Enterprise social-networking firm DocCom Solutions and 18 other UK health care companies toured Silicon Valley the week of Jan. 13, as part of the 2011 UK Future Health Mission, to drum up support for their work in health care and find potential investors to expand into the United States.
Billing itself as a "Facebook for Doctors," DocCom offers a cloud-based enterprise social-networking platform for the health-care industry.
DocCom's goal is to improve communication among a mobile workforce of doctors and nurses in multiple locations, according to Jonathon Shaw, co-founder and technical director of DocCom. In addition to his expertise in software development, Shaw holds degrees in medicine and molecular biology and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.
"When you work in a very mobile office, and tend to work in teams distributed across different buildings, it's a really difficult workforce to engage with," Shaw told eWEEK. "We strongly believe we can change the way health-care organizations operate by using a social networking model within the enterprise."
Because health-care providers can't share patient data on the open Facebook network, a private network such as DocCom can help physicians communicate vital patient information, according to Shaw.
In fact, Shaw sees a need for a balance for both the public Facebook network and the secure enterprise DocCom platform. "You do need enterprise environment data in one place and social in another place," Shaw said. "It definitely overlaps, but there's a clear need for that enterprise environment private experience."
The company takes the social relationship aspects of Facebook and maps them into the networking environment of DocCom, Shaw explained.
"There's something really powerful there that Facebook does-here you are, here your friends are, here your friends' friends are," Shaw said. "The great thing is, [Mark] Zuckerberg of Facebook has opened up that data now so that third-party applications can make that connection. As a user, you can allow another application to integrate your Facebook data. This allows us to map it into the professional environment."
Enterprise social networks could replace Exchange servers and corporate e-mail systems in large organizations, Shaw predicts.
"You don't need to keep that information or manage it anymore," he said. "A network can hold all of that metadata, and you just need to know that this is relevant for that group of people."
DocCom Connect is the foundation for the company's Web portal, allowing medical professionals to communicate through texting, e-mail and target messages. The service also allows users to track if messages are received.
Several applications run on DocCom Connect, including a networking interface called DocCom Me to enable users to link up with each other.
DocCom Locum is a communication system to help medical practices find temporary doctors, and DocCom Bank locates temporary nurses. Drawing on metadata, these tools allow medical facilities to search for potential candidates and contact them by text, e-mail or the Web. Meanwhile, DocCom Alerts sends safety alert notifications to staff regarding internal news.
Shaw sees the cloud-based enterprise social networking technology becoming a "de facto model" of communications for companies across all sectors, particularly education.
Still, DocCom is committed to developing its network for the health-care industry right now. "Health care is really where. . .we can make a difference-make it more efficient and save money.
DocCom and the other 18 companies in the Future Health Mission came to San Francisco to meet with IT leaders and stakeholders in conjunction with a J.P. Morgan health-care conference, held from Jan. 11-14. Two of the big IT players the UK companies met with were Hewlett-Packard and Cisco.
Microsoft, along with the UK government-funded Technology Strategy Board and UKTI (UK Trade & Investment), subsidized the Future Health Mission to Silicon Valley.
Technology Strategy Board is the United Kingdom's government agency responsible for supporting and promoting business innovation, and UKTI assists overseas firms in acquiring investment in UK companies.
"At UK Trade & Investment, we're working with the mission companies to bring these technologies into global, commercial reality-facilitating international conversations and business relationships," Jaclyn Mason, UK Trade & Investment's consul and head of trade and investment, said in a statement.
Among the other companies on the Future Health Mission were mobile-health providers Apollo Mobile and iPlato. Apollo runs a real-time mobile communication platform called Reactor, available on iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Xbox.
Meanwhile, iPlato's CareSupport application enables health-care providers to manage patients' long-term conditions, with modules for medication, education, a patient diary and doctor-patient texting consultation.
Apollo and iPlato are "about patient experience, engaging patients and being able to describe their experience with chronic disease," Zahid Latif, head of health care for the Technology Strategy Board, told eWEEK.