A Q&A with pingmd co-founder and CEO Gopal Chopra. The New York City-based company was founded in 2009 and raised $1.33 million in mid-September.
SUB: Please describe pingmd, and the value proposition you offer to pediatricians and their patients.
Chopra: Ever tried to call your doctor to get a simple answer to a simple question? It’s not so easy—you’re either playing phone tag, waiting for a call back, or struggling to make sure you’re asking all the right questions. On the doc’s end, this causes a real efficiency problem and so their reflex is to build infrastructure to cope with it—costly. We’ve created an app that offers parents a smart, direct way to reach their child’s doctor whenever they have a concern. For them, it’s all about peace-of-mind, but the benefits to the doctor are huge: no phone tag, record keeping, better case management, and the ability to keep control of his or her availability.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Chopra: Doctors who are motivated to provide better service to their patients. They are searching for a solution, but they’re frustrated by their EMRs and portals, and bogged down by email and text. We know they’re using smartphones, tablets, and apps in their professional and personal lives, and that they’re open to change. Pingmd is for the doc that loves technology and providing care, who does not see communication as an administrative task.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Chopra: We’re frequently compared to portals and EMRs, and that’s a good reference point since pingmd is such a new technology. However, our direct competition is actually those tried-and-true communication methods like the phone, email and text. There’s nothing easier than sending an email or shooting off a text—but these methods provide little to no professional boundary and security. We asked ourselves: how can we make an app that’s as simple and fun to use as these communication tools?
SUB: What differentiates pingmd from the competition?
Chopra: It’s simple to use—that is the differentiator. It’s just an app—there’s no training, installation, or required downtime. Just download and get started.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Chopra: The company was founded in 2009. We started by white-boarding solutions and frame-working ideas for a smartphone app. We got great reception from pediatricians who were close to us and who liked our approach, so we built a prototype. After testing with several hundred encounters we were confident we were headed in the right direction. We formed the company and raised money from enthusiastic Angels to go make it happen.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for pingmd? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Chopra: My wife, who is an ambulatory and ER pediatrician, would come home and describe her frustration over the shortening clinical visit and the subsequent ‘spill-over effect’ as she called it. Patients were calling her and turning up to the ER when she could have dealt with their concerns in the clinic visit had she more time to spend with them. Unfortunately, extending the office visit required a level of efficiency the doctor just does not have. We thought about how other major industries were going digital, and realized there was not yet a simple technology that could solve this—and the concept of pingmd grew from here.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Chopra: We discussed the process of this interaction and what it meant to the patient and doctor. The sentiment we kept repeating was, “Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of calling, you could send your doctor a quick note and get a response?” Soon after, we heard one of our own doctors use the term “ping” in reference to his colleague reaching him through instant or text messaging. We started playing with the term, ‘ping my doctor,’ and from there it was obvious: ‘pingmd.’
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Chopra: Differentiating ourselves from standard health IT offerings out there has definitely been one of our initial challenges. Doctors are busy individuals, and adopting new technologies like EMRs and portals creates downtime with all the training. With ARRA incentives urging the adoption of electronic communication and PHR systems, doctors currently view some of these solutions as a necessary evil rather than an efficiency solution. We are starting to see this barrier break down with the rise in popularity of medical apps.
SUB: You just raised $1.33 million in new funding, is that correct? How do you plan to use the new funds?
Chopra: That’s correct. We’re constantly innovating and we have a few big updates in the works. As we continue to develop and test our product, expanding our sales and marketing efforts will be a significant focus for us.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Chopra: Healthcare models are changing, and incentive plans that incorporate accountability are upon us. Currently our app is free, but we’re exploring freemium models and opt-in services. You’ll see a lot of this development in the near future.
SUB: What are your goals for pingmd over the next year or so?
Chopra: We want to grow our user base by offering doctors and parents the best user experience possible. There should be no friction when it comes to something as important as patient-to-provider communication. We want to design something that will truly change the healthcare delivery model—that starts with acquiring the talent to build a truly great company.
pingmd – www.pingmd.com