It’s not a lot of time to revolutionise an industry, especially when so many bigger, better-funded companies have already had a go. So it’s remarkable what GenWise Health, a South Australian microbusiness founded by Dr Sebastian Rees and Dr Troye Wallett in 2013, has been able to achieve in such a short space of time. GenWise Health is a great Australian business success story that Rees and Wallett can both be proud of.
The simple explanation is that two doctors took everything they’d learned working in aged care and invented a leaner, faster way to run a General Practice: one you can put in your pocket!
Of course GenWise offers a clever combination of mobile and cloud-based technologies, though it’s more than a mobile business success story. Equally important is how GenWise is nurturing a community on its online clinic platform. It brings together aged care GPs across the country to support each other with advice and systems for managing their patient relationships, careers and businesses.
GenWise Health helps GPs intuitively handle everything from scheduling and attending appointments, maintaining up-to-date and accurate patient records, plus a multitude of business activities including marketing, financing and remuneration, and professional and personal development.
The company has now expanded into other health care areas, supporting doctors who care for disadvantaged people, such as women leaving abusive relationships, families experiencing hardship and homeless people.
“From the very beginning it has been our goal to improve choice and access to a GP for older Australians living in residential care – and this still holds true today,” explains Dr Sebastian Rees. “Early on we recognised an opportunity to do things better, to provide patients and families with better care, to help aged care homes with the care of their residents and to improve the working conditions and tools available to GPs.”
“We believe in strong businesses, because strong businesses are able to do more and achieve their goals,” adds Dr Troye Wallett. “Being purpose-driven and socially beneficial means it is even more important to be secure and solid. From the beginning we designed GenWise to be lean and to scale. The model is holding up to growth, which is exciting. We wanted to be able to give more to our doctors and therefore more to their patients.”
Building a caring business
Wallett was just 17 when he saw a movie about a heroic doctor and decided there and then what he wanted to do with his life. The name of the film escapes him, and so too the reasons he didn’t get into medicine straight away, though he admits the extra work to transfer from a science degree into medicine sparked an interest in real world innovations to improve people’s lives.
“It may have started on a whim, but being a doctor taps into my sense of care and teaching and it was the best decision I ever made,” he says.
Rees’s path to a medical career began in his childhood. His parents ran a general practice serving a rural community while he was always interested in the natural world and science around him.
“During my medical studies I was drawn to general practice as it offered a variety of work,” he says. “Then towards the end of my GP training I developed an interest in aged care. I realised how much of a positive impact I could have on a patient and their family’s life when I had enough time to sit with them and take my time.”
Establishing GenWise fed both doctors’ ambitions to master their professions while helping fellow healthcare professionals advance their careers. Their mutual passion for peer support manifests in resources for continued learning, personal and professional growth:
“GenWise gave me a way to do what I love every day – and it still is,” notes Rees. “We’re also empowering fellow GPs and creating value for GenWise as a business through social good. I think the biggest thing I have realised about myself is the impact that my love for aged care can have on inspiring others to work in this area.”
Wallett has always been fascinated by personal development and has read countless business and self-help books over the years. He confesses that for him, ideas are easy to come up with, but putting them into action is much harder.
“Learning by doing is the best way to grow: the personal growth opportunities were an obvious benefit of starting a business and the joy of learning and experimenting was an unexpected bonus. I’ve discovered my strength is solving problems by reframing the issue and I now have a very strong sense of purpose. I’m driven to connect people because the abundance of our world is very apparent and being generous leads to success not only for yourself but for everyone.”
GenWise has so far yielded huge rewards for its founders in a relatively brief period. Their passion for business-with-purpose is continuously fuelled by the feedback they receive from their community of doctors around Australia. There’s nothing like having control of your destiny, according to Rees and Wallett.
“I love the fact that I own a purpose-driven business that allows me to do cool things,” enthuses Wallett. “We are allowed to experiment with projects that are interesting and benefit our doctors. The work that our doctors do is important and I love that I am able to help others achieve their lifestyle and career goals.”
Rees agrees that serving other GPs is very rewarding: “I love empowering GPs to do things differently, take risks and make a big impact on the health of their communities. I love the feedback from families and organisations about GenWise GPs – GenWise is a great community itself, and I love being part of its existence," he says.
“Australian communities are increasingly older, so it’s encouraging that we have new GP registrars joining us who are enthusiastic about aged care. To see their approach to caring for the patients and families makes it all worthwhile – after all, it is the doctors in training now who will be the ones designing the models of care for the future.”
Winning technology advice from GenWise
Reliable mobile connectivity is vital for creating your business success story – “Although simple, mobile connectivity is essential to running a virtual clinic so our users across Australia can access the GenWise platform securely and quickly,” explains Rees. “Mobile connectivity means GPs can do most of their work on the go; they can complete medical documentation, communicate with each other and their patients and their families, manage records paperlessly and share information securely with their peers and other health care providers. It improves the standard of care that they can provide to their patients.”
Apps and cloud-based tools improve collaboration – “We use a collection of apps to help us in work on the go,” says Wallett. “For example, video conferencing supports our small group learning; and Evernote helps with notes and collaborating on documents, such as education modules for my registrars. I also use To-do lists (e.g. Microsoft’s To-Do app or Wunderlist) to share tasks with my team and registrars.
Communication apps keep everyone in the loop – “Communication apps like Slack improve our response time to issues as they arise,” explains Rees. “GenWise users can ask questions, access online education, troubleshoot IT issues directly with the IT team and communicate with each other through the Slack application. Our internal team also uses Slack to manage workflow and tasks.”
Small business success secrets from GenWise
Think holistically – “Healthy, centred people perform better, so it’s important to exercise regularly, eat healthy and meditate,” Wallett advises. “Develop mental models that keep you competitive: focus on solutions rather than problems; see the world as abundant and be generous; do not play zero-sum games, instead play and experiment. I also find inspiration by reading or listening to books by Seth Godin, Derek Sivers, Tim Ferriss and James Altucher.”
The hardest sale is your first one – “Getting your first customer is a major milestone,” says Wallett. “We were lucky to have a doctor join us very early on which gave us the confidence that what we were doing was of value. Our second doctor came a while later and it was only after that, that we started to get traction.”
“The community of GPs we’ve created now extends beyond just GPs with specialists and allied health,” adds Rees. “Now the GenWise community includes GPs, nurse practitioners, psychologists and specialists such as geriatricians using the platform.”
Build your credentials – “GenWise was the first practice of its type to gain accreditation with (health care bodies) AGPAL and RACGP,” recalls Rees. “It took a year of hard work and perseverance to meet the highest standards in patient care, IT management and policies, but was worth it to achieve legitimacy and credibility to be recognised as General Practice in Australia. Becoming accredited as a GP training provider in 2015/16 was another huge milestone allowing us to have advanced GP registrars on placement with us for 6 and 12 months. Education of training doctors is a large part of the future of GenWise and this was the first and critical step on this journey.”
Build your networks – “We’re collaborating with SA Health on quicker discharge of patients from hospital through the Care Awaiting Placement program that helps to care for SA Health patients who have not yet found residence in an aged care home. It’s an amazing opportunity for GenWise to work with state government designing more sustainable models of care for the future.”
Growth happens faster when you add new markets – “GenWise extended its reach to other areas of need with its national expansion in 2015,” says Rees. “We are based in South Australia and now have GPs in Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Whales and Queenslad which is a huge achievement for us, proving that our model is scalable and not restricted by geographical location. We have supported GPs working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds; and we’ve established clinics for those who are homeless and for women who are leaving abusive relationships. We continue to support many more GPs working in areas of need that are otherwise unable to access GP care.”
Celebrate your successes along the way – “Our business runs on trust, legitimacy and the good will of our doctors,” says Wallett. “Personally, success is delighting our doctors because we really value strong connections between our doctors and ourselves. Success is hearing that my doctors are taking an afternoon off to spend time with their family or go for a bike ride. After winning Telstra South Australian Business of the Year [part of the prestigious Telstra Business Awards], we sent a bottle of champagne to all of our doctors and the joy created was priceless. We are starting to have doctors join us via word of mouth marketing, which is the pinnacle of success for me.”
The Telstra Business Awards recognise and celebrate Australian business success stories.