The first-ever RP Business Plan Contest winner has been named. Corporate securities and business litigation law firm Richardson Patel launched the contest in association with co-sponsors UCLA Anderson School of Management, Moss Adams LLP, and Equities.com, in September 2012.
Candidates submitted their best ideas from all industries and regions, and a while the voting came down to the wire between the impressive finalists, when all was said and done, online healthcare technology developer 1DocWay took home the prize. The company specializes in arranging telemedicine sessions for mental health physicians and their patients through their platform.
“1DocWay is a very interesting company that, in the end, caught the eyes of the judges and put them over the top,” said Doug Gold, Chief Operating and Financial Officer of Richardson Patel. “Their business model seems to be hitting on a very current-event topic of mental health in this country. They’re about providing greater access to those in need that otherwise might not have access. I think the democratization of mental health care accessibility got the attention of some of the judges, and it looks like a very promising and exciting business.”
1DocWay takes home the $10,000 grant to help accelerate its business’ growth, and along the other finalists, will be eligible to receive incubation for incubation services through RP Ventures.
“We’ve been in discussions with several of the semi-finalists and we got exposed to great new companies, and look forward to continued dialogue and we certainly hope that the exposure to our co-sponsors and our broad ecosystem will provide some benefit overall to each of these companies,” Gold said. “I’d like to thank the co-sponsors of Moss Adams LLP, UCLA Anderson School of Management, and certainly Equities.com for being great participants and in helping something like this off the ground. It’s always hard to give birth to something like this, but we’re optimistic that we can hopefully do something like this again in the future.”
Equities.com had the opportunity to speak with Samir Malik, CEO of 1DocWay. In addition to working on his fourth startup, Malik is also working toward an MBA at Wharton in Healthcare Management Program. Other members of the 1DocWay management team includes Danish Munir, the company’s CTO, and Mubeen Malik, the company’s COO.
EQ: What does winning the RP Business Plan mean to you and 1DocWay?
Malik: It’s humbling to be recognized in this way. We were able to see a lot of the other companies that made it as finalists, and they’re all doing fantastic work. Some have made a lot of meaningful progress toward their objectives, and there’s such a wide range of services being offered—from healthcare technologies all the way to media. So to be selected is, more than anything, something that gives us a sense of pride of ownership about the work that we’ve put in.
EQ: Can you talk about 1DocWay, and the unmet needs of the market that inspired you to create this business?
Malik: I used to work in mental health, and one of the things that I would see are patients who would be coming from so far just to have very short appointments, and one of the challenges that became very salient in that experience was the fact that they weren’t always making their appointments. They weren’t able to get healthier because it was so challenging to see a physician. For every one person we got to see who came from far away, we recognized that there were five or 10 others that could not make the trip out. So that was the impetus to use a technology to expand access to underserved Americans dealing with mental health issues.
EQ: How does removing the logistical issues of physical distance help to improve the doctor-patient relationship, and how people can receive the care they need?
Malik: We feel like we’re impacting the doctor-patient relationship in two key ways. The first is improving convenience. So it’s become that much easier to follow-up with your physician and to follow through with the orders, and to show up for the follow-up appointments. In mental health, showing up to your follow-up appointment is a key determinant of success.
The second thing we’re doing is actually increasing comfort. The patient has a little more distance, and a little more privacy and anonymity by being able to use technology and not necessarily have to go to a hospital or a physician’s office. In mental health, creating that comfort zone can be very enabling for patients.
EQ: What areas of the market are you targeting right now to execute your business strategy?
Malik: We focus on mental health professional shortage areas. Often times, this means a lack of density of providers within 50 to 70 miles away. The statistic is 50 million Americans live 70 miles or further away from their nearest physician. So that’s the distance component.
But there’s also an underserved component that we started to explore as well, which is patients living in urban centers where there just aren’t that many mental health professionals. They’re having a very tough time finding a doctor because there are wait times of six months or longer. With something like mental health, you can’t really wait six months.
So we’re serving both urban and rural areas now, with the focus on people for whom finding a doctor is exceedingly difficult.
EQ: Does this also help patients to access more options for better care?
Malik: More or less, yes. Patients have greater selection to get more customization. For example, a rural community may have one mental health professional there, but they may be trained in adult mental health. If you’re a child in need of mental health treatment, then you don’t have access to that specialist that is most appropriate to you. So it helps in that way as well.
EQ: How does 1DocWay work? How do patients and physicians set it up to access your technology?
Malik: Our technology is available through the internet. So anyone with an internet connection and a webcam is good to use our technology. It exists right in the browser, and making an appointment is as easy as clicking a calendar. Starting the appointment is as easy as pressing start. We’ve really built our technology as easy and straightforward as possible. We have doctors in their late 70s who are using it, which is a testament as to how simple to use our platform is.
EQ: Can you talk about your current business model and strategy for growth?
Malik: We charge the provider to use our system. So that’s the hospitals and the doctors. Our pitch to them is that this is a way for them to extend their reach, treat more patients, and to win more business, and more importantly, to do the right thing in the community by being seen as a steward of mental health.
EQ: Do you facilitate transactions and billing on your platform?
Malik: We can facilitate it. We count on components like the timing and the right billing code, and making sure the sessions are reimbursable by insurance companies. That’s very important.
EQ: How has your product been received by the market? Are you gaining the traction that you want to see?
Malik: Two metrics that we like to share are that we’re now offering it in six states, and we’ve treated over 6,000 patients.
EQ: How does winning the RP Business Plan help you to execute on your growth plans?
Malik: One of the things that is most important to us at this stage of our company is spreading the word. So to the extent that the community here is able to put us in touch with the right players, whether they’re hospitals, physicians, community health organizations, insurance companies, etc. That’s instrumental to our success story. So we think winning the RP Business Plan will certainly help us accelerate down that path.
EQ: Any final thoughts that you’d like to add?
Malik: I just want to thank everyone again. It’s just an honor, and we look forward to giving back in any way we can. It’s certainly not a winner take all mentality. I know everybody out there has been doing some good work, so we hope it will be beneficial in that capacity.