By GREGORY ZELLER //
A Long Island startup that was innovating telehealth long before the pandemic came calling has established a unique footprint in the Age of Coronavirus.
The social-distancing requirements of COVID-19 have forced much of the traditional healthcare industry online – a virtually unexplored virtuality for many providers, but exactly where Islip-based FindaTopDoc LLC has operated since wife-and-husband co-founders Siobhan O’Grady and Anthony Casimano launched in 2009.
From Day One, O’Grady – who earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Stony Brook University and dabbled for years in pharmaceutical sales – and Casimano, a serial entrepreneur with a direct-marketing background, had a specific idea for their startup.
“Our goal was to create actionable information,” O’Grady told Innovate LI. “On other [medical information websites], if somebody searches for something like ‘colonoscopy,’ the site provides an article about it, but then it’s a dead end.
“We wanted to display that content, but also connect the user to a local provider,” she added. “And then combine that with which insurance the provider takes, and how the patient can make an appointment, and other details.”
After a slow start, the company found its footing. Now boasting 85 full-time staffers, a national database packing tens of thousands of board-certified providers and a range of innovative services for patients and doctors, FindaTopDoc remains free for patients; revenue comes from providers, who pay for keyword optimization and other on-site search-enhancers, and to post professional profiles, videos and other marketing content.
FindaTopDoc has also created a unique “in-office review kiosk” – an app loaded into an iPad, usually stationed near a reception desk, that allows patients to provide real-time reviews, which can then be transferred to the provider’s profile or private website.
“We are primarily focused on helping patients make informed decisions and actually take those next steps,” O’Grady noted. “But our revenue model has always been to offer marketing services to providers, so they can better connect with patients through our website.”
Enter COVID-19, which essentially shoved large chunks of the healthcare industry online at knifepoint. Again, the Islip innovators were out in front – “We saw what was coming and went remote probably a couple of weeks before it was mandated,” O’Grady noted – and even more importantly had front-row exposure to rapidly changing patient and provider needs.
“We were being inundated with requests from people asking about testing,” O’Grady said. “‘I have these symptoms. I want to donate convalescent plasma. I want information on clinical trials for loved ones.’”
The product-development specialist and her staff got cracking, “combing through hundreds of websites” to find answers, and quickly synchronized need and opportunity.
Most COVID-19 information was “siloed across different local, state and federal websites,” O’Grady noted, with people discovering new tests and clinical trials in one place, then “having a hard time accessing them at the local level.”
So FindaTopDoc spent two intensive months developing its user-friendly COVID-19 Resource Center, a coast-to-coast aggregation of coronavirus information that went live this month.
Promising “everything from a symptom screener to local testing searches, driven by ZIP codes,” according to O’Grady, the center represents a Herculean technological effort.
But it was worth it, the innovator noted, even though it’s “not really part of our revenue strategy.”
“It’s part of the whole strategy to bring traffic to our site, obviously,” she said. “But we’re not monetizing it. It’s simply a resource for patients.”
Of course, O’Grady and Casimano are also solid businesspeople, and there are likely profits to be found in their other pandemic-related innovation, also launched this month: a “point-of-care digital hand-sanitizing kiosk.”
The device pairs an automated hand sanitizer-dispenser with a 22-inch digital screen and customized content-management system, allowing providers to impart hygiene tips, marketing messages and more whilst disinfecting patients’ hands.
“The messaging can be geared toward safety protocols in the office,” O’Grady said. “‘Sanitize your hands before you come in, remember social distancing, please wear a mask.’
“And you can also combine promotions and in-office messaging,” she added. “So now there’s a 22-inch screen displaying COVID messaging, plus ‘$50 off Botox treatments’ or ‘Dr. Smith now offers X, Y, Z services’ – a way for doctors to encourage wellness and hygiene and also brand themselves.”
Such innovative thinking has always been FindaTopDoc’s defining characteristic, and is arguably why the perpetually reinventive startup is thriving through the teeth of the sudden economic slowdown.
“We’re actually hiring,” O’Grady noted. “Healthcare has obviously proven to be one of the more resilient industries in a time like this, and we’re not like a lot of startups or other companies that run on hype – we’re maintaining profitability and doing well.
“The pandemic was an opportunity for us to utilize resources and skills we already had, to innovate and to become something even more relevant,” she added. “We’re always looking to evolve in this space and always excited by new partnerships and synergies with companies that can help us grow.
“So, we’ll just see what happens next.”