Thanks to the tie-ups between the government and DoctorOnCall, Sashini Seenivasagam, a GP who joined the startup’s platform in May 2019, claims she has been able to reach out to 20-30% more patients from the rural states of Malaysia, who would otherwise find it challenging to consult a doctor without travelling hours into the city in search of government clinics.
Beyond accessibility in terms of geography, the platform is also making medicines more economically accessible. With the prescriptions patients get via DoctorOnCall, they can purchase and have their medicine delivered at 30% to 70% less than they would pay should they visit a private hospital or clinic.
“We have scale, so we could negotiate with pharmacies and get such cost savings that we could then pass down to consumers. Because of this, insurers are happy to work with us because they can pare down the healthcare cost [of their clients],” says Virumandi.
Less than 40% of Malaysians own a life insurance—a significant untapped potential for the insurance industry. Telemedicine platforms might be the boost that insurers need to penetrate the life insurance sector in Malaysia.
Local insurer Zurich Malaysia says health protection is an area that has plenty of room to grow in the country as many Malaysians are still underinsured.
Its collaboration with DoctorOnCall was a recognition of a digital shift within the insurance space. The insurer, however, said it is unable to provide an estimate of customers that will potentially benefit from the tie-up.
“As industries shift digitally, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen an added emphasis on convenience. This digital shift is accelerated with remote working and staying indoors becoming part of the new lifestyle,” says Stephen Clark, country head of Zurich Malaysia.
The Essential Guide to DoctorOnCall’s Unique Growth Mix Strategy
From telemedicine and wearables to the larger 5G-enabled health support at hospitals, telehealth plays an important role in enabling flexibility for people to choose suitable actions that contribute to their health and wellbeing, says Clark. Although, it will not be replacing the entire spectrum of care so the brick-and-mortar healthcare set-up is here to stay, he adds.
According to Virumandi, DoctorOnCall complements the life insurance businesses of various insurers, citing its with Zurich Malaysia as an example.
“We package it in a way that consumers get tele-health consultations and medication delivery for free. In other words, they don’t need to wait for some serious condition to befall them to make use of their insurance plan—this changes the mindset of ‘why should I get an insurance plan?’” he says.
But of course, it is also a very lucrative revenue stream for telemedicine startups, notes Manasije Mishra, managing director of Indian telemedicine startup DocOnline.
Telemedicine startups could charge insurers an annual subscription fee or charge per virtual consultation. Either way, such tie-ups with insurers provide a substantial cash flow for startups.
What sets telemedicine startups apart is the clinical quality, a factor which Mishra believes will also be a main draw for insurers. Many in the industry are simply an aggregating platform for doctors to utilise their free time to consult, but that doesn’t guarantee a quality clinical experience for patients.