Swipe for a doctor: Health services go digital in Philippines

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2018 09:42 AM

A doctor attends to a patient in a Valenzuela City hospital. Jonathan Cellona, ABS/CBN News/FILE

MANILA -- Millions of Filipinos can now consult with doctors and shop for health insurance on their mobile devices, as the industry shifts to digital platforms, officials said.

There are roughly 60 million smartphone screens in the Philippines, where taxis, restaurants and even dates can be booked using an app. Health services have begun to see the potential.

PhilCare's Facebook following skyrocketed to 120,000 from just 5,000 in 2015, giving it the leverage to launch HeyPhil with Digimed, its doctor on call app that is available on iPhones and Android devices.

"With technology, you can broadcast the information on a mass basis, we were able to reach out to the masses and offer our services better, faster," PhilCare vice president for for information technology James Indino told ABS-CBN News.

A doctor, not a bot or a call center agent, is on the other end of the chat when using HeyPhil. If hospitalization is needed, users can also secure pre-confinement documents through the app and skip long queues.



Maria Health, which operates like e-commerce platforms Lazada and Amazon, is dedicated entirely to health products, said its founder and CEO, Vincent Lau.

Since its launch in 2016, 2,500 people have availed of health coverage through Maria Health. Prepaid products are especially attractive because they are easy to understand, he said.

Low take-up of health products and thin margins are issues that the Silicon Valley-based Lau hopes to address with his Philippine venture.

"We knew with design and technology along with the partnership of the top HMO providers in the Philippines to go digital, we knew were onto something big," he told ABS-CBN News.

PhilCare, MaxiCare and MediCard products are available on Lau's platform.

While mobile devices increase the potential of healthcare delivery, the country's geography is still a challenge, said PhilCare's president and CEO Jaeger Tanco.

"As an archipelago of course, there are really some that would be unreachable. It’s really an uphill climb, the vision of 100 percent, I don’t even think I’ll see that in my lifetime," Tanco told ABS-CBN News.

Health maintenance organizations of HMOs also need to constantly innovate and be "visionaries" to widen their market, said Indino.