Meet the CEO: Docosan Is Easing Access to Healthcare in Vietnam


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A decade ago, Beth Ann Lopez, CEO & Co-founder, Docosan , was preparing for medical school in the US. Little did she know that the journey would lead her to start a HealthTech business based in Vietnam. Lopez joined the US Peace Corps to strengthen her medical school application. “At the time, you couldn’t choose the country. The government sent you where there was the most need,” recollects Lopez. That’s how she found herself in Cambodia in 2012. “It was my first exposure to Asian culture,” she says.

Noting the Challenges in Access to Healthcare
Living in a rural community and working at a public health centre, Lopez quickly noticed the challenges in access to healthcare in the region. “The community health centre was supposed to be open 24/7, but in reality, it was open only for two hours a day,” says Lopez. “The doctors would see the patients, but because of lack of medicines and poor service, they would refer them to their private clinics,” she explains. Since doctors made little money in the public sector, they had private businesses but struggled to attract new patients. “The doctors used the public health centre as a means to get new patients. It was the only form of medical marketing in rural Cambodia,” notes Lopez.

Meanwhile, word of mouth referrals was the only way for patients to find healthcare. “I have seen variations of this in most Southeast Asian countries where there is a big and fragmented private healthcare market,” says Lopez. “Patients have no way of finding out about a doctor’s private practice and quality of care, and private doctors, clinics, and hospitals don’t have the means to get the word out about their services,” she explains. “The transparency doesn’t exist. There’s no database for information on clinics, and search engines will only show hospitals with the biggest marketing budgets,” notes Lopez.

After completing her Peace Corps programme, she continued working in the region. Lopez did some consulting and worked with Thailand’s public health administration. Her work and observations over four years made her passionate about development and the reasons for poor access to healthcare. This led her to pursue a Masters from the Harvard School of Public Health. During her time at Harvard, she met Farouk Meralli, Founder and CEO, mClinica, a Singapore-based startup offering digital solutions to pharmacies. “He suggested that I would have a larger impact working at a startup as it’s way faster than working for years on a development project or trying to push policy through,” recollects Lopez.


Shifting Gears From Policy to Business
Although sceptical, she joined mClinica as an intern. At the time, the startup was launching its app in Cambodia. The opportunity to work on market entry proved to be a turning point for Lopez. “I was able to get partnerships, worked with administrative health in Cambodia and got many users in a short period,” she says. The first-hand experience demonstrated the impact one could have with tech in a startup. After graduating, she joined mClinica full-time, which took her to Vietnam. “After about a year and a half of launching in Vietnam, one in every three pharmacists in the country had downloaded the app. It spread like wildfire,” says Lopez. Convinced that a startup was the best way to introduce change, she wanted to return to her original motivating cause. “I enjoyed the work at mClinica, but I wanted to go back to the main issue that I was passionate about, which was community health and access to healthcare.” That’s how she decided to start Docosan in February 2020.

Docosan is a healthcare marketplace that Lopez describes as a “Shopify for doctors”. They can create their profile or clinic’s store, display their services, history and qualifications, offer packages and discounts, provide telemedicine and process payments digitally. While Docosan solves the problem of customer acquisition for doctors, it brings transparency to patients. “It allows them to navigate the healthcare system efficiently and discover the right doctor for their needs,” says Lopez. Patients can look for doctors by symptoms, speciality or treatment. “When they search for a particular symptom, they’ll get a bunch of doctors that can treat that issue,” explains Lopez. Patients can find out about prices, the different clinics around them, the background of the doctors, and read real reviews left by other patients.

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