The Business Times

DoctorxDentist on its software and advertising

Published Fri, Jan 29, 2021 · 05:50 AM

WE refer to the article headlined "DoctorxDentist may have redirected patient leads to favour own clients" (BT, Jan 9) and would like to make the following points.

1. DxD's doctor referral software does not discriminate against non-paying doctors

Since 2019, DxD built an automated concierge that uses filters such as preferred location, insurance providers, treatment, and gender to recommend doctors to patients. There is no gatekeeper function to check whether the doctor is a paying subscriber to our platform. Anyone who wants to conduct an independent technical audit will find that our concierge system is not built to discriminate against non-paying doctors.

2. Non-paying doctors were not given fewer patient referrals

We have analysed the statistics for all our doctor referrals from Oct1, 2019 to Jan 19, 2021. Although we cannot append the actual dataset due to PDPA restrictions, we wish to share the following key statistics:

 • Non-paying doctors accounted for 60.2 per cent of all appointments booked through our website.


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 • There were 41 appointments where patients asked to see a different doctor than the ones automatically suggested by the system. Of the doctors they ended up seeing, 60.9 per cent were non-paying doctors.

 • The doctor with the most booked appointments through our platform has never paid us any money. In fact, three out of the five doctors with the most appointments are non-paying doctors.

The above findings show that patients' preferences determine the doctor recommendations generated by our system. Whenever patients want to see a different doctor than the one initially suggested, they were not induced by DxD to see a paying doctor instead.

The article said: "When a website visitor clicks through to the concierge service via an article, the concierge recommends the doctor who authored the article, one source told BT. If the patient rejects the doctor, another paying doctor is recommended." This is thus factually incorrect.

There is a strong positive correlation (0.68) between the number of Q&A answers and number of appointments a doctor gets. This shows exactly how DxD works. The more active a doctor is on the platform, the more engagement and organic traffic he receives, hence more patients will want to book appointments with the doctor.

3. We have upheld the Singapore Medical Council's and Ministry of Health's advertising guidelines

As a homegrown startup, everything we have done from the start was in careful consideration of regulatory guidelines on advertising.

Section G2, subsection (7) of the Singapore Medical Council (SMC)'s advertising guidelines advises clinicians: "Testimonials... must not be used in advertising on any media where you have any control over the content about yourself. You must not ask or induce your patients or anyone to write positive testimonials about you in any media."

We at DxD wholeheartedly agree and that is why doctors have not paid, cannot and never will pay us for reviews. We incentivise patients to use the platform to leave reviews of the doctors they have consulted, but we do not curate reviews. Doctors also cannot control or influence the reviews about themselves on DxD's platform.

In short, neither we at DxD nor doctors have any control over the content of testimonials or reviews. Only the patients do.

In an official guidance on the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (PHMC) (Advertisement) Regulations 2019, the Ministry of Health states in Section 5.7.1 that: "Patients, caregivers or members of the public may provide direct feedback (through testimonials and/or endorsements) on a HCI's services, on its premises (eg on the board inside a clinic's waiting area), website or social media accounts. Such feedback may also be provided on the websites or social media accounts of patients, caregivers and members of the public."

In Section 5.7.2, MOH further clarifies that clinicians "must not reproduce any testimonials and/or endorsements about their services on any advertising media, other than the HCIs' own corporate publications that are disseminated".

These sections are a verbatim description of DxD's "Review A Doctor" feature. It is a platform for patients and their caregivers to provide direct reviews and testimonials of the doctors they have consulted. Doctors cannot post or reproduce patient reviews to the site. Only the patients can.

In building and running our platform, MOH and SMC's guidelines were our recipe book and flight manual. Like every good line chef and airplane pilot, we adhered to every directive each step of the way, trusting that it would produce predictable, desirable outcomes.

4. Doctor listings

We started DxD to ensure two things: (i) that patients can find the doctors best suited to their needs, and (ii) to provide a channel for patients to rate the standards of service they have received. This patient-centric spirit has and will always continue to guide our values and actions.

Our decision to build a comprehensive directory of doctor listings on our platform was motivated by the first goal: to ensure that patients in Singapore find the doctors best suited to their needs, and not only those who are our paying subscribers.

We went out of our way to list as many doctors as possible - even those that have not given, and might never give, us a single cent. We have tried very hard to help patients in Singapore navigate their healthcare needs and to include, and be as fair to, as many Singaporean doctors as possible.

Tristan Hahner, CEO, and Tyr Ding, general manager, DoctorxDentist

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