December 14, 2018

Tech startup Locumunity attempting to tackle physician burnout

Economics, government legal action in Canada push B.C.’s Locumunity to U.S. market

Dr. Haneen Abu-Remaileh’s Locumunity links locums with physician fill-in openings | Chung Chow

Dr. Eric Cadesky began an early-December appointment as he would with any patient.

“I said to him, ‘How are you doing?’” recalled the president of Doctors of BC, whose organization represents 14,000 physicians, medical residents and medical students. “And he held up a magazine article and said, ‘This article says 400 doctors kill themselves every year. How are you?’”

Data on physician suicides isn’t available for Canada, so the figure is likely based on U.S. numbers presented at a May meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, as reported by Scientific American.

And while suicide is an extreme outcome, Cadesky said burnout remains a significant issue with physicians in B.C.

But effectively addressing physician burnout is proving to be a gruelling process in Canada, according to Dr. Haneen Abu-Remaileh.

Following beta tests in 2017, the physician turned tech entrepreneur launched an online platform, Locumunity, across the country this year to connect doctors with locum tenentes (fill-in physicians) who can cover vacations or other absences.

“A lot of physicians feel trapped in their practices, unable to step away,” said Abu-Remaileh, who as a locum was booked up to 18 months in advance as colleagues sifted through networks or sought word-of-mouth tips for coverage.

Some of the doctors she knows haven’t taken proper vacations beyond a stat holiday or a long weekend for more than a decade.

Her Vancouver-based job search and recruitment platform has signed up 1,400 physicians and 300 clinics across Canada, amalgamating job posts from other websites and matching potential workers with employers.

But the most lucrative market remains Metro Vancouver, where Locumunity is operating what Abu-Remaileh calls a “transaction model” of business whereby physicians work through Locumunity as independent contractors for clinics.

Clinics then pay Locumunity the physicians’ wages plus a 5% transaction fee.

“I really don’t think we could publicly ever get beyond 5% to 10%, just with how the [public health-care] system works here,” Abu-Remaileh said. “The only way we can make the business viable in Canada is to have a large volume of transactions.”

Locumunity needs to book 37 physicians per month in Canada to cover its burn rate.

“It takes two physicians in the U.S.,” Abu-Remaileh said, explaining that recruitment commissions in the U.S. can range from 30% to 60%. “That route to profitability, unfortunately, in Canada is just long.”

Cadesky, meanwhile, said he welcomes more team-based care to address burnout as well as leveraging machine learning to automate many of the administrative tasks that hamper physicians.

The province’s collective agreement with Doctors of BC ends in April 2019, and Cadesky said he’s pushing to receive additional support for doctors during negotiations.

The B.C. Ministry of Health offers locum support to rural general practitioners through its Rural GP Locum program, which Doctors of BC and various health authorities partner on.

“The ministry does not offer a similar program for urban physicians. Physicians would be free to use this new startup [Locumunity], if they so chose to, to find locums – but physicians should be aware of the services offered by Health Match BC,” the B.C. Ministry of Health said in a statement to Business in Vancouver, referring to the health professional recruitment service funded by the province.

Beyond the challenges of the economics, Locumunity also received a cease-and-desist letter from a Canadian government organization concerned over the company’s practice of amalgamating job posts.

So instead of expanding Vancouver’s transaction model to Toronto in early 2019, Locumunity will move into the California market. The company will remain headquartered in B.C., and Abu-Remaileh hopes to one day expand its presence in Canada.

“There’s a sense … of being more accepted in Canada once you make it in the U.S.,” she said. 


Bored? Check out YVR Airport’s witty – and award-winning – Twitter feed

Lil Wayne on a plane | YVR Twitter feed

Vancouver Airport is flying high in the twittersphere, making a couple of appearances in Twitter Canada’s annual awards.

Firstly, the airport’s account @yvrairport was awarded Best Banter and it’s easy to see why.

The airport’s lively Twitter feed caught the Courier’s attention in February when they posted a flurry of tweets about the weather.

Not only were they keeping people well informed of important airport business — clear runways, delays, traffic conditions coming on and off of Sea Island — but they were owning the space with memes, snow drawings and soulful Justin Bieber gazes.

Even if you weren’t actually travelling anywhere during the great of 2018, the feed made everything a bit more bearable.

The Courier spoke to social media strategist Christopher Richards to find out more about life at YVR earlier in the year.

He said the goal was to “try to inform the community as best we can.”

“Whether it’s snow, or really anything, injecting a bit of humour into that messaging can really help it get in front of more eyeballs,” Richards said.

“There’s a fine line there, obviously — a balance we need to strike — but we certainly try to have a bit of fun, because we work at a really interesting and dynamic place.”

And it seems to be working, with also earning the most mentions of any Canadian airport on the platform.

“We are proud to have been recognized by Twitter for our fun and informative approach to connecting with our community on social media,” A YVR spokesperson said in a statement.

“Our goal is to keep the travelling public informed of any airport news and provide assistance when needed, but also engage with people on a human level and show them we are here to help.”

Cam Gordon, head of communications at Twitter Canada, said was consistently one of the most informative and entertaining corporate Twitter accounts in Canada.

“The account team clearly has a knack for what makes a strong Twitter experience: provide detail and information but also humour, heart and responsiveness,” he explained in a statement.

“I see all three and more each time I check out their account and it’s become one of my favourite Canadian best-in-class examples to reference at conferences and in presentations.”

Winning brands:

— With files from Kelsey Klassen

Vancouver Courier


What are we reading? December 13, 2018


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

I’m reading The Milkman, the originally structured (no characters, for instance) winner of the Man Booker Prize. This profile of Irish author Anna Burns and her physical struggle to write makes the book’s creation all that more astonishing. - The New York Times


Former Seattle Seahawks defensive star Michael Bennett, now with the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, has taken up the mantle of leadership for social change in the NFL. His onfield aggression is a mask for his reflective, conscientious agency. - The New Yorker


Ellen is at a crossroads, wondering whether to continue her successful daytime talk show and what the next chapter holds. While this profile doesn’t necessary conclude much about where she’s going, she shares much about the dilemma. - The New York Times


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

More Brexit benefits for Brits: leaving the EU’s electricity market could cost consumers big time. - UK ERC


Climate change cultivating idiocracy; this could explain the current low performance bar in high public office. - The Independent


Ramp up the fake news machinery: survey finds more Americans now get their news from social media than newspapers. - CNBC


Anna Liczmanska, editorial researcher:

Some interesting insights into the state of the fight against climate change. - CleanTechnica, Drax


Hayley Woodin, reporter:

Your apps know where you were last night, and they sell that data. Yes, it is generally anonymized. But this investigation reveals that data collection is often so precise that individuals can easily be identified by their routines, where they work, where they sleep. - The New York Times


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

With the 38th anniversary of John Lennon’s death on December 8, it was a good time to reflect on his life and to read this piece from 2010, when a longread about John’s last interview was first published. - Rolling Stone


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Time magazine’s story accompanying its issue naming murdered and persecuted journalists as its ‘Person of the Year’ is an eloquent defence of facts in this era’s total war on truth. Excerpt:

“The old-school despot embraced censorship. The modern despot, finding that more difficult, foments mistrust of credible fact, thrives on the confusion loosed by social media and fashions the illusion of legitimacy from supplicants.” - Time


Some nice reporting here on the Huawei mess, by Glacier’s Jeremy Hainsworth, shedding light on questions about potential security risks posed by the Chinese telecom giant’s technology - Glacier Media


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Sweden has just 1% of the world’s working forests, but provides 10% of the world market for lumber, pulp and paper and has doubled its forest assets over the last 100 years. How does Sweden do it? As B.C. tackles the problem of a shrinking timber supply, it would be worth looking at Sweden’s forestry management policies. - World Economic Forum


Google defies New Zealand publication ban and emails the name of an accused killer whose name is supposed to be protected by a court-ordered publication ban. All traditional media respected the ban, Google didn’t. - The Guardian


This Inverse story about the “deep biosphere” offers a fascinating look at a whole ecosystem deep underground that we are only beginning to understand. Bacteria and archaea can live deep underground and beneath the ocean floor, thriving on things like methane and hydrogen, and can live in extreme heat or cold for thousands of years. Is it possible that life did not evolve from organisms living in the ocean, rather rather from deep underground? - Inverse



In wake of Huawei CFO’s arrest, Canada should revisit its relationship with Chinese tech

Really, this mess with Meng Wanzhou had better be worth it.

The trouble we are being or might be put through: threats and deeds of reciprocity, punitive boycotts, discouragement of tourism and education abroad, dampening of the investment and trade climate, restrictions and barriers to business and technology.

On one case, on one person, it is quite the fearsome load, many months and perhaps years to unfurl and determine. America had better be sure the Huawei Technologies CFO it asked Canada to arrest at Vancouver International Airport is the sanction-breaking, shell-gaming, duplicitous mastermind it claims. Or we have been mauled masterfully by one superpower tweaking the nose of another.

Pick your damned-if-you-do-or-don’t poison: upset China with the arrest, upset America by abdicating our extradition treaty responsibility.

In exchange for procedural formality, though, there is a nice load of manure in our lap. To a Chinese public that may not be informed on our concepts of rule of law, we are being officially vilified as inhumane, disrespectful, illegal poachers of a prominent leader who has done nothing to deserve her suffering.

Unless the tone changes pronto, local retailers will likely bear a bit of a Christmas and Boxing Day dent arising from the official fury.

Add to the mix Donald Trump, never one to miss the chance to pour kerosene on a burning building, who muses about Meng as a bargaining chip to get a better trade deal with China. Always looking for a deal, that guy, be damned the rule of law.

We can only hope we stay the grown-ups in the room as the children ransack the furniture, and we are not the most burned by something we did not ignite.

Recreationally, it would be an ideal time for Meng to prove the camera claims made in commercials for Huawei smartphones: best of luck, though, in making our grey winter look sprightly. Culturally, she will have evenings to watch Hockey Night in Canada, try to figure out Don Cherry like the rest of us and divine why her company is sponsoring the show.

Academically, she has mused about taking studies while here at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business; much as I admire the faculty, she should be teaching the course, not taking it.

More seriously, her presence provides an opportunity to define the image of her company and confront important concerns – even if they are not central to her extradition proceeding, which will focus on whether there is sufficient evidence to bring her to trial in America on allegations Huawei has through another company conducted business with sanctioned countries like Iran.

Once a little dust settles, she should get out there and speak. We’re all ears, but we have questions.

There is an opportunity in this for Canada, too. An extradition hearing will provide our country with a healthy glimpse into U.S. suppositions about Huawei that seem as lost on us as they are on her. It should stimulate a more prominent debate in our country about our own industrial and political suppositions – specifically, why Canada is alone among the Five Eyes countries in not seeing undue risk to our data security in associating with a company that our allies find quite problematic and susceptible to state diktat.

The opportunity extends to our leading universities, among them the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, now conducting research or collaborating with generous Huawei grants on vital next-generation technology. We could use reassurance along the way here with a review and more public discussion of their programs. Now, this assumes everyone behaves.

Wild card one: even though she’s amid sureties and security, she might flee. I don’t think so – but if it happens, to sanitize a saying popular in Newfoundland, the bottom is out of it.

Wild card two: even though he’s holding high office, Trump might decide to treat Meng like a hostage up for ransom. On that no one can predict.

If procedure prevails, though, brace: the speediest part of this marathon is behind us, the long slog is ahead. Let’s hope we are not too injured along the way.•

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.