GetDoc’s prescription for patient health: a standard consultation fee and cost transparency
For one Singapore dollar a month (about US$0.73), medical app GetDoc promises patients lower consultation fees, choice of more affordable medication, and a platform to find and book a preferred doctor. Under its GetDocPlus scheme, patients pay S$15 to consult a doctor in private practice – about half the usual price.
That figure is about $2 more than what citizens pay at government-subsidised polyclinics in Singapore – permanent residents pay twice that amount while non-residents fork out more than three times that – but the waiting times are much shorter and it covers GPs, Dentists and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinics.
“There’s always been some disparity between public and private healthcare,” notes Woon Shung Toon, CEO of GetDoc and Founder of its parent company, Jireh Group. “Private healthcare tend to have fewer patients because it’s perceived to be priced higher. What we’re trying to do in implementing GetDocPlus is to offer an alternative approach that helps address that perception.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re Singaporean/PR or non citizen or a foreign student so long as you’re on the platform with GetDocPlus, you pay identical rates. At a polyclinic citizens pay around S$14, PRs pay a bit more etc. On GetDocPlus you pay the same flat fee regardless.”
Additionally, doctors on GetDoc’s panel publish charges for all services beyond the standard S$15 consultation fee. Whereas doctors may not always be willing to share their fee structure, GetDoc’s Chief Commercial Officer Jonathan Tan points to cost transparency as key to building trust. A doctor that that agrees to the S$15 fee, Tan says, is key to the company’s goal of providing affordable healthcare.
“We had some pushback onboarding some doctors who wanted higher flat consultation fees,” explains Tan. “We determined that these are not the doctors that we are looking for, and we moved on to doctors who feel that, ‘$15 is fine and I want to do something for the community.'
“When they come to GetDoc, the doctors have already been authenticated by us. You know these doctors are not going to overcharge you. It goes back to the trust element.”
What’s up, Doc?
While GetDocPlus is available only to organisations – current GetDoc clients include automobile associations and universities – signing up members and their families, patients nonetheless get affordable private healthcare without the long waiting times at polyclinics. For doctors, the benefit is mainly about getting payment upfront instead of lag time often associated with Third Party Administrators (TPAs) that handle payments between insurers and medical practitioners.
But why would doctors agree to a S$15 consultation fee with GetDoc instead of S$30 or S$40 by themselves?
“TPAs basically charge a percentage of the total bill size to the clinic,” says Tan. “At the end of the day, clinics are faced with two choices: less profit or do a markup. What we are trying to do is eradicate that. Everything is transparent. We don’t charge a percentage, we just charge about a dollar a month for a negotiated fee.
Woon tells Perspectives@SMU: “We did the GetDocPlus service offering for two reasons. One, we appeal to the doctors’ sense of ethics. After all, it’s why they became doctors in the first place with the Hippocratic oath and it brings them back to their roots as to why they’re in this profession: it’s to treat patients and to do it affordably."
“Second thing was we told doctors we would work towards bringing in patient volume. That’s obviously something we’re working hard towards, and it’s not an easy thing. We’re now going to larger communities of users to onboard tens of thousands of users at one go, and hopefully that will give GetDocPlus panel doctors the ability to treat more patients.”
Established players in the market are understandably wary of GetDoc’s efforts, whose intention Woon states is to “disrupt the market”. Currently operating in Singapore and Malaysia, the company has plans for the South East Asian region.
“Healthcare isn’t always readily available or accessible in the rural environment or community clinics,” Woon says while pointing out GetDoc’s foray into the Thai market. “Just because they are rural doesn’t mean they don’t have a phone. We looked the Thai market and telco infrastructure…and we realise it covers 70 to 80 percent of the country, even in the rural areas.
“We surmised that people in the rural areas would at least have access to a simple smartphone, and they can send a text message to arrange for a simple video consult.”
While he does not expect to make money from the rural market, access to the national market brings the more lucrative urban customer base into play, and in the process helping to “align national interests” with regard to developing the healthcare sector.
Woon says: “One of the thing we are trying to do is to take this playbook and replicate this in every country we enter. “For the affordable fee a month you pay us, if you go to Indonesia, for example, or Thailand or Malaysia, if you fall sick there will be a curated list of clinics on our platform that you can visit. You will pay the same fee as a local would in these countries. That gives travelers a peace of mind.”
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Last updated on 30 Aug 2018 .