R: What is the current landscape of the Philippines healthcare and what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this?
P: One of the interesting features of the Philippines healthcare system is the decentralized nature of the system. Given the history of government healthcare decentralizing in the early 1990s accompanied by the rise of the private integrated hospitals, patients, in theory, have many different options where they may receive care. In practice, however, the fragmentation in the market can prove challenging to patients.
Another notable feature of the healthcare system is the high level of out-of-pocket payments that occur in the Philippines as compared to its neighbors, a number close to half of total health expenditure. Recent changes in PhilHealth have helped lessen the burden, but this high out-of-pocket amount can help explain why many Filipinos tend to be more particular in their choice of provider, which, at least in the metro areas where there is a robust ecosystem of medical facilities, can lead to positive competitive pressures.
So, though decentralization and high out-of-pocket costs have created issues around fragmentation and cost burdens, it is creating an interesting space where patients are willing to make healthcare providers compete for their ‘business,’ and hence innovative solutions can potentially take root easier.
R: What kind of business does MyDoc focus on? How does the integrated healthcare system that MyDoc has developed work?
P: MyDoc is a digital platform for healthcare communications and care management. We provide medical providers and patients with a secure platform for virtual consultations by voice, video or text; peer-to-peer messaging with e-referrals; virtual appointment scheduling; and personal health diaries with diagnostics and personal health device integration.
We believe that we are well-placed to help manage the fragmentation of the Philippines healthcare market by creating a virtual care team. Some distinct use cases include: 1) the creation of ‘virtual clinics’ which is what we’ve done in our work with Guardian Health & Beauty (https://www.guardian.com.sg/Mydoc); 2) remote monitoring to improve post-operative care; 3) health management programs which begin with a health screening of a large number of people (employees or other participants). We help aggregate and analyze the health screening results of the participants, including connecting them virtually with doctors and other care givers. So far, in our work with employers and other groups, we have been able to dramatically increase the participation rates of these patients in following up their results, thus driving the use of vital health management programs; 4) peer-to-peer communications between healthcare professionals to help professionals share medical insights and assessments with colleagues, including e-referrals, all in a PDPA compliant system.
R: How will this integrated healthcare system help the Philippines healthcare landscape?
P: We feel that this system will make it much easier for patients to be able to receive the care that they need in a time and place that is convenient for them. This can only happen with an integrated approach, by including doctors, diagnostics, patients and payors. For example, diabetes is becoming a larger issue in the Philippines, but the number of endocrinologists able to treat these patients is quite small compared to the broader population. Our system allows the endocrinologist to manage a larger number of patients by automating a number of the tasks that are easily handled by our system.
R: What are some of the advantages of this healthcare system?
P: Given the high out-of-pocket costs that are part of the healthcare system currently, we will be able to drive costs lower for patients while at the same time helping allocate scarce resources more efficiently.
R: How do you hope to further develop this system in the future?
P: We intend to further develop our platform and provide easy access to third party content that can help manage conditions like diabetes and hypertension. But, we are very keen on listening to our users and making sure that our product can work best to deal with their main issues. It is a key benefit of a small company that moves fast – we can be very responsive to our users.