatment centers are now affiliated with Doctena. Recently, Doctena announced that the company has raised 8 million euros from private investors to further expand in the new markets. One of those investors is Patrick Kersten himself. Exactly what amount is involved, he prefers to keep to himself. But he considers the risk of losing his money limited because there are “great opportunities for this product. ‘In any case, the users are very enthusiastic. More than 96 percent recommend the system to others. Doctors have convenience with it, and, of course, so do patients. Just look at your own behavior when it comes to a doctor’s appointment. People no longer want to call, and certainly don’t want to be on hold endlessly. They would like more control over their appointments with healthcare professionals.’

Doctena’s product thus fills a need. Acquiring customers, however, is a lot of work, Kersten continues. After all, “Doctors find it very normal that you visit them. They have become accustomed to this because of the pharmaceutical industry’s doctor visitors. So we have to imitate that. Only when we visit them do healthcare providers become customers. So with 50,000 doctors in the Netherlands, there is still a lot of work to do.’

The Netherlands is not an easy country when it comes to so!ware innovation in the medical market, adds Rob Rasing in the meeting room of a flex office on Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district. ‘Exchange of medical data is a politically hot topic,’ says Doctena’s Benelux ceo. ‘And in addition, fast decision-making in the healthcare sector is not yet commonplace.’ Nevertheless, developments are moving in the right direction as far as Rasing is concerned. ‘Programmes such as VIPP and MedMij are steps in the right direction. The importance of rapid data exchange is being increasingly recognized by all parties involved. That gives us confidence that Doctena’s more than eighty employees will have more than enough work in the future.’

Restaurants and cinemas

Using Doctena is simple, as is its design. The functionality is most reminiscent of the appointment functions for restaurants and cinemas. A green box at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday? So then the doctor has time. With a click, it’s settled.

The system eliminates the annoyance that almost everyone knows: you want to make a doctor’s appointment by phone and have to wait endlessly for your turn. Only to then have to convince a physician’s assistant that you are really only available after working hours. “That way of doing things is still peculiar to healthcare,” Rasing says. ‘As patients, we find it relatively normal to wait a long time. You take half a day off for an appointment with your doctor without thinking too much about it. But if you can arrange it online, none of that is necessary. An appointment is arranged in a moment, and also at a time that is convenient for you. People in other sectors have long since gotten used to that. Booking a flight hardly takes time anymore. It would be good if making an appointment for a consultation was that easy, too.’

That may be true, but doesn’t a system like Doctena run the risk of patients going to the doctor too quickly? After all, the intervention of a physician’s assistant can also work out well, in that not everything requires a visit to the consulting room. “In practice, that turns out to be not so bad,” Rasing says. ‘When making an appointment, a simple but effective triage is used, which is customizable by the health care provider.

With the ability to share calendars in a controlled and secure manner, appointments between caregivers are also possible. This functionality also allows primary care physicians and patients to schedule an appointment with a specialist immediately upon referral.

Finally, an optional feature was recently added that allows patients to rate their doctor, Rasing says. ‘That capability is not public and can only be added after actual treatment. The number of patients who comment is greater than expected and may be more valuable to the physician than open reviews on social media.’

Still exception

The cost of all this starts at 49 euros per month, including unlimited text message notifications, Rasing stressed. ‘We want to be the online appointment platform between the patient and the healthcare professional. In the Dutch healthcare market, a cloud-based solution like Doctena is still the exception rather than the rule. And this while we offer many advantages. Besides the time savings, this is the ability to manage your cloud agenda from anywhere and to share it easily and securely with supporting parties such as call centers and GP offices. And finally, the so!ware updates are automatic.’

User Experience

Albertine Voncken is a general practitioner and has a practice in Amsterdam-East. For the past two years, she has been using Doctena. ‘Patients said they needed it, but for myself it’s also convenient. The practice has only one physician’s assistant, so telephone access was limited. Since we have been using Doctena, this is no longer a problem. One advantage is that you can customize the system to your needs. We exclude appointments within 24 hours. I’d rather not be surprised by a patient who shows up at the last minute. Moreover, we want the physician’s assistant to be able to assess the request first. Is it really necessary to come by, shouldn’t it be a double appointment, wouldn’t it be better to refer? Those kinds of questions.

So Voncken is satisfied, but finds Doctena pricey. I pay for myself and for my observer, who only works two days a week. On an annual basis that does add up, but for now it’s well worth it to me.’


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