Fill Me In
Safe distancing regulations and crowd control may have a substantial impact on the food and beverage and retail sectors. Despite the slow pace for some industries, telemedicine startups are thriving in an era of distance and convenience with many opting to stay home to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting the COVID virus.
The effects of the pandemic has also affected the local healthcare scene with medical professionals mobilised to fight the threat, leaving a gap in non-emergency situations. However, telemedicine has proved to be a useful tool to address medical labour shortages.
How it works
Local telemedicine start-up Doctor Anywhere is an established force in the promising telehealth sector, providing patients with the option to avoid crowds and have their medication delivered directly to their doorstep.
According to founder Wai Mun Lim, many common primary ailments do not require a physical assessment. The application provides patients with a bridge to get their necessary medications without having to leave their home. Furthermore, the barrier to telehealth usage is removed without the need for a physical examination in most cases. Lim also mentioned that patients mainly use Doctor Anywhere to obtain their medication refills for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Who it helps
Before Doctor Anywhere, there weren’t any significant players in Singapore’s telemedicine industry just a few years earlier. Established in 2015, the company became one of the pioneers in the local industry. Doctor Anywhere has an impressive number of a million active users, catering to individual patients as well as company employees under their corporate partnership program.
The service is particularly useful to the elderly at risk of catching COVID-19. Andy Ng is a Singaporean retiree in his 60s, who patronises the app out of precaution. Despite physical medical services being made available during the circuit breaker, My Ng preferred to have his needs settled on the app instead. “On some mornings, the queues can stretch all the way to the next two shop units. I don’t want to take the risk, and I certainly don’t want to wait that long just to get my daily diabetes meds,” he said in an interview with Business Insider.
How a pandemic paved the way for telemedicine
Lim was an investment manager before foraging into the telehealth sector. His pivot is inspired and encouraged by the success of telehealth providers in the United States, Teladoc and MDLive.
The effects of the pandemic are felt by many by now, and the stress of retrenchments and mandatory lockdowns added pressure onto people’s lives, hence the platform received more cases of stress-related ailments such as insomnia. “Users can video-call a licensed psychologist or counselor confidentially from the privacy of their home, and avoid the potential embarrassment of being seen at the clinic,” he said. “There are also substantial time and cost savings with virtual video consultations compared to face-to-face consultations, that can help to lower the barrier for people who need help.”
Where it stands in a post-pandemic world
Lim believes that the current pace of usage will be sustainable for the long-term with more users seeking telehealth as one of their healthcare options.
“We also see a very encouraging retention rate for our users, which possibly means that they like our concept of delivering healthcare,” he added.
Telemedicine is convenient and reduces the need for unnecessary physical assessments, but the service does not aim to replace actual face-to-face consultation. The service aims to enhance and improve the delivery of healthcare while being a viable solution for non-emergency cases.
“Aside from telehealth services, Doctor Anywhere operates eight physical PHPCs island-wide,” Lim said. “We also work with a panel of allied health providers, specialists, and general practitioner clinics island-wide.”
Public Health Preparedness Clinics are set up to facilitate and respond to the primary healthcare needs of Singaporeans in times of a national healthcare crisis. The platform holds patient information, so if a patient visits more than one of the platform’s partner clinics, the doctors can readily access the patient’s healthcare history, allowing them to perform more accurate diagnostics.
Looking toward Southeast Asia
Doctor Anywhere is eager to make its mark on the world, starting with Southeast Asia. Doctor Anywhere launched Malaysian operations in August 2019, and the firm is currently working on launching in the Philippines soon. The expansion is funded by a US$27 million Series B investment, led by Square Peg, EDBI, and IHH Healthcare. Other investors include Temasek’s subsidiary Pavilion Capital, and existing shareholder Kamet Capital. The new funds raised brings Doctor Anywhere’s total funding to over US$40 million.