Eugene Goh & Deepika Singh from Alore spoke to Hjemmelegene CEO Nicolai Skarsgård, a medical doctor who used to work as a management consultant.
Alore: Can you tell us about Hjemmelegene?
Nicolai Skarsgård: Hjemmelegene is reintroducing the doctor house call, using advanced technology. Our platform matches patients in need with doctors nearby. For the patients, this means no travel and no waiting time. For doctors, we offer a flexible way to work, where they manage their own time, and have the support they need to focus on the patients. The house call gives the doctor and patient the perfect setting to get to the root cause of the issue and adapt the treatment plan to fit the patient’s needs. The doctors are not employed by us, but instead use our platform to make themselves available for house calls, and manage when and where they want to work.
The company is backed by a team of seven entrepreneurs with backgrounds in health care, IT, design and management consulting.
Alore: How did you come up with the idea for Hjemmelegene?
Nicolai Skarsgård: The idea for Hjemmelegene was conceived some 10 years ago by our two original founders, Raman Bhatnagar and André Bregård. The idea started with a simple question: why should the sick patient have to travel to see the healthy doctor, often just to sit in a waiting room for 30 minutes? And why did the doctor house call almost disappear? We think the house call is easier and more comfortable for patients, and highly attractive as a “work place” for doctors. Our team of seven people (all contributors and co-owners) includes doctors, serial entrepreneurs, IT experts, designers and management consultants. The two original founders met each other through their wives, who were colleagues. The rest of the team has since been added to bring together the core skills needed to deliver on such a concept. The team was largely found through our own existing networks.
Alore: As a business, what is unique about Hjemmelegene?
Nicolai Skarsgård: The scalability of the concept. Because our platform is intelligent, automated and geo-specific, we can start off coverage of a new area with a bunch of new doctors when and where we want, with very little added overhead. While we vet our doctors thoroughly, a new doctor can be onboarded to work in a remote city and have his or her first patients within days.
Alore: While we understand Hjemmelegene provides doctors and medical practitioners to visit your place, how are medical competence, popularity and standards constantly evaluated and assessed?
Nicolai Skarsgård: This is key to the sustainability of our business, and therefore a priority for us. We do three things: recruit the right doctors, build a strong on-boarding process and adapt dynamically to feedback from patients. Recruiting rests on stringent screening, relying on both assessment of formal competence and social skills/bed side manners and motivation. All our candidates are interviewed, reference checked and checked against the national health care registry for authorization.
For house calls, the bed side manner and social skills are exceptionally important, so despite being a soft criterion, we attach significant weight to this. Once a decision has been made, we conduct mandatory face-to-face introductory training, 1:1 contact with each doctor for the first weeks, and offer guidance materials to ease the introduction for the doctors. Lastly – we encourage patients to rate and evaluate their experience with each doctor. We use this to continuously monitor how each doctor is performing, and provide additional guidance when needed.
Alore: Hjemmelegene is using technology as its foundation. Is one of the co-founders from a tech background or did you have to build this competency anew?
Nicolai Skarsgård: The two founders did not have a tech background. Therefore, one of the seven existing team members were recruited because of his background as CTO of a highly successful car sharing start up in Norway (Nabobil).
Alore: What has been the biggest challenge in your journey with Hjemmelegene so far?
Nicolai Skarsgård: Once we had a product to sell, I think our challenge has been marketing. Reaching the first customers. Luckily, we have received great media attention from an early stage. But as we are targeting the masses, our challenge is to secure enough reach at a sustainable cost. Because many people can relate to our service, we are lucky to get a lot of word of mouth marketing. This is extremely powerful and lowers marketing costs drastically.
Alore: So how did you go about promoting Hjemmelegene in the nascent stages?
Nicolai Skarsgård: We started off with social media spread through friends, supported by social media ads and Google adwords. A couple of months in, we sought media attention, and succeeded in getting several articles about us in most major media in Norway.
Alore: What has been your biggest learning since you started Hjemmelegene?
Nicolai Skarsgård: Coming from a management consulting background, I think the biggest change has been in mindset and the role I play. As a startup, there is always an unlimited number of good ideas and stuff you could do. But focus, and choosing what not to do, is just as important as what we choose to do.
Alore: As an Medical services platform, what are your three key focus areas to achieve a good product market fit?
Nicolai Skarsgård: I think the most important thing to get this right is to dynamically and actively seek input at all stages. There really is no question whether there is demand for primary health care delivered at home. Our task is finding the right doctors, and make the service affordable, and a great experience for our patients. The key to this is a bit like being a good doctor – you need to listen and adapt all the time.
Alore: You mentioned that you had no doubt sufficient demand for primary healthcare at home existed. Given that most of Norwegian healthcare is publicly funded, and available at little to no cost, is it in some sense surprising that there is sufficient demand for paid, private healthcare services? The pricepoint of 1290 NOK (160USD) would seem high to most readers in other parts of the world. Similarly, on the supply side, are there sufficient doctors available for such a service?
Nicolai Skarsgård: The public healthcare option in Norway is free, but the system is under considerable stress. At “legevakten” (Emergency Care), waiting times are long, ranging from 1-5 hrs, and at “fastlegen” (General practitioners/ Family doctors), it takes a week (national average 5.3 days) to get an appointment. Volvat and Aleris (private healthcare providers) have been thriving in Norway for decades. Our offer is price competitive, and lets you sit home or continue work rather than spend time in waiting rooms.
About the doctors- Our doctors do this part-time alongside working in the hospital or as “fastlege”-a general practitioner. With 70-80 doctors having signed up with us, we are sure the doctors like the flexibility too.
Alore: What is your personal productivity mantra? (How do you maximise your day? – Any apps, tools, planning tips you use and would share?)
- Never ever skip sleep, even when pressed. I find my productivity, and more importantly, creativity, is much higher when I sleep ~8 hrs every night.
- Work when you are productive, stop when you are not.
About Nicolai Skarsgård:
Nicolai is the CEO at Hjemmelegene and is based in Oslo, Norway. Nicolai trained as a medical doctor, and also worked as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group in Oslo until 2017. While at BCG, he focused his work on health care, and worked with hospitals and Pharma co’s in the Nordics, broader Europe, US and India. He completed his M.D. in medicine from Copenhagen University and has clinical experience from acute care/emergency medicine, urology, and general surgery.
You can reach out to Nicolai here
P.S. – The site is in Norwegian so the Google site translation helps!