online doctor

Our world has been transformed by digital transformation faster than we appreciate at times. If you are thinking of flying to Australia for a vacation tomorrow, you are unlikely to call Chan Brothers for a ticket. Instead, you are likely to shop the best prices on Expedia and buy your tickets within 5 minutes.

Our parents and grandparents might still insist on calling the tour agency for the best package. However, this resistance to digitalisation melts down as far as health care is concerned.

Business consultant McKinsey had done a survey of patients in Germany, the UK and Singapore. McKinsey found out that older patients (those aged 50 and above) wanted digital health care as much as the younger patients. Among these three countries, Singapore had the highest proportion of demand for digital health care services.

Globally, Accenture found that consumer health care can grow to a US$737 billion market in 2018.

Three Ingredients For Success

The McKinsey study also shed insights as to what patients want when it comes to digital health, and there are three main points that any aspiring digital health entrepreneur should take note of.

1. Greater Awareness Of Digital Health Service

The biggest barrier that prevented patients of all ages of using digital health service is the simple fact that they don’t know its existence. Therefore, even if you have a great product, you should invest heavily in marketing both in the traditional and digital media. For traditional advertising, you can engage media agencies and for digital consulting, you should engage a good SEO consultant.

The only digital product that doesn’t matter extensive marketing is the Singapore government’s Integrated Clinic Management System because it is virtually mandatory for clinics to adopt them and it is heavily subsidised.

2. Get The Basics Right

While product developers like to brainstorm of grand vision to revolutionise healthcare with digital presence, the average patients are more concerned about the basics such as finding the right doctor and scheduling appointments. McKinsey cited the success of ZocDoc in New York who gained millions of patients just by doing that. In Singapore, Practo has a similar business model.

For older patients, they want to be able to do repetitive task like ordering their prescription online and have it delivered to their house. Most importantly, they want it fast. The only time where they want the human touch is when they are handling at complex matters.

3. Facebook Style — Start Small and Grow Big

McKinsey advised entrepreneurs against excessive ambition. They should first start out by offering a core product that they can execute exceptionally well. After they had gained the trust of their patients, they can expand their digital products.

The impulse of entrepreneur is to do the reverse which provide everything under the sun for healthcare which would require hefty IT investment. The risk is that they are unlikely to do well when compared to a specialist. Instead, they should learn from Mark Zuckerberg and start making a solid core product (Facebook) first before expanding to other products like Instagram and Oculus Rift.

Public and Private Push For Digital Health Entrepreneurship

Health care expenditure is expected to grow exponentially in Singapore as the population ages and the people develop poor lifestyle habits. The Singapore government had budgeted US$11 billion on health care this year and the lofty goal of providing quality and affordable basic medical services for all.

In its effort to encourage entrepreneurship and to reduce cost, the government had set up a new entity called SG-Innovate in its latest 2016 budget. SG-Innovate would find the funds, mentors and other support that digital health start-ups (among others) would require for their journey towards success.

Besides the official government push towards entrepreneurship, the private sector is also doing their part. AIA, Nest and Konica Minolta had teamed up to create an accelerator for health care startups. Nest is the early-stage venture capital that will provide funding to startups and the accelerator will provide mentors.

Conclusion

Besides the fintech rush, it seems that everyone is rushing into digital health because the potential for disruption and the market size itself is simply enormous. Our generation had accepted the practice of booking, planning and even relating our vacation experiences digitally.

Why should health care be an exception? In fact, healthcare needs digital services more acutely than finance or the recreational industry. There are services that range from the mundane such as the delivery of pills to services that tracks when these pills are taken called the ‘smart pill’.

The real challenge is which entrepreneur can introduce these services and gain patient’s acceptance in a cost-effective manner. The race is on and it seems like there is riches to be gained at the end of the rainbow.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your article here.