Q&A: The virtual healthcare app bringing comfort to sick kids and their families

This week we talk to Dr Sidney Sunwoo, founders of KidsDocOnCall, a 24/7 Australia-wide service providing video medical consultations with paediatric specialists. The venture launched last year after more than 18 months of research, development and trials.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind founding KidsDocOnCALL?

SS: The inspiration was pretty simple. It was the fourth record winter month in a row in emergency presentations. I was at work, it was late and I looked around the waiting room. It was standing room only, kids crying everywhere, held by exhausted and anxious parents. My colleagues were also exhausted. There just had to be a better way.

We know statistically that most children who present to hospital are not particularly unwell and could be managed at home with the right advice. We also know it shouldn’t be on the parents to know if their child’s rash or fever is something as simple as a common virus, or something more sinister. That’s our job.

The premise of KidsDocOnCall was to bring healthcare professionals and specialist advice directly to modern parents while avoiding the waiting room. It was a step to modernise healthcare for families.

ISB: And How does the business work in practice?

SS: It’s simple. All you do is download our app and set up an account. You can add all your children to the same account, and nominate other people to request calls on your behalf. That might be relatives, friends, or even a childcare worker.

When your child is sick and you want to speak to a specialist, all you have to do is log in,and hit the request call button. Generally within the hour, you’ll get a notification that our doctor is on the call, and you just have to hit the notification to join a high-quality video call. If you need prescriptions, medical certificates, medical imaging or pathology requests, or specialist referrals, We can do it all.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge in getting the enterprise off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

SS: The hardest thing has been getting families to embrace virtual health as a trustworthy avenue of healthcare. It’s essentially changing consumer behaviour. Virtual care is a well established model overseas but has been relatively slow to be adopted in Australia outside of remote areas. This is largely due to Australia having an excellent public health system, but that system is becoming progressively more strained, and there is much stronger consumer demand for digital solutions.

ISB: Please tell us briefly about the key stakeholders in the business, and role they have played in developing the venture.

SS: A business is only as good as its team and we’re very lucky to have some amazing people. The biggest acknowledgement has to go to our doctors without whom, and their trust and faith in our service, we would have nothing. Leading the doctors, we have A/Prof Sandy Hopper who is our chief medical officer. Sandy sits on the board with Janee Rutherford, Venus Behbahani-Clark and James Clark. Venus and James are the heart of our business, having shown faith as investors in the business. Their passion and vision for KidsDocOnCall is enormous and will take us in directions that we never thought possible.

ISB: And, finally, what is your vision for the growth and development of KidsDocOnCALL in the next couple of years?

SS: One of our core goals is to become the first port of call for all families across Australia with sick and injured children. But we also have dreams of supporting other organisations and professionals who look after children.

We are exploring the possibilities of providing support directly to schools and childcare centres. We are also looking to support general practitioners and other health services that may need specialist paediatric advice. We are looking at supporting corporations, enabling their employees with children access to our service to improve productivity and efficiency. We are also looking at opportunities abroad to service international areas of need, and also supporting Australian expats living abroad.

There is no avenue that isn’t a possibility for us. Healthcare historically has been a sector heavy with inertia and hesitant to evolve, and we’re hoping to break down and challenge traditional thinking to improve outcomes for all.