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Malaysia’s BookDoc Wants to be the Alibaba of Healthcare

A near-death experience became this start-up’s inspiration

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 03 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Malaysian medtech start-up BookDoc was inspired by the near-death experience of a friend of founder and CEO, Dato’ Chevy Beh. His friend had gotten dengue and was going through the long wait process at the hospital, even though he felt extremely ill. After contacting someone he knew, Beh was able to arrange for his friend’s immediate admission.

“The attending physician mentioned that had Wayne been admitted any later, his life would have been at risk,” Beh said, adding that the incident got him thinking about the importance of accessibility in healthcare.

Beh founded BookDoc in 2015. He describes it as a platform that will make the healthcare ecosystem more efficient, strive to improve the timeliness of diagnosis, and help patients find appropriate care anytime, anywhere.

To achieve this, BookDoc has secured strategic partnerships that would make it easier to schedule, travel, and see a doctor, including Agoda for accommodations, Grab and Uber for ride-hailing, AirAsia for air travel, and Waze and Google Maps for navigation.

“Appointment booking and navigation to the practice location of their choice are within reach, and can all be done from the platform,” Beh says.

With this system, patients will no longer be in a situation where they have high hopes of meeting their doctor in time, but will be soon disappointed at the long queue of people ahead of them. Beh added that Bookdoc also goes after the information asymmetry and mismatch that can be a problem in healthcare.

“Providing transparency in healthcare spells the difference between life and death; what BookDoc would like to do is to remove the 'black box' system wherein not enough information is available to the public about the availability of medical service providers, hindering them from making an informed choice,” he says.


Trying to change an ancient system

Beh explained that BookDoc distinguishes itself in its ability to tailor this healthcare solution. Since they integrate BookDoc at the corporate level, it is able to capitalize on the economies of scale that an individual would not have access to. “The solution aims to bridge a corporation, that cares for its employees, with the interests of the individuals to take greater responsibility for their own health,” Beh says.

As an example, they recently launched BookDoc Active, which encourages users to achieve or maintain a threshold of physical fitness and rewards them with a list of option rewards from partners. BookDoc Active was added to the existing modules of BookDoc Search and BookDoc Marketplace.

If BookDoc sounds like an ambitious solution, one can only imagine how it might come across to existing professionals in the industry. Beh shared that this is one of the toughest challenges of running a medtech startup like BookDoc. “Trying to change an 'ancient' sector/industry, coupled with tight healthcare regulations, makes life almost impossible!” he says, explaining that one way to address this was to establish strategic partnerships with some of the biggest names in tech.

The company has achieved impressive traction. In Malaysia, BookDoc is an official partner of Social Security Malaysia, Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination Malaysia (FOMEMA), and the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia. As early as October 2015, BookDoc has been able to expand from its home base of Malaysia to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand, and it was recently honored with Frost & Sullivan's 2016 Innovation Excellence Award in the Mobile Healthcare Technology Market in Southeast Asia.

For other entrepreneurs who want to break into healthtech in Southeast Asia, Beh recommends leveraging mobile technology so that medical service providers and enterprises can access a larger amount of patients’ health data. He says that this is one of the fastest growing sectors of the healthcare industry.

BookDoc, for its part, is eyeing expansion into other countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines and is actively looking to collaborate with more private partners and government agencies. “[U]ltimately, I envision BookDoc as the Alibaba or Amazon of healthcare in Asia,” he says.

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