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Roxana Zaman | Co-founder | COO | Maple

With a strong finance and business background, Roxana Zaman had a lucrative career in banking. It was only after she stumbled upon the opportunity to help create Maple, a Canada-based health care tech platform, that she realized her true calling.

Introducing the ability to connect patients to doctors within minutes strongly appealed to her better as she realised the challenges in this sector and wanted to make a positive difference. We, at Insights Care, had the opportunity to learn more about her passion and the current health care scenario in an interview.

Give us a brief overview of your journey in the healthcare sector, and your role at Maple.

I started my career in banking after graduating from university. I joined TD Bank through a leadership development program and spent five years there prior to meeting Dr Brett Belchetz (Maple CEO) and Stuart Starr (Maple CTO). Working as an emergency room physician, Dr Brett regularly spoke about the challenges in our health care system, specifically as they relate to timely access to care. The more I listened, the more passionate I became about being a part of a solution to make our health care system more connected, and therefore more accessible, for Canadians.

In 2016, I left my role at the bank to join Maple as a full-time Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer. Although this decision felt quite scary at the time, it has been my most courageous and rewarding decision to date. Today I am responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations, including overseeing areas such as People and Culture, Finance, Marketing, IT and Security, and Customer Support. I am also responsible for helping to shape our company’s growth strategies. Most importantly, I am there to support my team and ensure everyone is set up for success as we work together towards fulfilling our vision.

Tell us more about Maple, its vision, and the key aspects of its stronghold in the Canadian healthcare industry.

Our vision is to power the future of health care by building a connected health care experience. We believe that virtual care plays a key role in the overall delivery of health care so that patients can get the support they need, when they need it, wherever they are. Today Maple connects patients and health care providers in as little as two minutes, any time, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Canadians are using our virtual platform every day to consult with health care providers and obtain medical advice, diagnoses, and necessary treatment. Beyond primary care, Maple connects patients with specialists such as dermatologists and psychiatrists, as well as mental health therapists. We also partner directly with employers, insurers, hospitals, and clinics to embed virtual care in their day-to-day operations.

From a business leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the healthcare services sector?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our health care sector is under tremendous stress and pressure, particularly as it copes with a growing and aging population. The demand for virtual connections has drastically increased in all sectors, including health care. This means that patients are looking for new and safe ways of getting their routine health needs addressed. The pandemic is forcing everyone to innovate at a very fast pace.

We always knew that digital experiences would play a key role in the future of health care, but we also thought it would take Canadians more time to get comfortable with getting their health needs addressed online. We are now years ahead of where we thought we would be in terms of demand for and adoption of virtual care.

What is your opinion on the necessity for healthcare service providers to align their offerings with modern technological developments, especially when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving patient needs and preferences?

In Canada, research shows that more than 25% of people would choose the option of phone, video conference, email or text rather than an in-person consultation as the first point of contact for a doctor’s advice. Globally, it is seen that 44% of people would try telemedicine if it were available. This shows that the need to adapt and embrace virtual care is crucial for health care service providers. And the past decade has shown that many aspects of the typical day-to-day tasks can be enhanced with technology and innovation — from banking, to shopping, and even working. Similarly, people are looking for new ways to look after their health needs and the entire sector should be continuously innovating.

What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your organization’s daily operations? What efforts did you take to ensure safety of your employees at the same time?

At the onset of the pandemic, the Maple team began to work from home. The great thing about running a tech company is that mostly everything can be done remotely, but we had other types of challenges. Demand for Maple more than tripled in a very short period as patients were looking for safe ways to see doctors outside of hospitals and clinics. We were forced to scale up incredibly fast and in a virtual setting. At one point, we were so busy that we asked entire departments within Maple to drop everything they were doing and help with scaling up our infrastructure to cope with the surge in demand. And just like that, Maple catapulted itself years ahead into the future. We more than doubled the size of our team, we significantly increased the number of health care providers in our network, and our internal infrastructure scaled to handle thousands of consultations a day.

Regarding the safety of our employees, we took action from a holistic wellbeing perspective. In March, we focused on ensuring folks were physically safe by closing down the office for all but essential purposes. We provided ongoing training and support so our teams could respect public health guidelines. Since the initial shock of the pandemic, we began focusing our efforts on revamping our benefits and perks to nurture and prioritize mental health. We know that the pandemic is impacting everyone differently.

In your opinion, what could be the future of the healthcare services sector post the pandemic? And how are you strategizing to scale your company’s operations and offerings to be prepared for that future?

Virtual care is here to stay. Routine health care interactions will continue to transition from hospitals and clinics to a virtual setting. In order to power this shift, we will continue to scale our operations in terms of growing our provider network and investing in our infrastructure. In terms of patient health and experience, we want to broaden our services to look after the overall health and wellbeing of Canadians. That is why we are beginning to expand into preventive care in addition to reactive care. To help us in this journey, we are excited to have partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to help expand our reach in Canada.

If given a chance, what is the one thing that you would change about the global healthcare services ecosystem?

Make it more connected. The health care ecosystem today is incredibly fragmented which has serious implications for quality of care, access to care, and overall health outcomes. We can improve these metrics by focusing on continuity of care and communication, and by bringing systems, patients, and health care providers closer together.

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the healthcare sector?

Take the time to truly understand the types of challenges that exist in our health care system today and focus on how your ideas or solutions will make a tangible difference. Recognize that change is hard, especially in the health care industry. There are many forces at play which may constantly push you against changing the status quo. That is why it is important to be extremely courageous and resilient if you are going to venture into the health tech sector.