I had the pleasure of interviewing Cole Sirucek, CEO and co-founder of DocDoc, Asia’s leading patient empowerment company. Cole is an investor and serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I have been an investor for 13 years before turning to entrepreneurship. Out of these 13 years, I spent 7 of them in the direct investment team in Temasek Holdings, the national wealth fund owned by the government of Singapore. I have also held executive positions in Hawaii’s State Government and served as an Independent Member of the Board of Directors for Global Eagle Acquisition Corp, a NASDAQ listed SPAC focused on the media and entertainment industry. I have also co-founded Epic MMA Club, Asia’s largest mixed martial arts training center and Pluto Networks, a wireless data networking company.
Currently, I am the CEO and co-founder of DocDoc, Asia’s leading patient empowerment company. DocDoc’s vision is to empower patients to make data-driven healthcare decisions which are safe, transparent, and fair.
At DocDoc, we are the patients’ trusted medical advisor. With a network of more than 23,000 contracted doctors and extensive proprietary data on outcome, price, and experience, we help patients find the highest quality care for their unique medical needs. Our goal is to give patients access to powerful and credible information that is not available anywhere else. We are on a mission to transform healthcare by empowering patients to achieve excellent outcomes, efficient pricing, and a delightful experience.
When a patient contacts us, we begin with an interview to understand their medical needs and preferences. We next compare every provider in our network against their unique needs, including their healthcare quality scores for their specific condition or requested procedure. Then, we provide the patient a customized panel of recommended doctors and help them book an appointment at their preferred time. Our medically trained team supports the patient at every step of their healthcare journey.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The story behind why we started this company itself is unique. My wife, Grace Park and I welcomed our first child, Rand Charis Sirucek, to the world in 2013. She was born healthy, but at her two-month checkup, she looked jaundiced. After a battery of tests, a room full of surgeons broke the news that our little girl had a rare condition called biliary atresia, and that she had to immediately undergo an emergency operation called a Kasai procedure.
At that point, we realized that our lives had changed forever. It was terrifying to be in a position where we had to make a life or death decision without the support necessary to make an informed decision. Despite several attempts, we were not able to collect the information we needed to understand if the team who had made the initial diagnosis in Singapore was the right team to perform the procedure.
Luckily for us, we had a close friend who was a well-regarded local surgeon to help us navigate the doctor discovery process. Through his help, we found Dr. Koichi Tanaka who is a pioneer in pediatric live liver transplants. Dr. Tanaka and his team based in Japan not only were the highest volume liver transplant team in the world, they were also 40% less expensive than the Singaporean team.
Our daughter ended up needing to undergo a live liver transplant where I donated a part of my liver to her during a 15-hour operation. I recovered quickly and our daughter is progressing well. Our medical care team was amazing and is a big reason we are here today.
We started DocDoc to empower patients to find the right care for their unique needs. It is unacceptable that patients dealing with tragic medical news need also deal with a difficult to navigate medical maze.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
DocDoc is a real-world AI project currently operating in healthcare in Asia today. Our doctor discovery product is based on “HOPE” which is the name of our AI. HOPE stands for the Heuristic for Outcome, Price and Experience. At DocDoc, we collect information no one else in the industry has and we then structure this data in a way which allow HOPE to leverage the practical strengths of computer intelligence to compare each doctor’s unique strengths at a condition and procedure level of granularity based on healthcare quality. We define quality in healthcare as a function of Outcome- expected efficacy of treating a condition or procedure, Price- what a doctor charges relative to peers, and Experience — how the doctor makes you feel.
While each of these aspects of quality is important, they are not always tied together. For example, a physician may have given a great experience for a patient, but have limited training in a specific procedure and have a poor predicted outcome. As another example, a physician may be extremely well trained in an area and provide an excellent predicted outcome, but may have a poor bedside manner or a long wait time. Given the patient’s unique healthcare needs, for any given condition or procedure, they may care more about outcome, price, experience, or a combination.
Today, we have built the largest proprietary healthcare database in Asia with more than 23,000 contracted doctors by collecting and verifying relevant information from multiple sources. Most of these data sources are not available publicly, making the DocDoc database the most robust in the industry. We combine this with the latest in clinical informatics and artificial intelligence to provide customized doctor recommendations for every patient. We top this up with stellar customer service and pride ourselves for being the patient’s advocate. At DocDoc, we have a highly qualified medically trained team who acts as a medical concierge for the patients and supports the patients in every step of their medical journey.
Based on the Net Promoter Score methodology, the average consumer in 2017 rated our product to be an 8.1 on a scale of 10 with 10 being perfection and 1 representing a very poor experience. In comparison, the insurance and healthcare segment as a whole in Asia tends to average a score of 4.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Everything we are doing is exciting. We have created the knowledge model, data collection workflow, doctor network and partners to transform the consumer experience for over half a billion people. What could be more exciting than this! Moreover, we are applying AI to this knowledge set with HOPE to offer artificial intelligence powered doctor discovery.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
The art of entrepreneurship is about attracting bright people with different skills, talents, and temperaments and getting them to work together in a coordinated way towards an important goal. An important part of this journey is understanding the difference between truth and wisdom.
Everybody has a truth- a reason behind what they are doing. Wisdom is about understanding everyone’s version of the truth and finding a way to balance those truths to achieve objectives. When I first started leading teams I used to focus on truth. Now it is all about wisdom.
As a leader, I am a follower of the servant leadership model. I would not ask anyone on my team to do something I would not do. There are no small tasks just small people who cannot do simple tasks well. Being a leader is a privilege and not a right. It must be earned every day by example.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
The only issue with this question is that you are restricting me to one name. DocDoc’s cap table is full of individuals who have played an important role in DocDoc’s success. Recently, our independent board member, Mr. Peter Maslen passed away. He was a dear friend, an exceptional mentor, a great board member and perhaps the best practitioner of servant leadership I have ever encountered. His mix of wit, wisdom, and steely eyed focus on execution was a constant source of inspiration. He will be missed.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At DocDoc, we strongly believe in doing good and doing well can and should go hand in hand. We have firsthand experienced what it feels like to navigate the medical maze alone and we have taken it upon ourselves to never let another patient feel the same way. Therefore, we have created a business model which removes inefficiencies of the healthcare system to empower patients at every step of their healthcare journey. We are leveraging the DocDoc platform to expand access to healthcare, reduce medical complication rates and readmission rates and improve patient experience across the region.
Can you share the top five ways that technology is changing the experience of going to the doctor? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Imagine your family member (say your mother), suddenly starts experiencing acute hip pain. You take her to the closest clinic near your house. The doctor suggests a few tests and as the results of the test come back, he breaks the news to you that your mother needs a hip replacement. A surgery is necessary and the sooner the better. You want the best possible outcome for the surgery and you want to make sure your mother has a great healthcare experience. You are also concerned about price since this may be an expensive surgery. What do you do? How do you decide who is the right doctor for your mother’s treatment?
You ask your family members for suggestions but the orthopaedic surgeon who was good for a knee replacement may not necessarily be best for a hip replacement. You look for information online but instead you either find a list of doctors but no information about them. You call up your insurance agent but he has no data to support you with either. You feel stressed, frustrated and helpless and realize you are going to have to make the most important decision of your life based on almost no relevant data. This is the current state of healthcare in Asia.
Each of these doctor discovery methodologies is far from ideal in that they do not allow the patient to make purchasing decisions based on objective metrics of healthcare quality. Three negative consequences to the patients from this type of decision-making are manifest in the form of lower quality care as measured by 1) increased complications and readmission rates, 2) higher cost of care as measured by medical inflation, increased recovery time, morbidity rates, and mortality rates and 3) increased anxiety and lower overall patient experience.
At DocDoc, we act as the patient’s trusted medical advisor. We collect data no one in the industry has, combine it with the latest in clinical informatics and artificial intelligence to provide doctor recommendations customized for each patient’s unique needs. We aim to transform healthcare by empowering patients to achieve excellent outcomes, efficient pricing, and a delightful experience.
Over the years, we have helped thousands of patients navigate the medical maze and find the right doctor. We have received numerous heartfelt messages from the patients who have been grateful to find a company that truly cares for We know we are truly making a difference in people’s lives because we hear it from our clients every day.
Here is a real-life case I distinctly remember:
A 2-month-old infant was diagnosed with congenital heart disease and her family was told that there was a leakage in the vsd and asd compartment of the heart. However, her mother wanted to be sure. When she contacted DocDoc, we reviewed her case and matched her with a suitable doctor by using HOPE. The doctor found that the baby was diagnosed with tetralogy of fallot (TOF), large malaligned vsd, congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. She needed immediate surgery. The surgery was performed by the doctor recommended by DocDoc and today the infant has grown into a happy and healthy toddler. The family thanked us profusely for standing by them through this ordeal and helping them systematically find the right doctor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
One of my favorite quotes is actually from Rocky Balboa!
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
It would be amazing to share a meal with Marc Andreessen. He has been at the forefront of the internet revolution and is now also playing an active role in the evolution of the blockchain. He has also had considerable success as an entrepreneur and also as an investor.