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Making informed medical decisions

Seeking second opinions on diagnoses, treatments for patients

Medical Opinion Asia to launch a mobile app

Seeking a medical second opinion is somewhat of a challenge for most Malaysians. Most patients tend to take a doctor’s first diagnosis as a given. They lack access to other healthcare professionals and senior medical specialists for second opinions.

Interestingly, according to a 2017 study by Mayo Clinic, up to 88% of patients seeking a second opinion receive a new or refined diagnosis.

Medo Asia Sdn Bhd (Medical Opinion Asia) MD and co-founder Stuart James Venner Pack says although it is common for patients in the West to seek a second opinion when it comes to medical diagnoses, the culture in Southeast Asia is that people tend to ‘do as they are told.’

Pack wants to change the status quo through the Medical Opinion Asia platform, which he hopes will be part of a movement driving this cultural change in consumer behaviour in the region.

“I decided to set up this business because in all the areas of healthcare I’ve worked in, there’s a huge gap between patients and doctors and I want to see how I can reduce this gap with my extensive knowledge of the sector here,” says Pack, who is a veteran in the healthcare industry and has held positions as COO of Subang Jaya Medical Centre, CEO of Gleneagles Medical Centre and CEO of Prince Court Medical Centre.

“The public mustn’t accept and automatically trust the first thing that’s told to them [because] their life is going to change and they just need to double check [the diagnosis]. There are times when they must ask questions, for their own safety,” he shares.

As the result, Medical Opinion Asia was launched in October 2016. A platform that enables consumers to get a second opinion online from trusted doctors, it wants to enable people to ask crucial questions and gain access to alternatives when it comes to their health. This will in turn help patients make informed medical decisions.

For a fee, patients can get a second opinion from its team of 75 top specialists, who Pack has handpicked based on more than three decades’ experience in the Southeast Asian healthcare industry.

Reaching across segments

The start-up operates in both the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) models.

Medical Opinion Asia can arrange for a door-to-door service when it comes to medical tourism or referrals. In enabling overseas patients to receive medical opinions before they travel, it also frees them from the hassle and costs associated with securing travel arrangements, medical appointments and the like.

While the B2C sector is starting to gain traction, Pack says it is B2B that is driving its commercialisation efforts with its business potential and attractive margins.

It serves insurance companies that want clarity in terms of payouts for treatments under medical insurance and for life/general insurance with disability claims, as well as provides corporate companies with medical opinions regarding their employees.

The start-up is already working with five leading insurance companies in the market and has signed memorandums of understanding or service agreements with two major corporate players. A third deal is in the works.

He says, “We’re starting to break in and provide services to some of the biggest insurance players [here]. The market is there and we want to grow to as many as possible.”

International collaboration

What makes Medical Opinion Asia unique is that the platform integrates 3D rendering of medical images into its in-house medical image viewer.

This means it is able to transfer vast amounts of information in real time to medical professionals, who can then view these images in lossless quality.

“In a hospital, you need large amounts of memory and sophisticated technology to do 3D rendering [of medical scans]. With our software, we can do it in our server and doctors from all around the world can access this at the same time,” he shares.

He adds that the technology encourages cross-country collaboration between medical experts and can also be used as a teaching tool.

There are also plans to introduce a new medical data storage service that provides an e-file dedicated to each patient, which will be made available for a minimal annual charge.

For the B2C market, patients will be able to pay the charge via the platform’s existing payment gateway while B2B customers will work on an invoiced system. The latter system will be changed in future as it is planning to shift towards an online system completely.

Another useful application is in using artificial intelligence to leverage the data it collects, where computers can analyse data on medical scans and predict it in the surest way.

Beyond borders

In terms of its plans to grow beyond the country’s borders, talks are already underway in big markets such as Indonesia, India and China.

Pack says, “We’re already getting patients coming from Indonesia and China; it’s already started as a trickle.

“We’re looking at different models, whether strategic partners or franchise. These will be significantly strategic partners and we will build a split responsibility and revenue model. In terms of what we may do is put representative offices in those markets, especially in Bangladesh, Dhaka, Jakarta and Medan in the next six months.”

Currently, it is raising capital through equity crowdfunding for a minimum of RM1 mil to RM3 mil maximum to spur faster growth. The key purpose of the fundraising is commercialisation and continued development in technology, including building the mobile app and additional software refinements. FocusM

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