July 17, 2014

John Sung Kim is a B2B software inventor, the founder of Five9 (NASDAQ: FIVN) and the current CEO of the mHealth company DoctorBase. DoctorBase has been steadily growing its network of medical practices that use their cloud platform to offer mobile-based engagement to their patients. As a veteran in the med tech industry focusing on the intersection between engineers, healthcare providers, and patients, I wanted to ask him about what it was like navigating this difficult market.

Tom Fowler, Medgadget: John, what is DoctorBase in a nutshell?

john sung kim Bridging the Patient Doctor Communication Gap: Interview with DoctorBase CEO John KimJohn Sung Kim: We let any medical practice offer their patients an engaging mobile experience like Kaiser Permanente or One Medical – without the multi-million dollar price tag.


Medgadget: What does DoctorBase offer that nobody else does?

John Sung Kim: Honestly, I think there is so much innovation happening right now, we’re all stealing ideas from each other and it’s kind of an awesome thing that is good for everyone – startups, patients and especially providers who now have access to so much technology that wasn’t available to them even five years ago. It’s a special time to be in Health Tech.


Medgadget: Do regulations dictate a lot of your day-to-day operations? If you could add or remove one rule from the current laws that would benefit national patient care, what would you modify?

John Sung Kim: I once gave a talk at a conference about how HIPAA was misunderstood by most healthcare professionals and that it was being used as shield to protect the status quo. I stated my belief that for the longest time, “I don’t think that’s HIPAA compliant” really meant, “I don’t want to change anything.”  I also detailed how, in the era of mobile, social and digital health – that more engineers were needed, not attorneys, in order for us to address the real “P” in HIPAA – Portability. It is far too difficult even today to get your medical records from many healthcare providers.

Several attorneys and consultants got up and left in the middle of my presentation, and the reaction on social media was swift –

“If you don’t want to lie to your clients like John Sung Kim, please see my _______ consulting services where I      have been advising clients on HIPAA for ______ years.”

“If you don’t abide by HIPAA you could go get fined over a million dollars. Please see my book called ____             available at ____.”

Some of the other comments were less kind.

I reached out to some of these commentors and have since become friends of theirs with a very deep respect for their knowledge, however I still believe that HIPAA needs better financing and support from the Fed so that’s its easier for tiny startups like the many we see in incubators now to become compliant. HIPAA costs us at DoctorBase a lot as a medium-sized vendor, and I can only imagine what compliance efforts would be like as a small startup trying to get that initial traction.

We invest in training, record keeping, a secure building, computing device encryption policies, HIPAA consultants as well as network security consultants (we hire both) and are constantly asking ourselves how new features combine both security, privacy and ease of use. Hitting the middle part of that “Golden UX Triangle” is a challenge that can be overcome by investing in that process and ingraining it as part of the team culture. But it’s expensive no matter how you cut it.


Medgadget: What is a lesson you have learned on how to successfully work with physicians that others in the Med Tech industry should know?

John Sung Kim: You (engineer and hustler) are not smarter than the doctors, nurses and staff you purport to help or make redundant. Spend a day at the clinic or hospital with them (an entire day) then you’ll discover that even with all your past successes and wins – you really don’t know that much about healthcare.


Medgadget: If you had 10 billion dollars to start a project, what would you develop?

John Sung Kim: I would buy Epic. Or… wait, that wouldn’t be enough. OK, I’d buy Cerner. Then open up their APIs, makes them based on Restful APIs, charge a $5,000 one time integration fee to any startup that wanted in – and then I’d watch the real revolution in American Healthcare begin. That would be a great day.


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