Interview: Jeffery Khoury, Founder of Doctor Pocket
By Bulat Salaev
Jeffery Khoury—a first-year Finance student at John Molson School of Business—is the CEO of Doctor Pocket, a telemedicine application through which people can virtually consult with doctors at their convenience and choice of MD.
Can you describe what the purpose of the app is and how it works?
The purpose of the app is to offer a global network of medical doctors to any user around the world. These doctors are specialists – there’s no other app out there that lets you go in and connect with any doctor on a global scale. We want to make sure our app has a very interpersonal platform. We don’t want users to come, fill in a form, and automatically be linked to a doctor and then to be treated as just a number. We really want the person to feel at ease.
The way the app works is you log into the app and view all of our doctors on Doctor Pocket. You search doctors based on their specialty and their availability; you can also search based on location – based on anything you want, really. After you choose a doctor, their profile opens, you see the image of the doctor and the times they’re available and a brief description of the doctor. Then, you book a date and time. So, ultimately, you have the convenience of picking whichever doctor you want, as well as a date and time of your choice.
Can you discuss the current phase of your startup?
Regarding the application—the app is 99% done; it’s on my phone, currently in testing phases. We are set to launch our iOS version in April, and our Android Version in late May. Regarding the website—it’s going to be launched within the next hour of this call. The website is there for us to share with the world what the vision and goals are for Doctor Pocket. [For your interest, Doctor Pocket’s website is www.doctorpocket.ca]
How did this idea come to you?
This idea—the idea to give everyone an opportunity to be connected to any doctor all around the world whenever they want—came to me when I was abroad. I got sick multiple times and would visit a local doctor, and it was not what I was used to at all: the comfort, the peace of mind that I would have whenever I left a doctor’s clinic back in Montreal. And since half of my family is in the medical field, I would always message my cousin for medical advice; I would send him voice notes, pictures, and say, “Listen, this is what is wrong with me. I went to see the doctor and he gave me this and this. I’m still not feeling better. What should I do?” And this was a recurring thing. Then I decided to analyze the market—the telemedical industry—and to see whether there was any need for this. That’s when I found our major competitor and realized that they had a great idea, but they had missed the mark on many things. For example, they didn’t treat their users as actual patients rather than numbers; their users aren’t allowed to pick their doctor, and several other interpersonal features like that which I feel are important for a telemedicine app.
I got sick multiple times and would visit a local doctor, and it was not what I was used to at all: the comfort, the peace of mind that I would have whenever I left a doctor’s clinic back in Montreal.
So, I analyzed the market and I noticed the potential for growth. I studied and experienced it myself, and I really felt that comfort and peace of mind whenever I wanted to message a doctor I trusted. For instance, it’s difficult for anyone, whether in the first-world or a developing country, to talk to any doctor at any time. Doctor Pocket will allow anybody with a smartphone to choose a neurologist from Switzerland and have 20 minutes of his or her time, regardless of where they are at the moment. This will bridge geographic gaps, providing medical support to people who wouldn’t otherwise have it because of the geographic distance or living where access to medical services is hard to come by.
Clearly, I saw a need to be met in every market: people who’d never be able to pack up a suitcase and just travel half way across the world for a simple consultation, or people who cannot afford a day off to waste at the clinic for a simple cold; those worried mothers who are worried sick about the health of their children, especially at times when the hospitals’ ER is their only option.
A few days before interviewing Jeffery, I learned that he was amidst his first marketing campaign (he travelled to France, Lebanon, and UAE).
I asked about his trip and he told me he was visiting private clinics, meeting with CEOs and Presidents of hospitals and CEOs of hotels to join his team.
You’ve mentioned you were meeting with CEOs of hotels, why is that?
Since it’s a global application, a market that we can target and the people we can help would be the tourists; people who are staying in hotels and don’t want to visit a local doctor, in whatever region they are in, may choose instead to connect to a doctor they are familiar with, a doctor from their own city. This is where Doctor Pocket would come in.
Why did you start your first marketing campaign in the UAE?
I have family members and family friends here that show me nothing but support.
The aim of this trip is to meet those people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise and introduce them to my app and the concept behind it. I am also meeting with the VP of one of the biggest Middle Eastern hospitals with goals to integrate Doctor Pocket within their hospital.
Can you tell me a bit about your team?
Currently we have 25 doctors; we have medical doctors on the team from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and McGill. The majority of my medical team is North American Board Certified, but I also have a medical team located all over Europe.
Regarding the business team, our sponsors are United Auto Racing. Other than that, on the team, we have a CFO, a Business Analyst, Ambassadors in more than 12 countries and an Executive Advisor. We also have an IT team of 10 developers and 3 accountants and lawyers.
I have two people from JMSB with me: Martin Sajedi Paquette (Ambassador-Toronto) and Jonathan Massimo Stinziani (Ambassador-Montreal). Essentially, they are my brand ambassadors in certain regions in Canada where I cannot physically be. Everyone on my team is fully invested in our project and goal. I have people all over the world: Germany, Italy, Africa, China, UAE, and North America.
How did you get to know them?
Actually, believe it or not, I met most of them through LinkedIn…it helped me so, so much. I posted my idea [on LinkedIn medical groups] once I started developing the app. I was lucky enough to be in top discussions in multiple medical groups with tens of thousands of followers.
What was the most challenging part in your project so far?
The most challenging part was definitely staying patient: to stay as motivated as I was the first day of starting the project, regardless of all the speed bumps that arose, and maintain that positive outlook throughout the journey. It was also difficult for me to simultaneously manage Doctor Pocket and to stay on top of my schoolwork.
Also, when going into this I was a completely different person than I am now. Initially, I thought all I needed was an idea and a team to develop it—both of which were already in place. I had my interpersonal skills, my social skills, and I kind of thought that I would just spread the word and everything would fall into place. It was only after undergoing this journey that I’ve realized that even if an idea is there, even if you have an amazing team, it takes more than just an idea and a few people to create something like this. So, I started recruiting people onto my executive team, started recruiting consultants, analysts, advisors (the majority of my consultants are from Harvard). I have another volunteer, a genius business analyst from Toronto, an amazing brain to share ideas with.
How challenging was it to design the platform?
My team of developers are very experienced—they did the closest location for McDonalds and Applebee’s [the app that allows users to find restaurants that are closest to them]. I gave them my idea and every day it has come further with their help.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been incredibly challenging, though. I thought it would take only two to three months to be a completed project, but here I am, almost one year later and still working out the kinks to make Doctor Pocket as perfect as possible. There were so many speed bumps on the way: ranging from development to legal aspects; little did I know that I had to register my own company, get my own lawyers, get my accountants, build an actual marketing team, medical doctors from Ivy League schools on board—those doctors who people would find it a luxury to talk to; so it took much, much more time than I thought, but finally we are here.
How do you think the future of telemedicine will evolve?
The main issue of telemedicine is the physical barrier between patient and doctor. Therefore, the use of Doctor Pocket would be a revolutionary contribution to the industry. Having a telemedicine service where the doctor is talking to you half way across the world, but meanwhile everything he or she would need to look at—the analytics and the vitals—would be available to them in real-time during the virtual consultation. That is where the future of telemedicine is headed. That is the direction Doctor Pocket is headed.
Illustration by: Florence Yee.