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Tuning In | Maran Virumandi on bridging the Malaysian medical divide with telehealth services

Written by Taro Ishida Published on   2 mins read

Maran Virumandi explains how DoctorOnCall is trying to make healthcare more accessible in Malaysia.

After an experience managing medical clinics, Maran Virumandi saw fundamental challenges in the Malaysian healthcare that could be resolved through innovation and technology. In 2017, he launched DoctorOnCall, a digital health platform that offers affordable telehealth consultation and online pharmacy. Recently, the Ministry of Health established a partnership with DoctorOnCall to develop digital health solutions in the battle against COVID-19.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

KrASIA (Kr): What inspired you to start DoctorOnCall?

Maran Virumandi (MV): I stumbled upon healthcare, and saw that operators are vastly under-invested and under-focused in terms of coming up with new management practices and technology innovation.

A classic case would be the fee-for-service model in Malaysia. If you talk to any hospital or clinic, medical consultations are not as insured for patients as see in other countries. For patients, the more complex the practitioner makes it out to be, the more expensive the treatment options are. That has created a negative perception of doctors, specialists, and pharmacists in Malaysia. There is a lack of separation between prescribing and dispensing, so doctors hold a monopoly on prescribing medications. You typically get a case of over-prescribing or unnecessary prescriptions being made.

At government hospitals, there are no computers, but massive files of patient records, and patients usually wait two to four hours for a five-minute consult. You don’t do that when you go to a bank. Actually, when was the last time you went to a bank? 99% of the transactions are all done online. The same happens with telcos or movie tickets bookings. We see how folks who have the means can easily go to nearby private hospitals, but the rest of the population is stuck with poor healthcare options.

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