Why DoctorPage’s use of numbers could be perceived as misleading
March 7, 2013 by Terence LEE
The adage certainly rings true in the corporate world, and even amongst tech startups. In a recent article, I wrote about how data abuse is becoming increasingly prevalent as numbers are used to give companies a public perception edge.
While data abuse may sometimes be unintentional, its impact should not be underestimated.
Consider the case of DoctorPage, a Singapore-based online doctor booking platform which announced yesterday in a press release that they have reached a milestone of 1,500 “bookable” doctors and dentists.
|Founder and CEO Max-F. Scheichenost has issued a response to this article, as follows:
On first look, it is easy to take the 1,500 figure to mean that DoctorPage has that amount of doctors that are available for instant booking on its website and mobile app.
But that is not the case. In fact, my scan of the site shows that only about 62 doctors have their time slots displayed online. So why the discrepancy?
After checking with the company, it turns out that the 1,500 figure doesn’t actually refer to the number of doctors on the real-time booking platform, but rather the number of health professionals that are bookable either real-time, via a concierge service or manual phone liaising.
What this means is that for a large number of doctors, users will have to call in to the DoctorPage hotline to make an appointment, after which the company will then mark the date on the doctor’s CRM platform.
So is DoctorPage being deceptive in the press release? That depends on who you’re asking.
If we scrutinize the announcement, there’s no indication that the word ‘bookable’ is referring to doctors that are using the real-time booking system. So technically, DoctorPage is not wrong to make that claim — it didn’t even define what the word meant.
But here’s the problem about being vague: People can interpret it in many ways.
DoctorPage’s announcement came a few months after its competitor, DocDoc, announced in January that it had 1,000 doctors on its platform that are “utilizing its appointment booking platform to acquire new patients.”
So it’s possible to interpret DoctorPage’s press release as an attempt to counter DocDoc’s earlier announcement in order to win the public perception battle.
Indeed, it could result in many people thinking the following way: Since DoctorPage has 1,500 doctors versus DocDoc’s 1,000, then clearly DoctorPage is the market leader in Singapore.
Yet the truth is far more complex than that, since the numbers are referring to vastly different things.
Intentional or not, DoctorPage’s sloppy use of metrics could certainly lead to the perception that it may be deliberately using misleading figures. When all it needs to do is to be more judicious and clear-cut about the wording of its press release.
DoctorPage is certainly not the only startup using vague numbers that mean nothing — I’ve frequently thrown numbers back at entrepreneurs along with questions about what they mean exactly.
Asia’s startups need to be more mature in this regard.
Photo: Procsilas Moscas
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE