As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds around the world, telehealth services are fulfilling their purpose by offering online doctor consultations and medicine delivery services. For that reason, various health tech startups have been seeing surging demand driven by COVID-19. Among them is Singapore-based WhiteCoat.
“I believe that all healthcare institutions are now facing huge demand. Since the COVID-19 case was first announced in Singapore, WhiteCoat’s traffic has increased by at least 25% every week,” WhiteCoat’s founder and CEO Bryan Koh told KrASIA in an interview. “Our remote diagnosis model helps mitigate transmission risk. We’re also able to provide patients who experience COVID-19 symptoms with quick access to reliable doctors so they can get immediate help,” he added.
A former corporate lawyer, Bryan founded WhiteCoat in 2017 to provide reliable healthcare in an accessible and affordable manner, anytime and anywhere. The idea came from his personal experience in 2016, when he became ill just several hours before a long flight. “I was stuck at work six hours before my flight to South Africa one day, and I got sick. Luckily, my sister is a doctor, so she checked up on me and give me medicine without too much hassle,” he said.
From there, Bryan and his sister, Natalie Koh, believes that everyone should be able to consult a medical professional and receive care without having to spend hours waiting at a medical facility. The siblings decided to build a telehealth app, where Bryan leads the business operation as CEO and Natalie serves as medical advisor.
Although Singapore’s healthcare is relatively advanced, with the highest doctor-to-patient ratio in Southeast Asia, there’s still room for improvement, Bryan believes. “When we look at healthcare in general, every country has different needs. Singapore is very much fueled by an on-demand culture today, as food and goods delivery businesses have really taken off in recent years, so we wanted to bring the same convenience to healthcare,” he said.
WhiteCoat facilitates online video consultations with doctors about general medical problems. The platform also offers guidance for chronic disease management, sexual health and contraception, medication during travels, and laboratory results. Moreover, WhiteCoat’s doctors can provide their patients with a medical referral letter to see a specialist when needed. With these services, WhiteCoat wants users to feel like they have access to trusted family doctors at their fingertips.
“We believe video consultation is the safest means of having remote consultation that covers both patients and doctors’ interest. By having a visual of patients, doctors can determine whether they need a further physical examination, and patients will be more confident with the result because they see actual doctors on the platform,” Bryan added.
Telehealth as an efficient tool in a health crisis
According to Bryan, WhiteCoat was the first startup accepted into a regulatory sandbox with the ministry of health to provide telemedicine services in Singapore. This means that WhiteCoat’s product and services comply with the safety requirements defined by the regulator.
In 2019, the company hit a milestone when it established a partnership with AIA Singapore to become the insurance company’s exclusive telehealth provider. “This partnership is important as we share similar values with AIA. As one of the biggest insurers in the country, AIA always wants to hit trends and be an early adopter of digitally driven solutions. Most recently, AIA offers free COVID-19 coverage for its customers, where no other insurance providers have done that,” Bryan said.
Through this partnership, WhiteCoat is able to tap into AIA’s two million users. The two companies are currently creating a digitally integrated platform that facilitates claims processing for telemedicine services. “This is a game-changer that brings unprecedented convenience for corporate users, because usually even though corporate users can claim their insurance, a lot of them would find it very troublesome to seek reimbursement,” Bryan explained.
WhiteCoat has also teamed up with Grab to streamline its medication delivery service via GrabExpress. After consulting a doctor via WhiteCoat’s app, users can receive their prescribed medication within 90 minutes, which is significantly lower than the current average waiting time of three hours.
One of the biggest challenges Bryan encountered when he started WhiteCoat was to get the telehealth model recognized as legitimate by regulators and the general public. With the health ministry’s approval, it is now easier to gain people’s trust, especially during a time of crisis.
To address the most common queries related to the COVID-19 pandemic, WhiteCoat has compiled a list of commonly asked questions and released documents to educate users about the latest situation. “We’re also compliant with the current industry guidelines and advisories on COVID-19 management, which includes the triaging of patients as well as the necessary escalation protocols to ensure that everyone can get proper medical care,” Bryan said. Telehealth services steer patients in the right direction so that those who need physical care are able to seek it.
The company draws revenues from consultations, prescriptions, and delivery fees. Going forward, WhiteCoat will add more features beyond doctor consultations and introduce new technology, such as wearable tech devices, to improve users’ experience and engagement. WhiteCoat is currently in a fundraising process that will be finalized soon, according to Bryan. In addition, the company is also eyeing market expansion this year, although the CEO did not reveal more details. “A number of insurers from other markets have shown interest in taking us there. But we’re not in a rush, because we need to prepare by designing proper services that are suitable for other markets’ needs and to comply with local regulations,” he said.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.