Confrere comes to the rescue

Physician-patient video calling fills a gap during coronavirus pandemic

Video Calling

Photo courtesy of Confrere
The quality of a Confrere video call in a mobile browser. The service is geared toward physicians, lawyers, tutors, and consultants.

RASMUS FALCK
Oslo

The coronavirus has been a boom for Norwegian video-startup Confrere. In these COVID-19 times, physicians are ordering Confrere’s new one-to-one video conferences. 

Previously, the startup has worked to get physicians to use their new system, but the clients answered that they did not have the time to learn it. Suddenly, “with the virus it made sense to start using it tomorrow,” said one of the founders Ida Aalen to Dagens Næringsliv. Almost overnight, the amount of video conferences doubled five times, and the increase of new clients is growing exponentially.

The company was founded in 2017 in Oslo. CEO and founder Svein Willassen headed up the appear.in video calling service at Telenor, where he spent four years. He saw that video calling platforms targeted internal team communications, but here was also a need for a service for consultants and specialists who meet with clients one-on-one: doctors, financial advisers, therapists, and tutors. 

Mobile - Video Call

Photo courtesy of Confrere
Confrere tests and finds the important elements on the mobile phone working properly and the user is ready for the video call.

Willassen spent six months conducting user and market research. Dag-Inge Aas, the former tech lead of appear.in, and Aalen, a leading expert on UX design and social media, joined the effort, and the startup was founded. StartupLab and Nicolaj Broby Petersen provided the first funding, investing NOK 1.5 million in September 2017. Aalen became CPO, and Aas CTO.

According to the founders, they are in a market with huge potential. Currently, most of their clients are physicians, therapists, tutors, recruiters, and lawyers.

According to TechCrunch, Confrere raised $1.5 million in seed funding in September 2018, the largest donations coming from Point Nine Capital (Germany), with participation from Nordic Makers, The Nordic Web Ventures, and Fathom Capital.

In close collaboration with practicing physicians, the startup developed a secure video calling tool that fits perfectly into the physicians’ workday and is easy for the patients and for the physicians to use. The patients receive a link via text or email. They can open the link on their smartphone, tablet, or computer. They do not need to download an app. The patient enters their name and contact info when prompted. They are then directed to a virtual waiting room, where they wait for the call from the physician.

When physicians call patients, the connection is secure and encrypted so that video call meets the privacy requirements of the health care sector.

At the same time, the Zoom platform has grown in popularity, but what are the differences?

Video Calling

Photo courtesy of Confrere
An example of a Confrere Welcome page on a desktop computer. The service is geared toward physicians, lawyers, tutors and consultants and has seen a boom as a result of the coronavirus pandemic with the risk of patients seeing their doctors in person.

“Confrere is easier to use in a consultation setting,” said Willassen in an email.  “It just works. We test the camera, microphone, sound, and network before the visitors join the call. In this way,  the professional provids tech support for the visitor. It’s secure. All calls are end-to-end encrypted and adhere to strict security standards. We’re seeing a peak season right now, but I definitely expect many will want to continue with video consultations afterward, once they discover how easy and practical it is. It would be an awesome application of Scandinavian technology to solve problems of the current situation.”

Confrere is a French word, which means “colleague…fellow member of a profession…my confreres in the medical profession.”

“We found this to be a good name that is indicative to what we are and do,” said Willassen. “We try to be helpful to professionals, a ‘brother in the profession,’ as would be the literal translation of the French word.”

The startup is working out of Tøyen Startup Village in Oslo, in the Netherlands, and in New York City. Altogether, there are 10 employees.

This article originally appeared in the April 17, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

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