When Dr. Nate Gross co-founded Doximity, the goal was to build a free, secure social network for physicians. And in six years, approximately 70% of U.S. doctors have joined the platform—making it the second fastest adopted technology by doctors behind the iPhone, which about 85% of doctors currently use. Additionally, Deloitte recently ranked Doximity as the fastest-growing private company in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the sixth nationally. PM360 spoke with Dr. Gross about the reasons behind the company’s success, recent new innovations they have developed to improve the platform, and what discussions they would be willing to have with pharma marketers.
PM360: What do you attribute your quick growth to? Is it just doctors interested in social media in a more protected environment? Or is it something else?
Dr. Nate Gross: Physicians join and use Doximity for a lot of different reasons, but it’s not just due to an interest in social media—we build time-saving tools powered by social media that doctors love.
For example, everything in the feature set of Doximity is designed to make doctors more connected, more productive, and more successful at being a doctor. So, if they use these tools they’re more likely to free up a little time to see some more patients, or go home to see their families a little earlier, or just spend less time waiting on hold with the operator.
The core of Doximity is this national Rolodex of every doctor and nurse practitioner and physician assistant in the United States. We’re designed to help doctors quickly find one another—whether it’s by name or by criteria, i.e., a Spanish-speaking hip and knee surgeon within 15 miles of your part of New Jersey. Then they are able to connect concerning the care of an existing patient they share or maybe set up a new referral, so that the patient doesn’t have to pinball around the healthcare system for a year until they find that ideal specialist for their care.
The other thing that has really led to a lot of our growth is how we help doctors communicate with one another. Currently, the texting and emails options on most phones aren’t up to medical-grade security standards. And, unfortunately, most of medical interoperability today is just the fax machine or the pager.
But, while we started out by wanting to kill the fax machine, we quickly learned a tough lesson: 15 billion pages of fax are sent by the U.S. health system every year. So, we decided to give every doctor who wanted it their own free, HIPAA-secure fax number so that these doctors can send and receive faxes right from their cell phone, sign it with their finger, fax a pharmacy, and get that sort of clinical workflow done.
But, the most recent innovation we’ve built in the medical communication space is called Doximity Dialer. It’s a way for physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to call their patients from their cell phone while making sure that the caller ID number still shows the appropriate clinic line, main hospital operator line, or wherever they need the patient to call back to ensure that patient gets well cared for. That allows them to take these end of the day workflow issues, such as following up about a lab report, and make the calls from the comfort of their home or their office, not necessarily waiting to be able to use the landline phone back in that hospital.
Besides learning how popular faxes still are in healthcare, what has been the most surprising thing you learned about doctors through Doximity?
Other than the fax story—and doctors’ overall dependence on relatively archaic technology—one of the most surprising things we learned is that medicine is still very much a team sport. We have found phenomenal adoption of other clinicians, such as NPs and PAs. In fact, we’ve gone through about a third of all NPs and PAs in the country in the past year and a half or so. And we just started welcoming clinical pharmacists to Doximity in the past month or so.
Can you describe how you have seen doctors use Doximity?
Seventy percent of Doximity usage is on mobile. And that also reflects how it is used. The Doximity use curve is during the heart of the workday, when doctors are on their cell phone while they’re in the hospital hallways. It is really designed for doctors to use during the day when, for example, they need to find the neurosurgeon on call at Stanford Medical Center or a wrist surgeon within 15 miles of them who takes Aetna and speaks Mandarin. Some of it also looks a little like Facebook, too. For instance, we have an extremely active newsfeed.
In terms of your newsfeed, is that something you are pulling from other sources or is that content you’re creating yourselves?
Doximity’s newsfeed is something that we’re very excited about. There is a knowledge gap in medicine that is quite significant. For the average doctor, they have to see more and more patients every day, and yet the amount of medical literature they have to keep up with is incredibly substantial and increasingly complex. New sub-specialties and sub-sub-specialties are created every year with the rise of personalized medicine. We’re getting to the point where the amount of knowledge it takes to stay on top of your career, as well as learn all the old stuff, becomes very quickly overwhelming.
All of my research, for instance, was on percutaneous aortic valve replacement. So, I probably wasn’t going to read The Journal of Pulmonology & Respiratory Medicine or The Journal of the American College of Radiology on a regular basis. And yet, once every three months there is probably an article in those journals that absolutely matters to me that I would probably miss. And it’s going to be a long time until that trickles down to become common practice in the communities around you. That’s why there is about a 17-year knowledge lag in medical literature translating to clinical practice—and that lag can result in patient deaths.
So, what Doximity does is curate the entirety of medical knowledge being created every single day, including all of the medical literature being published as well as 20,000 newspapers, magazines, and blogs. And we have machine learning algorithms—if this was a Silicon Valley pitch right now they’d be calling it AI, but I won’t go that far—that ingest all of the new knowledge being created and can figure out what each particular article is about. Furthermore, these algorithms can determine what condition, patient population, disease, and/or therapy the article focuses on and then they can make sure that, regardless of where it was published, it has a greater chance to be shown to the doctor who treats those sort of patients or diseases.
This has all sorts of exciting side effects downstream. We’re now able to allow physicians to connect with one another around new trends that they’re interested in that may shift month to month and quarter to quarter across a given specialty or geography. We’re also able to tie in social and career insights into this newsfeed, so you can see what your colleagues from residency are now publishing and stay up to date with them or stay current on the measles outbreak occurring in the town next door to you.
Finally, it’s an exciting way to gain access to other types of multimedia learning, such as the latest conference, lecture, or slide deck being hosted in grand rounds at the big academic hospital a few miles away that you didn’t get to attend. Today, we have turned a firehose of knowledge in medicine into a highly personalized drinking fountain that brings doctors back day after day after day—even if they haven’t been in an academic environment in 20 years.
How does your platform help marketers connect with physicians who might be interested in their products? Judging by your newsfeed algorithm, it sounds like you are aware which doctors in your network are interested in specific diseases or even treatments.
Doximity does have a successful business model working with some of the most-respected leaders in healthcare, including 14 of the 20 largest hospitals in the United States and we are able to assist with everything from recruiting to referral to marketing opportunities for those groups if they want to show something new that they happen to be experts at. But, I also think, more than ever before, marketers need to think about what has happened in the consumer industry over the past decade or two in terms of the rise of personalization and just how important tailoring to an audience can be. We’re doing a number of experiments in that area, and are more than happy to chat with anyone who can help us figure out what to build next.