Every year, The Singapore Women’s Weekly shines a spotlight on inspiring and influential women who are changing our world. We call them the Great Women of Our Time. This year’s list for 2022 includes Dorothea Koh, co-founder of Bot MD, an Artificial Intelligence assistant for doctors. It’s designed to improve the quality of patient care by providing doctors with instant and reliable access to clinical information on their phones.
Imagine how much more efficient medical care could be if busy doctors and nurses could use their phones to access all their patient records and clinical information, on-the-go?
Bot MD, the brainchild of Dorothea Koh and her co-founder Yan Chuan Sim, integrates hospital information and records that are usually spread across multiple systems into a single chat interface. You can think of it like a Google Assistant for doctors. Just by messaging on their phones, medical staff can get instant answers to a host of questions, from hospital call rosters to information on medicines, hospital guidelines, patient reports, and more.
Founded just four years ago, Bot MD has grown fast. It’s been used by over 18,000 clinical users around the world, including Changi General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and NUHS in Singapore.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Bot MD technology also helped doctors and nurses in Singapore monitor the vital signs of more than 3,600 migrant workers, living in dorms all around the city.
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Dorothea – or Dot – as she prefers to be called, explains why her work matters to her. “I love that we are helping doctors to help more patients. The amplification effect of being able to help thousands of patients, by empowering doctors and nurses, is really cool.”
Now in her mid 30s, Dot has been in the healthcare industry for over 15 years. She got the idea for Bot MD because she was travelling all over Asia for work. She saw firsthand how medical staff in developing countries often face a heavy patient workload. Some staff she met were resorting to workarounds like unofficial Whatsapp groups, to access records or medical information on-the-go.
As a graduate in Biomedical Engineering and Economics, and a fan of digital innovation, Dot instinctively felt there had to be a better way. She explains, “I have seen how healthcare innovations can help save lives. This is especially powerful in emerging countries where there are sizable patient populations, and not enough healthcare professionals.”
Since starting Bot MD she’s also launched a new product called Bot MD Care. It was first used during the pandemic to help doctors monitor the vital signs of COVID-19 positive migrant workers in Singapore.
Dot explains, “We use the same A.I. to power popular chat platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber to help doctors, pharmacists and nurses deliver patient monitoring, and care and education, at scale.”
Dot is especially proud that Bot MD Care is available in many different languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Malay and Mandarin. “This means patients can still connect to the doctors to report their health information, regardless of the language they speak.” Plus the system uses fun gamification tricks to make it easy and enjoyable for users to check and record their vital signs, even if they can’t read or write fluently.
Dot recalls one moment early in the development of Bot MD Care that made her realize its potential to save lives. “One Saturday morning, I had a call from one of the doctors asking, ‘Is the system being tested? Because there has been an alert from a migrant worker in a dorm. He has reached out with symptoms – bad chest pains.’
“I checked and realized – it’s not a test. I called the doctor and she sent help. Turned out this guy was having a heart attack. Had they not gone to help, he could have died.
“So at that point, the dorm managers were saying, “We need to roll this out to everybody. Because it works.”
Now Dot is focused on scaling up Bot MD and Bot MD Care to hospitals and clinics in different countries around the world, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Colombia. She’s already travelled to over 60 countries for work – but luckily, she loves it.
She says, “I always like to check out cool new places when I travel for work. Usually I try to fly in on a weekend so I have a chance to walk around a city. One of my favourite experiences was in the city of Bogota in Colombia. I did a two-hour walking graffiti tour with a street artist! I also love checking out wineries and craft breweries in every country I visit. I have catalogued the wines I’ve tried since 2012 – I’ve tried over 1,690 wines!”
Maybe because she’s in healthcare, Dot is also keenly aware of the need to stay healthy herself. As well as hanging out with her brother’s dogs – a golden retriever and a golden doodle – she makes time for exercise. She says, “I learned early in my career how important it is to hard-code exercise into your schedule. So I go to the gym or swim multiple times a week. When you’re in the water, you really have time to think. There’s no phone, nothing around you. It’s a time-out. And I also schedule time with family and good friends that help keep me grounded and centered.”
Above all, Dot reminds herself why she started Bot MD. “It’s important to never give up. For an entrepreneur, the startup journey can feel like a rollercoaster. The highs are amazing and the lows are the pits. Throughout this journey it’s really important to stay centered on your true mission.
“Working in healthcare, you really do see life and death. You don’t have many things where you can touch human life… literally save a life. This is why I love it.”
Photography: Sam Chin
Videography: Stacey Rodrigues
Hair: Ash Loi
Makeup: Ginger Linette Leong
Location: Conrad Centennial Singapore