Digitalizing the Healthcare sector has become a primary goal in the Philippines. The Philippine government has tried to set up the base to introduce the health Tech market since 2013. With the advent of Covid-19 the Health Tech Market successfully made a great impression in the minds of Filipinos. The health Tech sector is bridging the gap between the doctors and the patients and addressing major healthcare concerns in the country. The market is expected to grow in the coming years especially for the sector. Investing in digital technologies such as mobile, analytics has varied in the Philippines over the years; the government strongly believes that the opportunity lies in preparing ourselves for the next wave of any possible disruption.
In conversation with Mr. Noel E. Del Castillo, Founder and CEO –SEEYOUDOC CORP – A Healthcare Telemedicine provider, we attempted to seek his opinions and understand his side of the story to ‘Health Tech in Philippines’. Here are some excerpts of the interview:
Q. What are the growth drivers of the Health Tech Industry in the Philippines?
The pandemic is a big growth driver to the Health Tech industry because it forces patients, doctors, and hospitals to use telemedicine due to risk of getting the virus. Telemedicine as practice was not fully endorsed and supported before the pandemic. It is only last year that DOH initiated a partnership program for Telemedicine providers to work together with them, where SeeYouDoc has been part of, to use Telemedicine as a solution in providing basic healthcare for Filipinos.
Another major driver to Health Tech is the new Universal Healthcare Law that was passed 2019. It allows Philhealth, under DOH, to provide financial support to all Filipinos. It requires health tech to process and monitor the implementation of this law. DOH and Philhealth have been working with Private Sectors to build a working model for this initiative. They created sandbox programs for different aspects of its implementation in which SeeYouDoc is a part of.
Q. Is there any particular government regulation that has impacted the Health Tech Market?
Last year, the FDA of the Philippines passed a regulation and guidelines towards the implementation of e-prescription. This allowed telemedicine providers to implement the guidelines in order for patients to buy prescription medicine through telemedicine.
Another guideline that paved the way towards the growth of telemedicine is the “Telemedicine: Guidance for Physicians in the Philippines” written by the faculty department of UP College of Medicine headed by Dr. Iris Tan. It explains a lot on the definition of Telemedicine and how to use it for medical practices.
Q. What are the challenges of the Philippines Health Tech/ Telemedicine Industry?
Educating the market is one of the biggest challenges in telemedicine. Unlike other countries that have already been using Telemedicine as part of their process, the Philippines is still new to it. We have to make a lot of effort in guiding patients, doctors, and hospitals in implementing this compliant with data privacy.
Another big challenge is privacy and data ownership. Many doctors still want to keep their own records making it hard to integrate with other systems.
Q. How well are hospitals adapting to Health IT solutions?
Hospitals are very cautious in acquiring Health IT solutions. It has to be affordable and compliant with their level of security and data privacy. But because of the pandemic, hospitals are keen to experiment with telemedicine solutions that can integrate within their operations and existing systems in order to increase their revenues.
Q. What is SeeYouDoc offering their connected users and doctors?
For patients, SeeYouDoc allows them to search, book, and consult with their doctor online through their website and mobile applications. For doctors, SeeYouDoc provides them the platform to conduct telehealth services integrated with video-call, appointment, medical notes, e-prescriptions, and digital payments. Doctors can be able to take care of their patients anywhere with ease. SeeYouDoc has its e-wallet system that facilitates the payment of the patient to the doctor.
Q. What is the commission base rate when connecting a doctor to your platform? Do patients pay subscription fees?
SeeYouDoc charges a 30% transaction fee to doctors in a Free subscription. It goes down to 10% if doctors are in a Premium subscription which is P600/month. And finally, it goes down to 5% if the subscription belongs to a hospital account which price varies based on number of licenses purchased.
SeeYouDoc is free to use for patients.
Q. Who are your target audience? Is telemedicine solving “Doctor Shortage” in the Philippines?
Patients, doctors, clinics, hospitals, and medical societies in the Philippines are our target audiences. We have created multiple products for each of them that are integrated within our platform.
I believe telemedicine is the bridge towards the gap between patients and doctors despite its shortages.
Q. Does Tele-consultancy and E-Pharmacy show similar geographical trends? Are you planning to integrate E-Pharmacy?
I think so. Similar to telemedicine, E-Pharmacy allows patients to access their medicines anywhere they are.
We hope to partner with an E-Pharmacy that is connected with our e-prescription soon. This will be very beneficial for our users.
Q. What has been the impact of Covid-19?
Covid-19 showed us that we are not prepared to handle such a pandemic. Health IT solutions are needed to be in place, with established governance, to mitigate its effects. Its effect to eHealth start-ups like us has been the biggest growth drivers in our industry.
Before Covid-19, we only have less than a thousand users. But because of Covid-19, we now have 17 thousand users within the platform. That is a 1.8K% increase in our platform.
Q. Since the Philippines is called the texting country of the world are the similar trends seen while using the Telemedicine platform? Do Filipinos prefer using Chat consultation over video calls?
I think chat and text are still one of the most common mediums of Telemedicine here in the Philippines. Many doctors, clinics, and hospitals are still using Facebook messenger and Viber to chat with their patients.
In terms of preferences, I think Filipinos with a good internet connection will prefer video calls for their consultation over chat or text.
Q. What are the selection criteria of doctors to connect to any telemedicine provider?
Trust - This is a big factor. Doctors would prefer to use a system that has been referred by their peers or endorsed by their hospitals, medical societies, or by the Department of Health (DOH).
Price - Doctors would prefer to use a system that would generate them the most earnings.
Ease of use - Doctors would prefer to use a system that is the most convenient to them.
Q. Why would Patients use SeeYouDoc?
SeeYouDoc was built with Patient centric in mind. Patients would have access to a wide variety of doctors and healthcare services as well as access to their own Electronic Health Records (EHR). The information of their health will be with them anywhere they go. This is very important for patients to easily share their medical records to their doctors of choice.
Q. Do Filipinos prefer consulting to specialised doctor or a General Practitioner?
It is still very common for Filipinos to go directly to a specialist. But I think there’s a rise towards moving into Primary care as the first stage of consultation.
Q. Whom do you consider as your competitors in the market?
Konsult MD, HealthNow, AIDE, Medifi, and Now Serving are our competitors in the market.
Q. What is the future of telemedicine in the Philippines in the coming 5 years?
I believe there will be a huge change in the Philippine healthcare industry after 5 years. Telemedicine will still be here to stay along with E-Pharmacy, EMR, and financial inclusion from various payers. I hope by that time, the Universal Healthcare law has been fully implemented with transparency and open integration to all.
Verbatim: “Telemedicine is one of the fastest growing eHealth industries in the Philippines.”
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