Healthcare sector has become notably important for each country’s growth and with the advent of new players in the market, healthcare services have evolved from doctor visits to online consultations, from visiting the pharmacy stores to getting the drugs home delivered and more. In addition to this, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, e-health platforms have seen an increase in their consumer base. There are a lot of advancements that will happen in the future and it is expected that health tech market will help in the efficiency for the doctors and health care providers even in the remote areas along with an ease for the patients with more advancements in terms of accessibility of the different healthcare services and patient medical records.
In conversation with Mr. Jay Fajardo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)-Medifi– A Healthcare Tele-consultancy provider, we attempted to seek his opinions and understand his side of story to ‘Health Tech in Philippines’. Here are some excerpts of the interview:
1. What are the challenges in the Healthcare market or pull factors for Philippines Health Tech Market?
Accessibility to Doctors- As cited in most of the articles, there is only 1 doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos. The Archipelago geography of the country poses a major challenge as the population is spread across various different regions. It becomes difficult to provide quality medical assistance to the patients especially in the rural areas. In the past couple of years, on road traffic has been a major issue which has decreased the faster accessibility to health care services for patients living outside the metropolitan areas.
2. Do you think that Tele-consultancy sector will be able to solve the accessibility problem in the remote areas?
Yes, assuming if the bandwidth connectivity issue is addressed in time.. Telecommunication coverage in Philippines is better than most neighbouring countries especially in terms of rural connectivity; “It may not be Ideal but it’s improving”. High Smart Phone penetration, High internet penetration, Growing Economy and Increased Tech Savvy population are few factors favouring Health Tech Market.
3. How has been the adoption for Healthtech services in Philippines?
Medifi started in year 2015 and it took a while for Filipinos to adapt to the new product offerings, however there has been an increment in the adoption by the Physicians; especially after the effect of Covid-19. Current situation has created a pain point for the Physicians economic condition, which became one of the major reasons behind the inclination of the doctors to switch to the tele-consultancy platform.
4. Is there any government regulation pertaining to Tele-consultancy platform/Health Tech Sector?
No! So far there is none, but government may soon come up with certain guidelines associated to the Health Tech Services. Any kind of digital intervention is being welcomed to ease the healthcare service availability. Certain policies have been applied on the usage of the services such as E-Prescription by the Department of Health.
5. Is the Health Tech market likely to remain fragmented?
Maybe! The market is in its discovery phase on both the sides, where it is learning from the experiences. Hypothesis is “Rural patients will now be able to access Urban doctors”.
6. How is Medifi operating in Philippines?
Medifi has a mobile application and a website for Tele-consultation. It does not charge any subscription fee. We are connected to 2,500 Physicians. Patients directly pay the consultation fee to the doctors. Most patients fall in the age group of 30-40 years and major users of the application are female in the same age group.
Every doctor is signed up with a set base rate, we mark up the base rate by 20% and publish the marked-up price on the website. Usually the average number of consultations per day is about 60 patients (Pre-Covid) while average consultation rate is about USD 16-17 in Philippines.
7. What is the mode of consultation and do you offer EMR facility?
Mode of consultation is via chat primarily, but there is an option for video calling also. We had EMR system installed in our initial model but the current model does not maintain EMR. There are chances that it might be integrated in future again.
8. Does Medifi have industry tie-ups to bring everything at one click for the patients?
Initially, we partnered with MedGrocer (E-Pharmacy Player) for a short duration and now owing to Covid pandemic, both parties (Medifi and MedGrocer) are looking forward to re-establish the same partnership. We partnered with Laboratory Fulfillment Company to collect medical samples of the patients from their home. The results are also delivered to patients on our digital platform. The business model for the laboratory fulfillment is yet to be established but it is expected to be on the basis of the number of leads generated via Medifi.
9. What does the future of Medifi behold in the Health Tech market?
The patients have an appreciative response towards the Medifi services. Since the physical clinics are closed (owing to Covid lockdown), doctors are doing good business through our platform. We have a vision to anticipate the medical tourism market in the coming years.
10. What gives Medifi an edge over other Tele-consultancy players?
Most consultancy firms have hired their team of doctors while Medifi is a platform open for any licensed physician to directly connect to the patients.
11. What is the impact of Covid-19 on the Philippines Health Tech Market?
Covid-19 is acting as a growth driver for the Health Tech market in Philippines. Noting the current situation, even the government has accelerated the process of Health Tech penetration. There has been a significant increase in the users; both patients and doctors. Patients are now spoiled by convenience and assumingly it may become an ice breaker for the Physicians/Doctors. Digital platform has become a need for the doctors and Physicians, as physical clinics have been shut due to Covid lockdown. Users per day increased to 300-400 per day and they are enjoying the new experience.
Verbatim: “Things are not going to be normal. The market after this crisis will be a digital market, so a lot of businesses will need to retool themselves to be digital first and this includes a lot of businesses within the healthcare sector.”
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