I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly every business in the U.S. still has a fax machine—even the fancy startups that were founded yesterday. But healthcare has been dependent on the technology unlike any other industry, and for ossood reason.
Because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) passed by Congress in 1996, doctors have a limited number of ways in which they can communicate about their patients; fax is one of the easiest.
Communication in healthcare has long been behind the times: for example, when a patient is referred to a specialist, their medical records make it to that specialist only a third of the time. It can take up to 15 minutes for a fax to go through, which in some situations can be life or death. These are statistics for the 21st century, not several decades ago.
What is even more unnerving is that if medical error (which would include communication errors) were considered a source of death, it would be the third leading cause in the U.S.: between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.
So what could be done? Now, in the Age of Mobility, how great would it be to have your fax machine at your fingertips? Doximity has made this a reality.
The physicians’-only social network introduced DocFax when it launched—a free digital fax and messaging service that enables HIPAA-secure communication from any computer or mobile device.
“It just made sense to give each doctor a toll-free fax number for free,” said Dr. Nate Gross, Co-founder of Doximity. “This way doctors can send, receive, and sign for faxes on their phone, on the go.”
“Using my Doximity fax line, I was able to get my patient her medications urgently, from outside of the country, without ever picking up the phone,” said John Luo, MD, a Senior Physician Informaticist and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at UCLA.
“At the airport, I used Doximity to fax an urgent order to a patient’s infusion center; they got the fax before I made it through security!” said Danielle Harwood, MD, a Family Medicine Physician.
Doximity has changed the way more than 500,000 U.S. doctors communicate—that’s around 60 percent of doctors in the country. The space has given physicians a platform away from clients, their families, lawyers, and others (who can contact them in other ways) to discuss patient cases, new research, and other topics pertinent to their work.
And one of the perks—especially for a busy doctor—is that Doximity has already created a profile for every physician in the U.S., they just need to claim their own and update it as they see fit. The three-step verification process only lets on healthcare providers to communicate in an encrypted way, making the platform more secure than any other major social network.
“When you are trying to grow any network, you benefit from having as many users as possible as early as possible,” Gross shared. “There’s no point in having a network for doctors if you can only reach five percent of those in the field. So we created the entire network in advance.”
Each doctor has the equivalent of a profile or resume waiting for them when they choose to look into the free service. This meant that even the earliest doctors on the service could track down information on any other doctor in the country.
When Jeff Tangney and Nate Gross, along with their team, founded Doximity in 2011, several different aspects had to come together at the right time in order for the service to be successful.
“We benefitted from a lot of factors happening outside of Doximity at the time,” Gross explained. “There was a building need for this over the past decade. The Baby Boomer generation began reaching retirement age. Obamacare was legislated. The launch of the iPhone in 2007 enabled doctors to potentially do business on the go. The like button of Facebook and how we share articles online, evolved.
“And medical specialties were shifting. Doctors were not just private practice doctors anymore, but part of a hospital system. Doctors now have a lot of opportunities to change their jobs and positions. Doximity was made possible—and successful—by all of these factors.”
There’s almost no end to the usefulness of Doximity: it’s a personal CV, continuing educational tool for Category 1 CME credits, job search platform, compensation database with Career Navigator, residency tool with Residency Navigator, and a login tool for other medical sites and services. And this doesn’t even detail the hundreds of times doctors have used it purely as a communication tool.
Gross admitted that the healthcare industry still has a long way to go in terms of bettering communication methods. For reasons of control or technical difficulty, many doctors don’t share information. There are also several different e-record databases that just can’t talk to one another. Some doctors, in competition over patients, don’t share information to maintain their client base. In the end, it leads to frustration from doctors who just want to help their patients.
“With tools like Doximity, and specifically our API partners who plug into our service, we are able, for the first time, to transcend the fragmented healthcare system and let doctors do their job,” said Gross.
Because of this fragmentation, Doximity is wholly focused on fine-tuning its service for the U.S. market.
“More startups die of indigestion than of starvation,” Gross said, quoting David Packard of Hewlett Packard fame. “This was a recipe of timing, vision, and getting the people right. We’re going to maintain the focus on these three components to continue to set the precedence for healthcare communication going forward.”