(Reuters)—Three large U.S. venture capital firms are betting that hospitals will buy into a new service designed to help healthcare providers treat their patients more like upscale hotels treat their customers.
The new company, called Docent Health, is creating software and mobile applications that will help organize and monitor every aspect of an individual’s hospital visit, and marrying that technology with specially trained staff who will be in constant communication with patients about their needs.
The goal is to improve the often miserable hospital experience while helping the institutions increase customer satisfaction and win repeat business, said Chief Executive Officer Paul Roscoe, a veteran healthcare entrepreneur who sold a previous venture to Microsoft Corp.
Bessemer Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Maverick Capital Ventures have invested $2.1 million in seed funding in Docent. The three venture partners involved in the deal—Steve Kraus of Bessemer, Mohamad Makhzoumi of NEA and Ambar Bhattacharyya of Maverick—have worked together many times, and all said they expected to provide substantial additional capital for the company as it develops.
Originally conceived by New York-based executive search and healthcare investment firm Oxeon Holdings, Docent aims to capitalize on two massive changes now sweeping the healthcare world: the shift toward paying providers for keeping people healthy rather than performing procedures, and the technology-driven “consumerization” of health that is putting more decision-making in the hands of patients.
When Docent was described to them, some advocates for “patient-centered” medicine were cautious about how much could be accomplished by focusing on the non-clinical aspects of hospital care.
Roscoe noted, though, that even high-quality facilities with impeccable clinical care often generate “negative brand loyalty” by failing to communicate effectively and empathetically with patients and truly understand their needs and preferences.
“Great clinical care plus a great experience equals patient retention, loyalty and patient advocacy,” Roscoe said.
If Docent is to accomplish its avowed mission of providing VIP service for everyone while improving hospitals’ financials, it will have to show that it is more than just another concierge medical service for the wealthy.
Healthcare entrepreneur and patient advocate Alexandra Drane expressed concern that Docent’s approach could end up exacerbating inequality if hospitals only offer the service to certain patients.
“Alex the individual would love a VIP option,” Drane said, “but Alex the citizen and activist worries it will only drive more of a schism between the haves and have-nots.”
But she added, “I think what most people are really looking for when they think VIP is empathy, transparency, kindness, proactive information-sharing and respect … all things that could and should be ubiquitous, without tremendous expense.”