In this Director Briefing Bianca Brown, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Instant Consult Pty Ltd (“the Company”) discusses:
- Expansion plan – outlook and strategic focus
- Rapid platform growth and user uptake in the Telehealth market
- Technology, company structure and future applications
We spoke to Bianca Brown, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Instant Consult Pty Ltd about the Company’s growth and expansion plans. Instant Consult is an Australian company that offers a Telehealth platform, allowing patients to have a health consultation with an Australian registered, fully qualified, experienced doctor via video call, online, anywhere in Australia.
EdenExchange: Hello Bianca, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Firstly, can you tell us about your professional background and experience in the sector? How did you come to be the Managing Director, General Manager and Software Architect of Instant Consult Pty Ltd?
Bianca Brown: Thanks so much for having me. My background and experience is in practice management, accounting and administration. I’ve always approached my work in an organised, systematic manner, which has led me to accomplish many great projects throughout my career. Accuracy, speed, organisation and attention to detail are all fundamental needs to build a great piece of technology. I’m really proud to say that Instant Consult was built, and continues to be built, encompassing those fundamental needs.
EdenExchange: What does Instant Consult do? What makes it unique in the market and why are businesses only recently offering services in online medical consulting?
Bianca Brown: Instant Consult provides you with the ability of speaking to a doctor through video call anywhere in Australia, day and night, 7 days a week. Instant Consult is unique to the market as it offers access to doctors from the comfort of your own home, in your own time, at such an affordable and reasonable rate. Doctors on our platform have the ability to create a range of medical documents using the Instant Consult software – including medical certificates, prescriptions, referrals, pathology and imaging requests. We built our own inbuilt practice management and clinical management software; it has the ability to create these documents as well as create consult notes, offering continuity of care to our patients. We even have an inbuilt system for recalling patients for pathology and imaging requests and results, which we do not believe any other Telehealth provider has the ability to do.
EdenExchange: What are the next steps in the development for the Company? What are your key goals?
Bianca Brown: Our next steps can be simply put into three key goals:
- Increase marketing expenditure through strategic promotional and advertorial opportunities. Our goal here is to continue to increase our consult numbers.
- Develop the proprietary platform further, specifically our Professional Partners Booking System, which will see an entirely new revenue stream and patient base for Instant Consult.
- Expand the team, allowing continued focus on software development, marketing strategies, growth opportunities and professional partnerships.
EdenExchange: How scalable is your business model and what are your growth plans?
Bianca Brown: Instant Consult has no limit to its scalability, which is really exciting. If you were to open up a brick and mortar medical clinic, it only has the capacity to accommodate a certain number of practitioners that can physically fit into a clinic. It is also dependent on how far the patients are willing to travel to visit the clinic so it can only ever accommodate a particular area/town/suburb. With Instant Consult, we have the ability to have hundreds, and even thousands, of doctors working on the platform with patients accessing our services from absolutely anywhere in Australia. We definitely want to scale it up. We have 24 doctors who work on the platform actively, and many more who have registered their interest to join. Our current schedule of doctors has the capacity to perform double, if not triple their current consult numbers. Right now, one of our primary focuses is getting more patients to know about our service.
EdenExchange: When offering medical advice over phone/video there are risks of misdiagnosis and miscommunication from lack of physical examination and face to face interaction, which can obstruct a proper diagnosis. How do you overcome this obstacle and what are the parameters for the service you offer?
Bianca Brown: Our doctors always consult with the patients to understand their medical history and any health conditions the patient has prior to making any diagnosis or advice on next steps, just like a doctor would if you visited a new medical centre. They keep clinical records as well so if the patient consults through Instant Consult again there is continuity of care. If the doctor ever feels they cannot determine a proper diagnosis without a physical examination, they will refer you to your local family practice or write you a referral to see a specialist.
There are also a range of at-home devices widely used across Australia as well which can assist with heart rate, blood pressure, weight and height measurements. Our doctors have the ability to create pathology and imaging requests, which also assist in diagnosing a range of diseases and health conditions. Telehealth is being adopted as an additional way of accessing healthcare rather than a complete replacement of your local family doctor. All doctors registered on Instant Consult are practicing doctors who also work in physical medical clinics or emergency care units, so their experience and qualifications are no different to the doctors you consult with at your local GP clinic or hospital emergency room. They can identify quite quickly if your condition requires a physical examination.
EdenExchange: The Telehealth platform offers instant prescription service to patients. How does that work and how do you ensure security and privacy for patient prescriptions online?
Bianca Brown: If a patient is issued with a prescription through Instant Consult, they have the option to pick up their prescription immediately after a consult at any one of our registered pharmacies. They also have the option to have a hard copy posted directly to them if they do not wish to collect it from any of the pharmacies on our database. In saying that, we have over 2,000 pharmacies on our database and we add another handful each day. It is rare for a patient to not have a pharmacy in their postcode or nearby. Our presence in remote communities is also growing and we have joined a number of regional pharmacies to our system recently.
All internet traffic on Instant Consult use 256 bit SSL Certificates, which includes digital certificate authentication and 256 bit data encryption. 256 bit SSL Certificates are trusted by over 99.9% of current Internet users. Instant Consult does collect personal information, however we have a range of measures to protect the security of personal information. We are also subject to regular penetration testing (also known as pen testing or ethical hacking). This testing finds security vulnerabilities in systems and software that an attacker could exploit, which are reported and retested once the vulnerabilities have been corrected.
EdenExchange: The online consulting service has generated a lot of interest in the media. Where are you seeing your demand growing and what was your target audience initially? Has the market changed significantly from a few years prior?
Bianca Brown: We have recently seen a demand growing in regional and remote areas across Australia. Our target audience has always been a mix of people loving the convenience of seeing a doctor in their own time, and people who need the access as their town either does not have a GP, or if it does they may be booked out for 3 or 4 weeks. Our market was always going to be a mix of metro and regional patients. While in remote areas, the population isn’t put in front of a lot of advertising or marketing opportunities, word of mouth spreads a lot faster than anything else. When a few patients have a positive experience using the platform in a particular remote town, the following week we’ll have 30 more patients from that same town using us. It’s incredible.
EdenExchange: Talk us through the technology behind your product – how does it work and how does it set itself apart from other digital medical support services/tools? What has user adoption been like to date?
Bianca Brown: The Instant Consult technology can be used on any type of device that has access to the internet and a camera and microphone connected or installed. All smartphones can download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store, and if you are using a computer or laptop you can login through your web browser.
A patient creates an account to open a patient record in the system. Once they are signed up, they can login and request a consult. When they request a consult they are connected with the first available doctor through video call. During that consultation, the doctor may issue the patient with a medical document which is securely sent to the patient’s inbox of their app. The patient is automatically sent a receipt on conclusion of their consult and the doctor’s earnings are automatically deposited into their account, where they are issued with a payment summary and tax invoice. Everything is handled automatically through the system. The app and website are extremely user friendly. We receive comments on the aesthetics regularly, about how clean, simple and professional everything looks, and we equally receive the same feedback about the features and functionalities of the app and website too. We regularly update the app and website as well to ensure that they are always fresh and modern and we introduce new features our users ask for as well.
EdenExchange: Online health databases have been met with resistance in recent times such as the recent introduction of My Health Record. Considering that patients have their consults, prescriptions and medical history stored on the platform, how have Instant Consult’s customers/patients responded to the platforms digital data profiling system to date?
Bianca Brown: They absolutely love it, they love that they have access to their records on their own terms and that our doctors have the ability to offer them continuity of care through our system utilising our inbuilt clinical management software. I believe this is all measured with trust. If a user had a bad experience using the technology, or the technology had either directly or indirectly threatened their privacy, then I believe any technology would receive a backlash. My Health Record is completely government run, anything government run is met with resistance in my experience. My Health Record had a lot of bad publicity, which never helps, and some users aren’t comfortable with their data being accessible to outside parties. Instant Consult is Instant Consult. The personal information in Instant Consult is for internal use only. We believe in full transparency when it comes to our services, so the types of services we offer and our pricing is available to view on our website and website FAQs. Confusion and inconvenience is the last thing anyone wants when it comes to their health – so we like to be as clear, simple and direct as possible in our service offerings.
EdenExchange:As a successful support business and tool providing help to those in need, what has been the main success so far and what are you plans for the future?
Bianca Brown: Regional areas do not have the same level of access to doctors and medical services as their metro counterparts. It is not reasonable to believe that Telehealth and online services in general (whether it be in the medical industry or not) largely impact accessibility for communities to any type of service. Be it social media, booking flights, google searching, video calling family or speaking to a doctor – our life encompasses technology for convenience, cost and a great experience. It is so important that regional Australians are given the same opportunity to access medical services as all our larger communities. Our country is so vast and these regional areas aren’t always able to attract and retain highly experienced, fully qualified, Australian registered doctors. Instant Consult closes the gap and connects any Australian – no matter where they are – to an experienced doctor through the app, morning and night, 7 days a week. The plan is to keep servicing Australia and grow awareness around the country about what we can provide, as well as surpassing our level of service and offering new and innovative products to the market.
EdenExchange: Where do you foresee the greatest development of the Company’s digital solutions? What are you most excited about in predicted technological advancements?
Bianca Brown: The Apple Watch as well as Fitbit and other technologies are able to monitor heart rate and provide accurate data on a patient’s general health. We’ve also seen machines that you sit down in at pharmacies that calculate your BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight etc. Integrating with this technology is something we want to look into. Our solution is simple. What we have done, and what is to be carried out is a lot of work, but the whole concept is quite simple, and that is a very positive thing to say. We have amazing technology that has the capability of doing so much more, so right now we need to boost our consult numbers and grow awareness. Integrating with these other technologies will definitely develop our platform further, so the opportunity to do that is exciting.
EdenExchange: You have an experienced and dedicated support team in place at Instant Consult Pty Ltd. What strengths do they bring to the Company? What opportunities does this create?
Bianca Brown: Yes, we have four fabulous support team members who manage the 1300 phone line as well as our support email. They also offer support to our doctors who may require technical assistance. They are contactable day and night, 7 days a week. They ensure nothing gets missed and any issues are resolved promptly. They genuinely care about every single patient of Instant Consult and do their best to ensure everyone is satisfied with the Instant Consult service. They know the platform through and through. Every time the platform is updated the support team know exactly what features and functionalities have been added or changed, and can clearly communicate this to our users.
EdenExchange: What’s the best thing about your job? What drives you to do what you do?
Bianca Brown: I’m what you would call “never content”. To me nothing is ever ‘good enough’ or ‘that’ll do’. I’m a perfectionist at heart and that drives me to better our products and offerings continuously. One of the great things about my job is that I get to practice many skill sets on a daily basis – from bookkeeping to customer service, from designing and implementing software changes to talking to Channel 7 about what we’re doing at Instant Consult. But the most satisfying, most gratifying, most rewarding thing about this job is knowing that we are helping patients who genuinely need this service. Patients who finally found us, used us, and still cannot believe they just spoke to a doctor, when their closest GP is over 100km away. It really humbles you and makes you appreciate how vast Australia is and what a lot of us take for granted.
EdenExchange: Thank you for your time, Bianca. It has been a pleasure.
About the Business
Instant Consult Pty Ltd is an Australian company that offers a Telehealth platform, allowing patients to perform a health consultation with an Australian registered, fully qualified, experienced doctor via video call, online, anywhere in Australia. The cloud-based platform can be accessed through web browsers or via the Instant Consult mobile app and is used for general medical advice and to obtain medical certificates, prescriptions, specialist referrals, pathology and imaging referrals. Instant Consult launched the platform on 1st June 2018. To date, the Company has completed over 6,000 consults with more than 65% of those consults taking place in the last five months.
The Company’s key short term goals are to:
- Increase marketing;
- Complete booking capability for cosmetic injectable and IV treatment consults;
- Become a cash flow positive business;
- Grow consults to >100 per day;
- Add Nursing Practitioners to the platform.
For more information about Instant Consult Pty Ltd, please visit the Funding Strategies website here (log-in required, joining is free). Alternatively, please contact Dr Mark Rainbird and his team by phone: +61 7 3160 2840 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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