Doctena, headed by CEO Alain Fontaine (pictured), operates in six countries. Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

Doctena, headed by CEO Alain Fontaine (pictured), operates in six countries. Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

The pandemic has touched every industry, but medtech in particular has been thrown into the limelight. How has Luxembourg company Doctena, a booking platform for medical appointments, fared? We spoke to CEO Alain Fontaine.

Delano: How has Doctena fared during the pandemic?

Alain Fontaine: Nine out of 10 people will tell me, ‘Well, it must have been great for you--I bet your revenue has tripled and that you’ve added like a million customers.’ And the short answer is: no!

In terms of revenue, customer numbers, etc., there wasn’t a big impact. On the one hand, yes, we added many customers to the platform who needed a video consultation solution--but on the other hand we saw many medical professionals basically go out of business. If a dentist is short on cash flow, and then has to close down the practice for three, four, five months, they go out of business. We had quite a lot of those.

Have you felt other types of impacts? 

When the whole pandemic started, you couldn’t go anywhere. Not even to your doctor. So there was a big need for video consultation, which was the first impact we felt: we needed to add and develop this video consultation feature in record time. Like, in a matter of weeks--which we managed to do through working night-shifts, weekends, etc.

Then there were consequences to that. Once we activated the video consultation solution, doctors said, ‘Wow, super, I would like to use that. But how will people pay me?’ So we needed to very quickly add online payments. And once we did, the [national health fund] CNS came and said, “If you have patients paying doctors online then you need to interface with our systems.” 

So there was a lot of our roadmap that was basically forced on us just to cope with the situation. And it was relatively similar in the other countries where we operate. 

Any insights about the pandemic more broadly? 

I think the real benefit of the pandemic, for us, is that the mindset towards digital solutions in healthcare has really been brought to the next level. Many professionals in the medical field now have a very different and much more interested view towards e-health and digitalising their tools and processes. In the medium- and long-term this certainly helps businesses like Doctena, because whenever you try to bring disruption (or even innovation) into the medical field, your cycles are extremely long. I mean, doctors typically don’t take decisions in terms of months--it’s years. It’s five, ten years before you can change the industry. And the pandemic shock has helped companies like Doctena move forward a little bit faster. So that’s one of the positives.

What about internal impacts? 

Basically, from one day to the next, I said, ‘Okay, tomorrow everyone works from home.’ Fortunately, as a digital company, we had the infrastructure and tools already to do home-based working. So that was relatively easy, but a very positive impact is that we still work almost exclusively from home now, almost two years later. We actually have plans to drastically reduce the space that we rent because we don’t need it.

So that was a trigger that allowed Doctena to really enforce a strong home-based working policy, and moving forward I will continue with that. Even if the pandemic ends tomorrow. It’s a modern way of working, but also for employee satisfaction and stress levels: if you can avoid making your employees sit in traffic jams for one-and-a-half hours per day, I mean, let’s just do it. And in all departments we see increased employee satisfaction, increased productivity. People are happier and they get more stuff done. So that’s really very positive.

This article was originally published in the of Delano magazine.