Doctor will see you now
Dubbed the ‘TripAdvisor’ of healthcare in Australia, Whitecoat has crossed the Tasman to help Kiwis make more informed choices about their healthcare provider.
Dubbed the ‘TripAdvisor’ of healthcare in Australia, Whitecoat has crossed the Tasman to help Kiwis make more informed choices about their healthcare provider. NZBusiness caught up with its CEO Matthew Donnellan for the story behind the online platform.
Imagine you’ve moved to a new town in New Zealand and you need a good GP, a dentist, optometrist, or any specialist healthcare provider. Where do you begin to find recommendations?
Now there is Whitecoat – New Zealand’s first online platform that lets people search, rate, review and compare local healthcare providers – and therefore make a more informed choice.
Launched in Australia by health insurer nib in 2013, then expanded four years later through a joint venture with Bupa and HBF, Whitecoat now has 220,000 trusted practitioner listings and has been accessed by nine million Aussies. It has generated 800,000 published reviews and generates 40,000 booking incidents a month.
The platform was launched on this side of the Tasman in late July to a mixed reaction, which was expected – after all, it is an industry disruptor.
It was the same when Whitecoat originally launched in Australia, explains its CEO Matthew Donnellan. It was felt in certain circles that healthcare was beyond the realm of consumer feedback, because medicine was “a higher calling” – which he describes as “nonsense”.
“There’s also been a real shift away from the provider being all-knowing and all-powerful; to consumers saying ‘hang on, there’s lots of stuff that I want to know [about providers] that I should be able to look up’.”
Donnellan points out that Whitecoat provides GPs with a valuable tool too – the additional information needed to help them refer patients to specialists.
“We’re not about disrupting a GP’s referral path. Quite the opposite. We want to allow GPs to have the right information available to them to do those referrals.
“Similarly, just because you have a good experience with a GP, doesn’t mean that everyone else is going to.”
He says it will take a while to build up the database, but when it’s there, as in Australia, providers will realise that they have a good source of information available to assist patients.
“It takes time, you have to be respectful of the providers and the market; but Whitecoat will deliver in New Zealand for patients, GPs and surgeons.”
Donnellan believes the New Zealand market will accelerate fast, as a result of what’s been learnt during Whitecoat’s Australian experience – although he admits that with New Zealand’s larger public market, and DHBs and ACC such an essential part of the healthcare structure, engagement will be different.
“In Australia we’re only now starting to process Medicare payments, which involves around 70 percent of all payments.”
He anticipates the full suite of Whitecoat products and functionality will be available to Kiwis by the end of 2019 – which includes native apps, searching providers, storing favourite providers, online bookings, payments and claims, and on-the-spot reviews after a service has been provided. The goal is to dovetail the platform with health insurers, ACC and the DHBs.
New Zealand was chosen as the first overseas market, ahead of three Asian markets Whitecoat has its sights on, because licensee nib also operates here. This is also an easy market to build a digital presence in; a market Donnellan has a personal family connection with, so not one he’s unfamiliar with.
“New Zealand is a logical next step. There are a lot of cultural similarities, as well as similarities in provider profiles. Many operator groups and GP, dental and optical groups have a presence in both markets,” he says.
It’s about transparency
Whitecoat is the brainchild of nib Australia CEO Mark Fitzgibbon – who believed people should have more transparency in healthcare [options].
With his technology background, Matthew Donnellan supported the idea, believing the platform would work provided it was made as open as possible; was delivered on a mobile device; and was capable of “withstanding significant rigour”.
“We’ve been careful to avoid reviews or analysis of any clinical outcomes. We want to ensure that we’re a trusted source of information that allows consumers to have confidence that, based on either their experience or someone else’s experience, they’re more likely to get a professional who understands them.”
Every provider review on Whitecoat is moderated, explains Donnellan, and every provider has the right of reply and given three days’ notice. “So everyone gets the chance to have their say.”
Ninety-five percent of patients are happy with their providers, he adds, “so the most likely outcome for practices is simply that they will get a lot more business”.
For now, Donnellan is focused on getting the Whitecoat office up and running in Auckland and building critical mass in New Zealand for the business – both on the supply side with providers and insurers, and the consumer side.
“It’s about building trust and relationships and getting people on the ground.”
His company has found it relatively easy to set up business in this country compared with Australia, which has one extra tier of government, and sometimes two. He points out that, in line with global data-storage trends, all of Whitecoat’s New Zealand-generated data is stored on local servers.
The hospitality industry has TripAdvisor, the restaurant industry has its Yelps and Zomatos. Now healthcare in New Zealand has Whitecoat. It’s all about accountability and making decisions based on information Kiwis can rely on. www.whitecoat.co.nz/#/