These two startups could change medical tourism in Asia
July 3, 2012 by Terence LEE
Medical tourism, defined as the practice of crossing borders for the purpose of getting healthcare, is huge. Patients Beyond Borders estimate the the global market size is around US$15 billion, based on roughly five million patients spending an average of US$3,000 per procedure.
But finding quality and affordable healthcare is like fumbling in a room blindfolded: There are so many service providers around, at varying levels of quality. Discerning which to pick becomes a repetitive chore.
Two startups, Singapore’s MediSherpa and Chicago and Taiwan-based HuliHealth, are determined to fix this. Both companies are building an extensive database of health care providers and doctors, listing their credentials, crowdsourced feedback, cost, addresses, and contact information.
Their pitch to healthcare providers is simple: By listing on their sites, they can get more visibility and customers.
Beyond the medical database feature however, both startups are taking a vastly different approach towards achieving their goal of making medical tourism more transparent. Here, we profile both startups and find out what makes them unique.
The website has an extensive database of 300,000 medical institutions and professionals from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Australia, and more. A lot of the information on there is incomplete, however, but I’m told they’re working hard to plug the gaps by hiring a medical writer, sourcing for user-generated content, and finalizing partnerships with medical travel writers.
They’ve also just unveiled MediQuora, a platform that is meant to complement MediSharpa. As its name implies, it works like Quora, a crowdsourced Q&A site, except that MediQuora focuses specifically on in-depth medical procedure and destination information. The founders argue that Quora is too large and unfocused, resulting in the need for similar sites that target a specific niche.
True to their Asia-centric focus, MediSherpa will eventually launch a Traditional Chinese Medicine service by collaborating with several TCM physicians. Also in the pipeline are partnerships with travel companies on medical travel packages. Finally, they are working with the Singapore Tourism Board to offer a Singapore-centric product.
Launch date: Their beta site went online in 1st February 2012.
Traction: In March, they had 24,000 uniques from 93 countries and over 300 patient testimonials. They have exceeded that figure.
Funding: They have received an initial S$50,000 (US$40,000) iJam grant from MDA, a Singapore government agency. They will pursue tier two funding from iJam and the National Research Foundation.
Mark Ashworth (co-founder): Working on this startup full-time, Mark was formerly the manager of business analytics for Asia-Pacific at TripAdvisor. He specializes in data mining, data analytics, knowledge management, and IT software and services.
Michael Ruggles (co-founder): He is currently working in a global pharmaceutical company. In the mornings and evenings, he works on MediSherpa. His day job essentially funds the startup.
The startup takes a diametrically opposite approach to its competitor. While MediSherpa focuses on volume first by mining as much data as possible and then improving the database’s quality thereafter, HuliHeath is using a more painstaking method.
Getting listed on HuliHealth as a healthcare professional is like entering an exclusive club: You can only get in if other doctors recommend you. The thinking behind this is that the best doctors are the ones picked by their peers. Their goal is to pick the top 20 percent of doctors per specialty per country. Their database consists of doctors in Taiwan, Panama, and Costa Rica.
HuliHealth excels in terms of having a cleaner and easy-to-use user interface. I find it a breeze to use. The profiles of individual doctors are quite complete too, although patient reviews appear to be lacking.
The site’s usefulness is also hampered by the limited number of listed doctors in Taiwan, which limits a user’s ability to compare prices and services. The team is currently working to include at least five doctors across five different specialties in each country. Once that is achieved, the site will transition from ‘beta’ to ‘live’.
Another unique feature is the ability to book and confirm appointments with doctors from within the website.
Launch date: The company was founded in March 2011.
Funding: They have raised about US$100,000 in May 2011 from college classmates and industry experts.
Alejandro Vega (co-founder and CEO): He was the founder of a VC firm and an associate at a investment banking advisory firm.
Gabriel Perez (co-founder and CFO): He was formerly an auditor, financial analyst, and corporate finance director.
David Chao (COO and VP for Asia): He was a product manager and then an associate at McKinsey.
Anthony Morano (marketer and strategist): He was previously a prime brokerage analyst and service representative at an investment bank.
Andrew Krumtinger (online marketing)
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE