by Erica Pero, J.D
I like to tell people my clients are "innovators". I love saying this, as I fancy myself a fairly innovative attorney. (Not sure if you've noticed, but I don't conform to the typical lawyer profile.) Steven Richardson, President of DOC in a box, is the perfect example of one of my innovative clients: he's pushing the boundaries of telemedicine and CRUSHING it. I really enjoy "talking telemedicine" with Steven - it's fascinating how his brain works and how he and his team are on the front lines of telemedicine technology. I recently asked him more about his willingness to break the mold and the challenges he faces.
EP: Can you explain DOC in a box?
SR: DOC in a box is a telemedicine company that goes above and beyond conventional telemedicine. We provide services to complete the Circle of Healthcare all while lying on your couch. The Circle of Healthcare is very simple: you get sick, you're seen by a doctor, you get labs/radiology to confirm the diagnosis, you get medications, you get better. The missing link with other telemedicine companies is "you get labs/radiology to confirm the diagnosis". Although we are often able to diagnose patients with a simple question and answer, the ability to perform labs and radiology tests will help confirm the diagnosis. This gives clients peace of mind and limits the risk for our providers.
EP: When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
SR: A Physician Assistant! No, just kidding. I always wanted to be a Architect. I still find myself browsing the web looking at Architecture Schools online. I was probably the only kid with a professional drafting table and stacks of Architectural Digest in my room.
EP: What prompted you to start DOC in a box?
SR: In 2016 a childhood friend and I were talking about the good ole days (much like an episode of King of the Hill) and he was described some sort of "DOC in a box" thang (Texas Slang) on some of the oil rigs out in the ocean. We both talked more about this "thang" and then our entrepreneur light bulbs came on. Our thang of "DOC in a box" became a reality when we started in 2017. We knew there was/is a market for telemedicine. If we could offer clients much more than a phone consult and medications, we could provide higher quality healthcare via telemedicine. My friend had experience working with the "brick and mortar" side of healthcare, and noted it was difficult and inefficient. We then set out to offer labs, radiology, medication delivery and well the easiest access to a doctor from anywhere.
EP: Telemedicine is kind of like the western frontier - how do you overcome the constantly changing laws and regulations (or lack therof)?
SR: As I read this I can't stop chuckling, because I really don't know. But really - all comedy aside, we keep things very simple. We understand the telemedicine laws for each state as stated in the Professional Business Code, such as we must be licensed in that state, or don't prescribe narcotics (a very common restriction for each state). Therefore, we keep what we treat in a very small box to mitigate risk. Most of the states are forward thinking and are pretty open about this business, and then there are those who are just behind, such as Texas or Idaho.
We set up google keyword searches and a couple of large blogs that alert us (DOC in a box) if there are new laws that have passed or any indictments that have happened to learn what not to do.
Last, Attorneys, Attorneys, and Attorneys have been helpful to us in figuring out gray areas in the law for both medical and corporate.
EP: What challenges do you face?
SR: Patient awareness and adoption is very challenging. Clients are so accustomed to wasting time sitting in waiting rooms and when they hear they can get the same treatment online they think it is "witchcraft".
EP: What are some of your victories?
SR: I would break up our victories in three categories, because each one of these have its own victory.
Technology: We are the only telemedicine company that is able to launch a telemedicine consult with video, all by dialing a phone number from your phone. Meaning no apps to download, no launching safari or chrome, no drop offs from patient. Thus a successful consult all the time.
Customer Service: At DOC in a box we are obsessed about our customers. Offering an Amazon level of customer service is very important to us. This type of customer service is missing in the normal brick and mortar practices because of distractions, phone calls, and other tasks. When you are on chat with our customer service they are only focused on you.
Medicine: Completing the Circle of Healthcare without any compromising is a win.
EP: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get started in telemedicine?
SR: Well I can't tell you the gold knowledge that I have learned over the years, but honestly do it to increase the quality of our healthcare delivery system. There are many companies that follow big competitors like Teladoc or MDlive, looking to be the Walmart of telemedicine. They offer low quality, which devalues telemedicine and the practice of medicine as a whole. Don't be a Walmart be a Costco. My advice to someone who wants to get started is to focus on high quality access to healthcare. In doing so you can help put value back into telemedicine and the practice of medicine.
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