With an academic background in pharmaceuticals and business, Sebastien Gaudin worked as business development and marketing executive on multiple therapeutic and geographic markets at Sanofi for twelve years, taking a management position within Sanofi China in 2011. He founded The CareVoice in 2013, China’s first review-based social platform that empowers consumers to make better health related decisions. Shanghaiist spoke to him to find out why.
Sebastien, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in Shanghai?
Surprisingly it started in 2002, in Mexico where I met my wife who is also French. The two of us were on a student exchange program, and both had to do internships in Mexico City. We enjoyed this first expatriate experience. A few years later at our wedding, I made a promise to my wife that we would live abroad together again. It took us another couple of years to find the right opportunity. I had a 10-year career in Sanofi, a global leading healthcare company, making me a suitable candidate for management positions abroad. My wife had worked in several senior media industry positions and was willing to explore new horizons. China was on the top of our list of countries for obvious reasons (economy, history, cultural differences, etc), but we also had a more personal reason. In 2006, before getting married my wife made a trip in Shanghai and she loved it so much that she wrote me a card in Chinese characters (despite having never studied any Chinese!) telling me one day we may live here together. By early 2011, I got my expatriation signed-off for Sanofi China in a local management position at the unit in charge of diabetes. My wife dropped her job and we began a new chapter of our lives in Shanghai!
How did CareVoice begin life?
Working with Chinese Ministry of Health representatives, hospital leaders and designing new solutions for diabetes patients, I soon noticed how wary the Chinese were of their national healthcare system. They felt it lacked transparency and accused it of prioritizing financial goals over social ones. As a consequence, only the most reputable public hospitals are overcrowded, while lower tier public hospitals and private clinics are underused. Although many industries (retail, banking, etc) have upgraded their services towards global standards, healthcare is still lagging behind.
This got me thinking. Over the past decade in China, online consumer reviews have been a sure way to solve trust issues prevailing in other sectors. Also Chinese consumers in particular are adept at social networking and already in the habit of sharing and commenting on their personal experiences. Why not put two and two together?
This is how I came up with the idea for The CareVoice. We are building a trusted review and rating platform, blending multiple data sources into a search algorithm designed to match specific care needs with specific care environments. Members of our community can also interact and refer to each others’ health care experiences. The platform can address a high demand among China’s growing upper-middle class, aspiring to find trustworthy information and get a better care experience.
Why should service providers in the healthcare sector take an interest in what you are doing?
We work with healthcare providers by providing a set of services for gaining patients’ trust, improving their services and managing their reputation.
Tracking patient satisfaction is a standard of quality of care. Our model suits healthcare providers ready to adopt a truly patient-centric approach. It is easy-to-use, mobile friendly, and promotes transparency by letting people share their experience on the platform.
We share the satisfaction results, peer benchmarks and any learning with our partners. We offer medical providers a platform to ensure that they can follow-up accordingly feedback from patients. Our service creates a virtuous circle, as patients place greater trust in the healthcare providers cooperating with us.
What are your future plans for CareVoice?
We have been cooperating with a growing number of medical centers, especially private ones with expertise in family, women and kids’ health. We are particularly dedicated to the areas of pregnancy, pediatric care, spine and sport medicine, plus dental and eye care. With our partners, the CareVoice community can check out one another’s ratings, easily get appointments, benefit from sufficient time to discuss with their doctors, and even benefit from exclusive discovery vouchers to experience these centers.
Recently, we have been making special health programs related to varicose, breast cancer gene testing and kids’ allergies. We are mostly serving Shanghai-based expats and local communities, but we will soon expand in other cities!
As an entrepreneur, how do you stay motivated?
In my head, I usually think back to the “gates” we managed to pass through while we were also facing difficulties. I also think about the people who trust us – be it our investors, partners, community and team members – to who I am responsible for our success. Keeping opportunities in mind are a good way to stay high too. Healthcare is one of the areas that still hasn’t been disrupted. We care for people’s daily lives. Our international roots give us a different approach to the market from other players, which is valuable for people aspiring to make better decisions and get better health care.
What advice do you have for would-be entrepreneurs here?
Being a foreign entrepreneur here can be challenging and so it’s critical to be perseverant. Everything takes time and a lot of effort. Attracting and retaining talented local team members is a must. You have to be ready to navigate the grey areas and trust others along the way. Last but not least, you need to share a clear vision of where you aim to go, together with a precise and focused strategy.
It also goes without saying that you need to enjoy living and working here in China!
Download The CareVoice on your Apple or Android device to find hospitals, doctors and treatments that suit you best, and to share your experience with others.