Bot MD is a Singapore-based clinical assistance platform for doctors that raised a USD5m Series A in February 2021 led by Monk’s Hill Ventures, with participation from SeaX, XA Network, and SGInnovate. Bot MD participated in Y Combinator in 2018.
EMPEA spoke with Co-Founder & CEO Dorothea Koh about how her experience working for large healthcare companies informed the need to build better information tools for doctors, the strategy behind a doctor-first model, expansion plans in Asia, and the digitization of the medical industry during the pandemic.
EMPEA: Who are the founders, when did you start Bot MD, and why?
Dorothea Koh: Bot MD is a smartphone-based AI assistant for doctors. My CTO and Co-Founder Yan Chuan (“YC”) Sim and I started Bot MD in June 2018. Bot MD really began as a hobby project that we worked on together over nights and weekends over a lot of cold brew coffees in the Coffee Bean at Forum Galleria in Singapore.
The idea for Bot MD was a result of my firsthand experience living and working in large emerging markets (including China, India, Indonesia, Philippines) for several large Fortune 500 health care companies. When I traveled across these markets, I noticed how stretched doctors were because of the size of the patient population and the lack of support and infrastructure. Medical knowledge and information often exists in silos across hospitals, and it’s all about figuring out how to get doctors the information that they need quickly, so that they can save time and serve more patients.
One thing that stuck out to me whenever I would visit a hospital or clinic in these markets is how few computers or laptops I would see. In contrast, I would see doctors carrying multiple phones everywhere they went, which inspired me to want to build a mobile-based platform, since I wanted the AI to be highly accessible.
Bot MD currently operates in Singapore, with plans to expand to Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and India as your next markets. What’s the strategy behind your expansion plans?
These are markets that I have lived and worked in during the last decade. I am very passionate about wanting to impact healthcare in larger emerging markets because of the size of the patient population, and the ability to use technology at scale to touch many patient lives. One of my personal goals in life is to reach 100 million patients by the age of 40.
Bot MD’s clients are doctors (versus consumers), and you are growing through partnerships with hospitals and medical institutions. Could you share more about this strategy?
Our company mission is simple: Empower doctors. The doctor is at the heart of patient care. In my mind, if we can help doctors save time and improve the quality of patient care, and they in turn can help impact the lives of many patients, there is a true amplification effect which we can scale across multiple markets.
Our rapid growth in the past year is really a function of our philosophy to build products that delight doctors and to help them get the information that they need a lot quicker than it normally takes them. Good products grow virally through word of mouth, and I guess that’s how we have grown so rapidly in each hospital account we enter into.
Where does the information that Bot MD provides to doctors come from?
All of the information that Bot MD is trained on comes from the hospital partners that we work with (e.g. hospital protocols, guidelines, call rosters, directory, drug formulary, lab medicine catalogue etc.) as well as reliable professional medical resources like UpToDate, MDCalc, and a licensed drug database from the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists. What makes Bot MD special is that we are able to integrate a wide variety of hospital information systems into a single interface that the doctors can use to search quickly.
How has reception for your tech solution changed during the pandemic? Is the medical industry more open to this kind of innovation?
I joke that COVID-19 has been very good to us. I think the COVID-19 pandemic really helped to accelerate the process of digitization not only for the hospitals, but also for the patients and the healthcare industry as a whole.
We actually knew that COVID-19 was becoming a “thing” in Singapore because we started noticing the doctors querying the Bot for the pandemic team rosters and COVID-19 guidelines. Given the dynamic nature of COVID-19 updates and information during the pandemic, hospitals started asking us to train the Bot on COVID-19 guidelines and operational directives so that frontline medical workers could search these a lot more easily and be kept up to date.
In fact, one of our product platforms that we built recently called “Bot MD Care” was innovated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had two NUH doctors coming to ask for help in delivering vital signs monitoring at scale within the foreign migrant worker population living in dormitories. So we built them a WhatsApp-based monitoring platform that was powered by the Bot to send COVID-positive patients vital signs monitoring forms and reminders twice daily. We would then alert the doctors through the Bot MD hospital platform that they were already using whenever patients submitted abnormal vital signs.
There is a lot of hype about AI. How are you specifically leveraging this technology in your product?
My CTO and co-founder built the Natural Language Processing chat engine that is used by Bot MD to power search. We do not use any chatbot technology from off-the-shelf providers, which gives us a high degree of customization and ability to train our AI not only on a doctor’s medical vocabulary, but also in being able to ingest a wide range of medical information and content without getting confused.
Bot MD has an interesting mix of investors, including VCs and strategics. How did you choose your investors, and how are they helping you, in addition to providing capital?
We deliberately choose our investors based on their ability to partner with us in realizing our mission of empowering doctors around the world. As a healthcare technology company, we want a good balance between investors who deeply understand the healthcare industry and how hospitals work, and strong technology partners who understand how to build engaging products that doctors love to use. Our lead investor in this round, Monk’s Hill Ventures, was an existing investor in our seed round out of Y Combinator, and over the last two years they have been tireless in helping to support us in our growth.
Anything else you want to share?
I believe the secret sauce behind Bot MD isn’t just our technology, but really the multidisciplinary and diverse team that we have, who are hard at work behind the scenes helping to build our product platforms for scale. We may be a lean and mean team of fifteen people, but we love how culturally and ethnically diverse we are. We have folks from Singapore, India, China, Russia, the US, UK, Philippines and Indonesia. Personally, I think that this melting pot adds an intangible value to the innovations we are able to produce and will also enable us to scale the platform globally.